The 10 Best Donald Ross Golf Courses You Can Play

The 10 Best Donald Ross Golf Courses You Can Play

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Donald James Ross, born on November 23, 1872, in Scotland, was a pioneering figure in golf course architecture whose influence continues to shape the game today. After moving to the United States as a young man, Ross embarked on a remarkable career that would see him become one of the most prolific and respected golf course designers in history.

Throughout his lifetime, Ross crafted dozens of courses across North America, each bearing his distinctive style and strategic brilliance. His designs are characterized by their natural integration with the landscape, challenging yet fair layouts, and the famous “inverted saucer” greens that have tested golfers of all skill levels for generations.

Ross’s contributions to golf extend beyond his course designs. He was also an accomplished professional golfer, bringing a player’s perspective to his architectural work. This dual expertise allowed him to create courses that were both aesthetically pleasing and strategically demanding.
By the time of his passing on April 26, 1948, Ross had left an indelible mark on the world of golf. His courses continue to host major championships and are cherished by golf enthusiasts worldwide. Today, Donald Ross is universally recognized as one of the greatest golf course architects of all time, with his legacy firmly etched in the annals of the sport.

This week, the PGA Tour is playing a Ross gem in Detroit Golf Club. While you can’t get a tee time at DGC without a member, there are some Ross courses scattered throughout the country that anyone can play.

Here are the 10 best.

10. Manakiki Golf Course – Willoughby Hills, Ohio

This Donald Ross creation, now a Cleveland Metroparks course, was private from 1928 to 1961 and hosted PGA Tour events in the 1950s. Though considered one of Ross’s gentler efforts, it impresses with its wooded, water-filled routing. Standout holes include the 443-yard, par-four 8th and the 215-yard, par-three 15th.

9. Southern Pines Golf Club – Southern Pines, N.C.

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Dating to 1906, this early Ross design was recently restored by Kyle Franz. The renovation reestablished sandscapes, emphasized ground game options, and expanded the course to 6,695 yards. The 325-yard 11th exemplifies vintage Ross risk/reward, offering a drivable green but punishing errant shots.

8. Omni Bedford Springs (Old) – Bedford, Pa.

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This course features holes by Spencer Oldham, Ross, and A.W. Tillinghast, sympathetically restored by Ron Forse in 2007. Set in the Allegheny Mountains, it offers hilly terrain and Shober’s Run, a trout stream visible on 12 holes. Ross designed the back nine and remodeled the front in 1923.

7. The Sagamore – Bolton Landing, N.Y.

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Ross’s 1928 creation in the Adirondacks showcases his talent for option-laden design. The course opens with a stunning 430-yard, par-four 1st hole offering views of Lake George. Lush rough and varied terrain demand precise shot-making throughout the round.

6. Seaview (Bay) – Galloway, N.J.

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Originally designed by Hugh Wilson and remodeled by Ross in 1918, this course edges Reeds Bay with Atlantic City skyline views. At 6,397 yards, it has hosted the PGA Championship and regularly challenges LPGA Tour pros at the ShopRite Classic.

5. Mid Pines Inn & Club – Southern Pines, N.C.

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Restored to its 1921 appearance by Kyle Franz in 2013, Mid Pines features hardpan sand, wiregrass, and Ross’s strategic brilliance. The 330-yard 4th hole epitomizes risk/reward design, while the 18th offers a scenic finish overlooking the clubhouse.

4. French Lick Resort (Donald Ross) – French Lick, Ind.

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This 105-year-old classic was expanded in 2006 while preserving Ross’s shot values. Set on rolling farmland, it hosted the 1924 PGA Championship. The severely sloped 8th green exemplifies the course’s putting challenges.

3. Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club – Southern Pines, N.C.

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Known for its crowned greens, Pine Needles has hosted four U.S. Women’s Opens. Standout holes include the strategic 481-yard par-four 2nd and the picturesque par-three 3rd. The course offers a fair test for amateurs while challenging the world’s best.

2. The Broadmoor (East and West) – Colorado Springs, Colo.

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Ross designed the original 18 holes in 1918, now split between the East and West courses. At 6,200 feet elevation, with mountain views, the course challenges players’ distance control and green reading. It has hosted major championships for both men and women.

1. Pinehurst (No. 2) – Pinehurst, N.C.

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Ross’s 115-year-old masterpiece features his famous “inverted saucer” greens and was restored by Coore & Crenshaw in 2014. Renowned for its difficulty around the greens, No. 2 consistently ranks among the world’s greatest courses and has hosted multiple U.S. Opens.