A Day with Donald RossMonday, August 15, 2011 6:00
I´m a Donald Ross fan. I readily admit it when the topic of golf course designers comes up. Ever since I took the pilgrimage to Dornoch and learned more about the man, I am in awe of the impact he has had on the game. With over 400 courses built in the U.S.A. during the golden age of golf, the legacy of a Ross designed course is one to be enjoyed and savored over and over again. The good thing for me is, here in Ohio, there are a number of Ross designed courses within easy driving distance.
One of my favorite Donald Ross courses is Maketewah Country Club. Tom Dendelow´s original tract was redesigned and refined by Ross just before golf´s “Roaring Twenties.” Just north of Cincinnati, Maketewah is a jewel among the rolling hills of southwest Ohio. The beautifully tree lined layout has been a favorite USGA U.S. Open qualifying site for over forty years.
Always meticulously maintained, Maketewah is a golfer´s treat. While many courses created during the 1920s have been rendered obsolete by modern-day technology, Maketewah remains a challenge to both professional and amateur alike.
One hole in particular is Number 11. The elevated tee leads to a further elevated green that is steeply sloped while tucked neatly at the end of a 321-yard dog-leg left, tree lined fairway that lies true to the hills and vales Ross utilizes so well. The pin is fiercely protected by three strategically positioned bunkers that Ross knew would give golfers pause to consider each approach shot.
This hole offers many options for risk and reward. As the course guide indicates, fairway accuracy is the key to maintaining par. Place your tee shot in the fairway anywhere up the hill and Ross provides a statistically safe shot to the green. A well executed iron can set up a birdie opportunity; however, depending on the placement of the pin, you could have your work cut out for you. As the guide says, “you may 4 putt.”
A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to play Maketewah with my son, who served as an assistant pro at the club. After a well-played first nine, we arrived at the eleventh. We made our way to the tee-box and sized up the conditions of the day. An ever so slight breeze was rustling the leaves. It was a beautiful afternoon – one that stirs the senses. My son took out his driver and teed up his ball. “Going for all the marbles?” I asked. “It just takes one shot, Dad.”
He struck a powerful drive that cut the left tree line then faded from view. “Wow!” I exclaimed, “That could be the shot of the day.” “Or, it could be in that first trap,” Geoff countered. Whatever the ball´s fate, it was what I imagined a perfect Donald Ross signature risk/reward shot to be.
I followed the course guide and placed my ball in the fairway along the left side. My second shot was short and to the right. I figured I would need a good wedge to get the ball close to the pin and tap in for par. Satisfied with my plan, I drove up the hill with Geoff in anticipation of where his drive had come to rest. There, not 18 inches from the pin, was the ball. He had executed a pure flight path which set up his eagle. As Geoff stood over the ball, I marveled again at the awesome trajectory of that small, white sphere as it tracked a path laid out by a gentleman of the game over 90 years ago. In this day of “instant disposable” everything, it´s nice to see the work of one man surviving while providing golfers a great venue for recreation and contemplation. Thanks Mr. Ross!
Text © 2011, The iQuest Group, LLC