For 30+ years, the Donald Ross Memorial at Boyne Highlands has paid homage to one of golf’s greatest architects
When the golf course building boom of the mid 1980’s kicked into high gear in northern Michigan, Boyne Resorts was already one of the largest golf destinations in the country with four golf courses at the time (10 today). This all started with The Heather, designed by Hall of Fame architect, Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1966. When the time came to develop a fifth golf course, the BOYNE Golf team wanted to create something very different and unique paying homage to the golden era of classic course architecture.
Long before courses like Old MacDonald at Bandon Dunes, The South Course at Arcadia Bluffs, or the soon-to-come “Lido” at Sand Valley – all paying tribute to legendary early-century architects like C.B. MacDonald and Seth Raynor – and even before “replica” courses like Tour 18 came on the scene, BOYNE Golf became the first resort destination to ever create a tribute course in honor of a legendary architect, highlighting Donald Ross.
Ross is recognized as the father of golf course architecture in America, immigrating here from Scotland in 1899 and made his home in Pinehurst. He was by far the most prolific course designer, with an estimated 600 courses to his credit and a member of the Golf Hall of Fame. He often stated – “Golf should be a pleasure, not a penance.” He designed courses that fit into the natural contours of the land; not unduly penal, but strategic and deceptive courses that players of all abilities could love and respect.
The Donald Ross Memorial at Boyne Highlands is a composite re-creation of classic golf holes Ross designed in the early part of the century at some of his most renowned courses.
“Our founder, Everett Kircher, had a vision to pay homage to Donald Ross and build a course that included some of his greatest holes from his top courses east of the Mississippi River,” said Bernie Friedrich, Senior Vice President of Golf Operations. “We wanted to also create holes from places that most golfers may not have the opportunity to play, so there was a focus on the private clubs.”
The focus on Ross’ elite private clubs required some effort. Contacting clubs, getting permission, and logging airline miles. Bernie Friedrich and Stephen Kircher, along with architect Bill Newcomb (Boyne’s designer for The Alpine, The Moor, and The Monument courses), as well as long-time golf instruction partner Jim Flick set off on a journey to visit more than 50 classic Ross courses to determine the best holes.
“There was a lot of effort and detail put into the process. We weren’t just picking random holes,” explained Friedrich. “We looked at the land we had and tried to match the best we could to the slopes. If a hole rose by 10 degrees of slope, we would try and find a Ross hole at a club with similar slope. For example, in our routing, we found the perfect uphill slope to fit in the popular 12th hole from Oak Hill,” Friedrich explains.
While it’s difficult to match the land exactly, the Donald Ross Memorial can be referred to as a wonderfully well-designed rendition of great Ross holes. But where BOYNE Golf really excelled was in the green complexes. Ross was known for designing some of the greatest green complexes in the game at places like Pinehurst No. 2, Oak Hill and Seminole.
“The green complexes were an area we spent a great deal of time on,” says Friedrich. “We were able to get detailed drawings and photos for many of the greens, including some CAD drawings. The greens are truly a pure Ross experience.”
In 2021 the BOYNE Golf team, in conjunction with Michigan based course designer Ray Hearn, will perform various renovations to the Donald Ross Memorial. The first focus is the first hole (No. 6 Seminole). To give it more of a Florida feel, they will add large sand waste areas down the left and right sides of the fairway. The waste area on the right side of the fairway will also extend over the 16th hole (No. 10 Pinehurst) and provide a true post-renovation Pinehurst feel.
Accurately representing each hole on the Donald Ross Memorial course has always been a priority for us” explained Friedrich. “Today, through technology, CAD, and Google Earth, we are able to gather photos and dimensions to create an even more accurate reproduction of any updates. It is our long-term plan to continue making key renovations to the course and keeping the tradition of Donald Ross alive here at Boyne.”
The Donald Ross Memorial, which was recognized as a “Best New Resort Course in the U.S. in 1990 by Golf Digest” features classic holes from some of the designer’s iconic venues like Seminole, Pinehurst No. 2, Oakland Hills, Oak Hill, Scioto, Detroit Golf Club, Aronimink, Wannamoisett, Plainfield, and Inverness to name a few.
Make sure to check out this classic golf experience on your next BOYNE Golf trip. Visit www.BOYNEgolf.com.