When A Ross Isn’t A Ross

A golf management company has accused a city in Florida of lying about the provenance of its Donald Ross course, and is suing to get out of its 20 year management contract.

If the city is lying, the lie is some 90 years old, because the claim has been made from the start. However, not all have believed the story. One doubter is Michael Fay, a founder of the so-called Donald Ross Society. Fay says that the course isn’t designed like a Ross and that city officials have been unable to come up with the proper papers.

I have little respect for that Society, though. In some communications I had with them earlier this year, it became evident that they had confused two Detroit area Ross courses, believing that Rouge and Rogell were one and the same. That’s not good research for a Society that claims to insist on proper documentation. If they’ve got that confused, who knows what else they have wrong.

There’s also the issue that many courses originally designed by Ross has been so bastardized over the years that they’re now barely recognizable. The St. Clair River Country Club, for example, sold several of the holes on its Ross course to a developer, and then hired a hack to add a few holes through a swamp. The transition is jarring. There are a couple of others in the Detroit area that have suffered similar fates.

Finally, on courses that are 90+ years old, I’m not surprised that there aren’t still bills of sale or other modern documentation around. The accounting and records keeping practices of many smaller municipalities and government organizations aren’t very good now—and surely weren’t that good back then.

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