Say the name Donald Ross and it feels like you are whispering in church. Play one of the 400 courses he designed or reworked and you know you are on sacred soil.
From Pinehurst No. 2 to Plainfield Golf Club in New Jersey to two 2016 USGA championship sites – Scioto Country Club and Oakland Hills Country Club – Ross’ courses are among the most storied in the world. A significant number of Ross designs are open to the public, and that access turned one USGA member from avid golfer to dedicated auteur.
“My dad got me into golf when I was 10. Then I started caddieing at Brooklawn Country Club, in Connecticut,” said Cob Carlson. “It is a great A.W. Tillinghast course. Then, after school, I taught and worked as a film editor. Then I got a job at WGBH, the PBS station in Boston. I played the George Wright Golf Course with some friends from work. That was my intro to Donald Ross.”
The 62-year-old Carlson, who carries a 2.4 Handicap Index, said he became a Ross convert by playing Massachusetts Golf Association tournaments on some of the 45 Ross courses in the Bay State.
“I started kicking around the idea of doing a Donald Ross documentary about 12 years ago,” he said, “but I have really spent the last 3½ years doing it.”
The result is Donald Ross: Discovering the Legend, a two-hour documentary with an additional 35 minutes of never-seen-before photos and film footage (the film is available for streaming at donaldrossfilm.com). Carlson combines archival images and video clips of Ross and extensive interviews with Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak and other Ross enthusiasts.
“He had an enormous impact on golf in America,” said Carlson. “His courses are easy to walk. They are challenging for the good player, yet fun for the average golfer.”
Carlson’s film was largely self-funded. He is trying to preview it at film festivals, find a broadcast partner or sell it through pro shops of Ross courses around the country.
“If you love golf, you have to love Donald Ross,” said Carlson. “I hope people will want to learn more about him.”
David Chmiel is manager of member content for the USGA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.