Perhaps it’s the wrong thought, but standing in front of the gravestone where Donald Ross, his wife, daughter and son-in-law are buried on a hillside in the town cemetery, it’s hard not to wonder what the great man could have done with the rolling piece of property in Newton, Massachusetts, had he gotten to it first.
Set on approximately 100 acres just a few miles from downtown Boston, the cemetery – aside from being the resting place for hundreds of souls – is an accredited arboretum, hosting tree tours for arborists and the similarly inclined.
It’s the kind of rolling property that, if we’re not being too indelicate here, would have made a lovely golf course. Ross is credited with designing more than 400 courses, many of them among the most highly regarded on the planet, and it’s good to know he isn’t resting on a flat plot beside a six-lane highway.
Ross came to the Boston area in 1899, traveling from Scotland where he had studied under Old Tom Morris, among others. An astronomy professor at Harvard persuaded Ross to come to America where he met James Walker Tufts and went about becoming a legend.
Ross split his time between Pinehurst and Rhode Island when he wasn’t traveling the country, building Oakland Hills, Seminole, Oak Hill or Aronomink.
He died in Pinehurst on April 26, 1948 and was buried in Massachusetts, near where he did so much of his work. There is an argument to be made that Ross became the American version of Old Tom Morris, changing the game on multiple levels.
Just a short-iron shot from where Ross is laid to rest is the gravesite of Edward Stimpson, the man who created the Stimpmeter, which measures green speeds. The grass around Stimpson’s headstone looked as if it would be rolling about 1 on his famous device.
At Ross’ weathered, gray stone, three golf balls were placed atop the marker, and a bag tag from Pinehurst No. 2, the course where he lived for more than 20 years, was leaned against the stone at the bottom.
A few miles away, the U.S. Open was being played, its magnitude and majesty due in part to the man who rests on the quiet hillside in Newton.
Ron Green Jr.