Dornoch, Scotland born Donald Ross began his golf career as an apprentice to Old Tom Morris at the Old Course in St Andrews. Old Tom was the greenskeeper for the Old Course in St Andrews and had designed many of the most famous courses in Scotland and the UK including Carnoustie, Prestwick, Muirfield, Machrihanish, Jubilee, and Balcomie Links. I’ve played a few of those.
Ross moved to the United States in 1899 where he began arguably the most successful architectural career in the history of golf. Ross is credited for designing 600 golf courses. Amongst those 600 are some of the world’s most famous and respected courses, which still stand the test of time. A few of Ross’s most notable courses include Pinehurst No. 2, Seminole, Oak Hill and Oakland Hills. A couple of others I like to add to the list are ones I’ve had the pleasure of playing, Burning Tree and Aronimink Golf Club. Ross’s courses are known for being natural and taking advantage of the lay of the land, not the “earth mover” type of golf architecture.
The Ross Course at French Lick opened for play in 1917 and has recently undergone a $5 million renovation to bring it back to Ross’s original design. Golf courses, like living beings, grow and change over time. In the renovation, bunkers which lost their nearly 100 year battle with the elements and nature were restored to their original specifications.
The Donald Ross course at French Lick is a par-70. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it is short or easy. In fact, the course clocks in at 7,030 yards which is long even for a par-72 course. The rating from the tips (the Gold Tees) is a strong 72.3 with a slope of 135. A solid test of golf. To accommodate players of all abilities and ages, there are four total sets of tees, the shortest measuring 5,050 yards.
The way each hole presents itself from the tee of the Ross course is so visually appealing. The landscape is hilly and features some very large elevation changes. The tees challenge the golfer to execute an accurate shot or find strategically placed penal areas including bunkers, hazards, long native grassy areas, and trees. Some tee shots are blind and the help of some course knowledge or at the least, a local caddy is a great thing to have.
The numerous sets of tees are not boringly arranged on one flat piece of ground a few yards apart. Rather, each tee set offers the golfer different yardages, elevations, and angles to the target. Regular golfers could create a very different playing experience by simply changing tees from round to round, or even making up their own combo set.
The fairways at the Ross course are welcomingly wide. That said, there are very few flat areas on the property. The golfer will be challenged to hit a straight from the fairway due to the undulations and uneven lies.
Strategically placed bunkers can and will penalize shots which are not placed in the fairway.
Donald Ross is well known for his amazing greens at courses like Pinehurst, Oakland Hills, Aronimink. Ross’s greens at French Lick are truly amazing; the prime feature of the golf course. Many of the greens feature the Ross trademark “upside down soup bowl” design, where any shot or even putts too close to the edge are rejected and end up rolling off into collection areas or false fronts. Those upside down bowl greens (photo below) present some very difficult challenges in the short game. The player can try hitting a high soft shot, bumping a low shot into the hill and onto the green, or my default choice which is putting. Getting up and down from greenside at the Ross Course is an accomplishment.
In fact, getting in the hole in two putts is an accomplishment. Due to the undulations, slopes, tiers and bowl edges, putting the Ross greens is the biggest challenge of the entire golf course. A two-putt on any green feels like a birdie. 3-putts can actually be a solid play.
Stay below the hole at all costs. Because of the speed of the greens and the incredible slopes and undulations, shots which end up above the hole are most often dead. Stay below the hole, even if that means missing the green short.
The clubhouse at the Ross Course oozes history and class. The pro-shop is full of great equipment and apparel and a great staff who are extremely helpful and pleasant to interact with.
Hagen’s Restaurant has a large indoor and outdoor seating area (right side of above photo). I enjoyed great food and great service between rounds on a 36-hole day. Hagen’s is named after Walter Hagen, who won the PGA Championship there in 1924.
The Ross course has an adequate putting/chipping area with a fantastic view (first photo), and very close to Hagen’s to insure the frosty beverages are topped off.
One drawback to the Ross and my only critique: there is no driving range.
The Ross Course is a pristine gem, full of history and personality. It will challenge golfers of all abilities and especially those like me, who consider themselves good putters. Be sure to plan a trip to French Lick to experience this historic golf course. The French Lick Pete Dye course (review coming soon), the Ross Course, and the French Lick Resort and Casino make for a tremendous golf buddy trip.
At the time my handicap was the absolute best I was playing with a group of eight guys, none of whom was higher than a 5-handicap. In the group there was a zero and a bunch of 1’s and 2’s. It was a tough group. If you didn’t bring your A-game, you had to make sure you brought your A-TM game. I really loved the competition level and intensity of those years, and I think playing in that group helped me improve and play at a high level, for an amateur. I was playing 4-5 times per week as well, which I’m sure helped. My handicap got as low as a 0.9.
Unfortunately that group dissolved. I still play with some of those guys, a time or two a year.
Fast forward 10-15 years to now. Because of where I am in life (translation: day job, wife, 3-year old, limited time), I can’t play 4-5 times per week. I’m only able to play two times, and perhaps a 3rd time if I’m lucky. Yes it sounds crazy that I say “only,” because many amateurs play once a week, once a month, or maybe a few times a year. I realize despite a 50% drop in rounds, I play more than probably 90% of amateur golfers. Playing less does not help my game. Winter around here in northern Utah hurts the game as well. Nothing hurts your feel and crispness as much as a six month frost delay.
But now that summer is here I’m past the spring rust phase. I’m also playing quite a bit right now. It’s not cold either. Many of the reasons or excuses I could use for not playing well are not useable. Up until about 1.5 weeks ago, I’ve struggled to break 80 with many rounds around 85. Why? If I knew that, I would fix it.
The last week and a half though, I’ve finally seemed to turn a corner. Rather than mid 80’s, I’ve got a 74, 76, and two nine hole rounds that come in at -2 and even. What happened? Did I suddenly become a better golfer? Did I change swings? Did I put a new driver into play? What?
So what is contributing to the better scores? I don’t feel like I’m hitting the ball much better, but I’m scoring better. I don’t feel like my abilities have suddenly changed. What has changed is my “playing environment.” I’ve changed from the casual buddy group to the more intense competitive match play and tournament rounds. Also played 18 with a different group a couple of days ago, all who hit the ball as far or farther than me and could clean my clock on any given day if I don’t bring the A-game. It seems that perhaps for a while I’ve been in a playing rut due to the group I’ve been in. All good chaps for sure, but I’ve gotten too comfortable in the group. I’m not focused. There are higher handicap players in the group as well. Perhaps there’s a bit of “playing to the level of the other players” going on. Perhaps being around a higher handicapper for round after round has caused me to lose focus in my own game. Try not to interpret that as an arrogant comment. Think of another individual sport like tennis. A high level tennis player may not improve or keep his skills in top shape playing an opponent who is not at the same level. Yes one could argue that another player’s game should not affect one’s own golf game and there could be some truth to that. But I’m generally the kind of player who plays better if I’m around better players.
So where does that put me if the above analysis is true? Part of what makes golf enjoyable is the camaraderie of playing with friends. Perhaps the approach should be to keep the serious golf on the schedule, and play the casual and less intense rounds with the buddies now and then too.
Or maybe all that is a bunch of nonsense and I’m just playing better now. It could just be the phase of the moon or because I put my left sock on first instead of the right one this past week. Wait, I think maybe the better play is because of better underwear scripting…
I love that statement. It seems many golf apparel makers are going for shock value, and becoming less and less classy and sophisticated. Those flashy products may be hot for short period, but become passe quickly. Conversely, a product like Devereux with it’s simple and elegant styles, stands the test of time.
The simple and stylish Andrew polo, part of the “72 Collection,” is certainly not one where the user needs to know where the replacement batteries go. The $75 Andrew is sharp, classy, elegant, and easy to put together in all sorts of apparel scripts.
“A closet filled with big bright in-your-face colors and dizzying patterns that SCREAM will not transform you from dud to stud. Oftentimes, the reverse is true.” ~Devereux
The Andrew comes in four colors: steel (pictured above), aqua, coral, navy. Each color easily pairs up with numerous short/pant combinations. I recommend pairing the Andrew up with the Devereux Martin Shorts (review coming soon).
Sizes for the Andrew polo: small, medium, large, extra large, double extra large.
- Oxford Performance Knit
- Swing Free Tailoring
- Spread Collar
- Grosgrain Detail
- Heather Effect
- 60% Pima Cotton // 40% Polyester
On The Course
I’ve had the Andrew in play for many rounds this golf season, in some very different conditions. Earlier in the spring I put the Andrew through the colder temps here in northern Utah. Then a trip to Indiana had me testing out the polo in high humidity and 97 degrees. And just this week I wore the polo for a round in which the air was extremely dry and the temperature at the end of the round was 104. In those varying conditions the polo performed well and stayed comfortable.
During the golf swing some poorly designed polos can bunch up, pull, tug, and come untucked. The Andrew’s cut keeps me comfortable. Even with my violently spastic golf swings the polo stays in place.
The Andrew is great to wear while writing golf blog posts at HOG world headquarters, or when out on the town. It can work great in business casual situations.
The Andrew polo by Devereux is a solid performer on and off the course. It exceeds my strict requirements for golf polos: performance, comfort, style, and easy care. Set your apparel script up with some proper threads.
Devereux Welch Polo Review – 2014
The Hooked on Golf Blog World Tour was in French Lick, Indiana last week to experience golf and the French Lick Resort. In addition to the fabulous Donald Ross course, I had the opportunity to play the Pete Dye course at French Lick. Wowsies.
On a difficulty scale from 1-10, the Dye Course is a 12.3. With a course rating of 80.0 and a slope of 148, I’ve not played a more difficult course. And I’ve played some of the world’s most difficult courses like TPC Sawgrass, Wolf Creek, and Carnoustie.
I will be posting my full review of the French Lick Pete Dye course as soon as I’ve recovered from the beatdown it gave me. Stay tuned.
This past week the HOG World Tour was in French Lick, Indiana to check out two courses from two very different and equally famous golf course architects, Pete Dye and Donald Ross. The Donald Ross Course was the first on the menu, and I loved the entree so much I went back through the buffet a 2nd and 3rd time.
The Donald Ross Course 10th hole (left) with the practice putting green in the foreground
This was one of the more challenging Donald Ross courses I’ve played due to the large amount of elevation changes and horizontal movement of the holes. And the greens were some of the most extreme I’ve ever putted. Putting or chipping from above the hole is nearly impossible.
Par-3 4th Hole – 240 Yards
I was able to play this fabulous old course (1917) three times. It’s ranked 71st in Golf Digest’s Top-100. I’ll be posting my full review of the experience soon, but wanted to do a quick share and a couple of photos prior to that. Stay tuned.