Donald Ross Society makes first trip to celebrated CVCC

Members of the Donald Ross society came from far and wide to the Conewango Valley Country Club on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019. The society is focused on promoting the history or Ross’ 416 courses, including CVCC, as well as preservation. They typically host four to five events per year at Ross courses throughout the country.

Legendary golf course designer Donald Ross was an architect to 416 courses before his death in 1948, one of which is Warren’s very own Conewango Valley Country Club.

On Friday, members of the Donald Ross Society, a charitable organization dedicated to promoting the preservation and restoration of the courses he designed, visited CVCC for the first time.

Members came from as far away as North Carolina, and for most, it was their first time experiencing it.

“The facility is excellent,” said member Tom Luck, who hails from Akron, Ohio and call the legendary Firestone Country Club home. “You can see all the original elements of a Donald Ross design.”

Ross was born in Scotland and came to the United States in 1899. Some of his most well-known courses include Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, as well as Oakland Hills (Bloomfield Hills, Mich), which have played host to multiple U.S. Open’s, as well as the PGA Championship. Most recently Pinehurst No. 2 hosted the 2014 U.S. Open. Pinehurst also hosted the 1951 Ryder Cup, while Oakland Hills played home to the 2008 PGA Championship.

A letter from course designer Donald Ross to Horace Crary detailing plans for the future Conewango Valley Country Club is shown at CVCC during a visit by the Donald Ross Society on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019.

His courses litter the country but are perhaps most prominent in North Carolina and the New England region.

But you can go to just about any Donald Ross course and see some common themes.

“If you’re in the wrong place on a Donald Ross green, you have no chance,” Luck noted. “The greens are always elevated. He was really a special designer.”

Kent Cooper, who like Luck calls Firestone his home course said ‘the greens are what make the course.’

Added Mark Rymuza, Events Committee Chair: “The game evolved and Ross knew that the game would get longer, so he kept the greens complex.”

More than just the greens, Ross courses are known for their wide fairways that become more narrow toward the green. In

fact, ‘playability’ was another one of the themes that came up time and again when discussing what makes a Ross course unique.

Rymuza noted that some 50-60 courses have been lost, many in New York and New Jersey, due to housing projects and other endeavors.

But, with the DRS now over 400 strong, they are committed to not only commemorating Ross’ legacy and educate the public but to preserve his beautiful courses as well.

“We have a lot of great people in the organization with a lot of passion who are all committed,” Rymuza said.

John Stiles, who serves as treasurer, really enjoyed playing CVCC.

“I absolutely loved the course,” he said. “No. 18 was one of my favorite holes. It’s a very nice course. The greens are smooth and true.”

Stiles also noted how much of a pleasure it is to travel, see and play many of the Donald Ross courses.

“The society usually holds four to five events per year,” he said. “Our next event is in Minneapolis in mid-September and we have an event planned in Sarasota, Florida in January.”

Ross designed two types of courses – tournament and country club.

So while places like Pinehurst No. 2 and Oakland Hills get a vast majority of the acclaim, Ross knew where his bread was buttered.

“He catered to the average golfer, not the exceptional,” Rymuza said.

After playing in the afternoon, members stayed for dinner and drinks, before heading off to another Ross course, Kahkwa Club (Erie) on Saturday.

But Friday was all about celebrating the legacy of Donald Ross and showing off CVCC.

“Ross courses can be a puzzle to figure out,” Stiles said. “Today was a lot of fun.”