Donald Ross was born in Dornoch, Scotland. He apprenticed under Tom Morris Sr. who was the Head Pro and club maker at the old course in St. Andrews. Morris who urged Ross to take his unique aptitude and devotion to course maintenance and design to the U.S.
Ross arrived in the U.S. in 1899 and the next year began work on the now famous Pinehurst courses in North Carolina's sandhills. Thus began his career that spanned nearly 5 decades and resulted in his design of hundreds of courses throughout the United States. He transformed how golf courses were designed and therefore how they were played. He was the leader in the Golden Era of golf course design.
Donald seemed to have an intuitive touch for routings. His designs require very little walking from green to the next tee box. In addition to elevated greens, other Donald signatures include greens that invite run-up shots to very challenging greens often incorporating fall-away slopes and cross bunkers at or just short of the green.
The Donald Ross Society state, "Golf courses designed by Donald Ross are works of art. Open greens allowing a run-up approach shot, a layout following the natural contours of the land, shallow bunkers and greens whose surfaces are perched high above the surroundings are his trademarks."
Jack Nicklaus speaking of Ross said, "His stamp as an architect was naturalism. He left golf courses which always seemed to fit into the environment."