Athol Daily News – A Page from North Quabbin History: Famous golf course designer left his mark on Ellinwood in Athol


Published: 11/16/2020 4:48:59 PM

Modified: 11/16/2020 4:48:55 PM

Golf course designer, Donald Ross is well known in golfing circles. Among the famous courses he designed are Pinehurst #2 in North Carolina, Aronimink Golf Course In Pennsylvania, Glen View Country Club in Illinois, Miami Biltmore Golf Course in Florida and Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan, which have all hosted major tournaments.

Locally, Ross also designed the course at the Ellinwood Country Club in Athol as well as at the Winchendon Golf Club and Petersham Country Club. Both Winchendon and Petersham clubs are no longer in existence.

Ross was born in Dornich, Scotland, beginning his career in golf courses at St. Andrews as an apprentice, around 1899. Eventually, he took his savings and came to America. After arriving in the United States, he began work at the Oakley Country Club in Watertown, Mass., with the encouragement of Harvard Astronomy Professor and Salem and Petersham resident Robert Willson.

The Ellinwood golf course, designed by Ross, was built in 1920 and had nine holes, which are still part of the golf course. “We still have the original paperwork and dimensions of the original golf course,” said Glenn Mallet, past president and club historian of the Ellinwood Country Club.

“If you go up the hill on Pleasant Street, on the right-hand side, there are 13 holes; 9 of those were built by Ross. The greens he designed were elevated with bunkers (sand traps) around them, which make them more challenging. The original layout of his golf course is more or less still there. He left his mark,” said Mallet.

The original JJsignature hole was hole number 8 and is now the 11th hole but still has the original 8th hole design, Mallet continued. “It is a split-level greenway. It is not an easy hole to play. All his greens were famous for a fake front, you hit the ball in the front green and it can still go off the green. None of his greens were flat. They are undulated greens. They look flat but they are not,” said Mallet.

The course at Ellinwood these days is a total of 18 holes. The other nine holes were built by Geoffrey Cornish in 1965. Cornish, by 1980 had designed more golf courses in New England than any other architect in history.

Ross was a founding member and president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and was admitted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977. Ross was a golfer himself, winning three North and South Opens in 1903, 1905 and 1906 and two Massachusetts opens in 1905 and 1911 as well as finishing fifth in the 1903 U.S. open and eighth in the 1910 Open Championship.

Even today, Mallet said, fans of Ross courses, called Ross Followers, visit the Country Club all the time. “I remember one time a woman attended a class reunion in Warwick and her husband, who was a Ross Follower, came to the club and I gave him a tour of the course.

The Ellinwood Country Club Golf Course closed Sunday to non-members but will open again in mid-April. “This has been the biggest year our golf course has ever experienced,” Mallett said. “Because of COVID, people cannot travel. The sport allows people to get outside, play golf and remain socially distant.” The Country Club offers leagues for men, women and also offers co-ed leagues. More information on Ellinwood Country Club can be found at

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