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Jimmy Muratt

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What do you know about Donald Ross's Rolling Rock?
« on: April 18, 2003, 11:55:03 AM »
Has anyone had a chance to play Donald Ross's Rolling Rock Golf club in Pennsylvania?  All that I know is what I have read in Tom Doak's Confidential Guide where he gave it a "7" and that it was perhaps the best 9 holer in the US.  He also said that it had a rather large international membership, seems unusual for a 9 holer at the time.  I heard that a second nine was either open or in the works.  What are your thoughts on the club, is it some of Donald Ross's best work?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »

Adam_Messix

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Re: What do you know about Donald Ross's Rolling R
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2003, 03:10:08 PM »
Jimmy--

Tom Doak's description of Rolling Rock is dead on accurate. †The club has a very large membership, but yet the course gets very little play, and I think they had 15 rounds on the day I played there. †Many people come to Rolling Rock to stay during a golf trip to nearby Laurel Valley. †The accomodations and the food at RR are first rate. †The estate on which Rolling Rock is located is enormous. †I made the mistake of entering the club from a back entrance and thought it was going to take forever for me to reach the golf course, which incidentally is not that far from the Rte. 30 entrance up a steep hill. †

As far as the golf course goes, it's fairly short by modern standards but does not lack for challenge due to the severity of the green. †Doak mentions the 3rd green as being amazing and he's right, it needs to be seen to be believed. †However, I liked the 2nd green better. †That green is only real hazard on the 310 yard hole (unless you lay the sod over a wedge into the front bunker) †The best way I could describe the green's contouring is to say the green has many different small shelves to put the hole and it is imperative to have your shot end up on the correct shelf, otherwise a 3 putt is inevitable. †My expereince on that green was to sit there and putt this 20 foot putt I had for about a half hour and attempt to hit it high & soft enough without hitting it too high and watching it roll off the other side of the green. †The remaining original greens are really good too...making Rolling Rock a must visit for a connisseur of great greens. †

As far as the additional holes at Brian Silva built in 1996, they are ok....the site was on too severe a hillside. †I must admit that I was amazed at how the new holes stair step there way up a steep hill back to the clubhouse after a huge drop on the tee shot for hole #11. †If there is an interesting hole amongst the new holes, it's the par five 12th that has a water hazard down the right side and fronting the green. †I'm not sure if it they can ever get that area dry though as it's at the bottom of the mountain. †

Jimmy, if you get a chance to play RR, you should, it's a neat place, and try to play the original holes twice because you can't see all of the nuances in just one go round. †
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:04 PM by -1 »

Tom_Doak

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Re: What do you know about Donald Ross's Rolling R
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2003, 05:22:33 AM »
Jimmy:

The club was founded by the Mellon family which has a lot to do with the scope of its membership.  It's really a hunting estate which had a nice little nine-hole golf course attached.

I was puzzled why they decided to expand to 18 holes.  I'm sure they could have afforded to have Mr. Ross build another nine if they'd wanted it back in the day ... probably more likely that they didn't think there was enough good land for an additional nine.  I haven't seen the newer holes ... when I was there, I couldn't even imagine where they could fit.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »

TEPaul

Re: What do you know about Donald Ross's Rolling R
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2003, 09:27:45 AM »
Tom Doak said;

"I was puzzled why they decided to expand to 18 holes. †I'm sure they could have afforded to have Mr. Ross build another nine if they'd wanted it back in the day ... probably more likely that they didn't think there was enough good land for an additional nine. †I haven't seen the newer holes ... when I was there, I couldn't even imagine where they could fit."

Money certainly wasn't a reason Rolling Rock was nine holes all those years. The answer both in the beginning and finally where the additional Silva nine eventually went had everything to do with Rolling Rock the club and Mr. Mellon.

In the broad scheme of things at Rolling Rock, as an entire club, golf never was first priority (and still isn't, I'm sure). It may not even be second or third priority. Fishing and shooting and other sports likely take precedence and always will at Rolling Rock.

I sure do agree with Adam about the new Silva nine--the land it sits on just isn't very conducive to golf topographically. One can't blame Brian Silva for that certainly. Donald Ross likely would never have agreed to do an additional nine where Brian built the new nine because Ross didn't have the type of earth moving equipment back then to do what Brian was able to do.

By necessity much of that additional nine topography is so sloping that Brian had to "step" many of the entire holes into a broad hillside giving those holes too much of a "shelved" feel to me.

But on the other side of the original nine--on the side that would be straight out past maybe the first green was apparently better topography for an additional nine. But what I heard was that Mr. Mellon didn't want an additional nine out there because he didn't want to look at golf holes (I guess he must have a place over on that side).

I will say though, that Rolling Rock as a club is about the most sophisticatedly tasteful place I've ever seen in my life--and I've sure seen some here and there. Every single nook and cranny of that club just exudes true understated charm and taste to me.

Although the club's land is apparently much smaller now I believe the orginal size of it when begun by the Mellons was something like 2500 or even 3500 acres! That's a lot of real estate and driving in and around that entire area is some kind of beautiful!

As for a few of those greens and their surfaces, as mentioned above, they should be seen by anyone interested in architecture--some are really unique.

I belong to a Ross course and although I think Ross was a great architect I never really thought of him as near the top in really unique greens or maybe I should say radically unique. But in the last couple of years seeing a few of those greens at Rolling Rock and also Charles River has sure made me think otherwise. Some of Aroninimink's are awful good too. Add to that a few of his greens at Misquamicut.

More and more I'm feeling like Ross could or would go out on a limb now and then with some of his architecture. Maybe the thing with him that seems undeniable now was that around 400 golf courses was just way too much to concentrate on--even in a long career.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:04 PM by -1 »

GeoffreyC

Re: What do you know about Donald Ross's Rolling R
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2003, 09:55:10 AM »
Tom Paul- if you get out to French Lick in Indiana you would not doubt for a second that Ross could build inteeresting and wild greens. †In fact, you might come to the conclusion that he was a drinking buddy of AWT.

From Ranís course profile






« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:04 PM by -1 »

TEPaul

Re: What do you know about Donald Ross's Rolling R
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2003, 02:33:20 PM »
Geoffrey:

Donald Ross may have had or even encouraged that "avuncular" reputation of his but I don't doubt for a moment that even he went on that all important "toot" while in the field (like Tillie did) and consequently created some really wild green surfaces. Donald Ross was a Scot wasn't he?--and the occasional "toot" is in every Scot's mind, body and soul?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »

Adam_Messix

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What do you know about Donald Ross's Rolling R
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2003, 02:48:34 PM »
Tom Paul--

I most certainly agree with you about the land behind the first green...it would be a great spot for golf holes.

My point about the new nine is that it was amazing in my mind that they got them built to begin with.  I too dislike the shelved look and feel, but I give Brian credit for getting the course in.  

They had a Ross routing plan for Rolling Rock hanging in the bag room of the golf shop there and the only change I saw between then and now is the removal of two target bunkers at the top of the hill on the blind drive at the 4th hole.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »

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