Mar 4, 1912
Waxahachie, Texas, USA
Oct 26, 2006


If Donald Ross was the king of North Carolina golf course architects Ellis Maples was his worthy heir.

It was Ross who first exposed Maples to golf course architecture. And it was Ross who not only taught Maples to how design a golf course but how to live his life. In a letter dated May 24, 1927 Ross wrote to Ellis: "Give consideration to others, do some good, however small, every day of your life. Act as a gentleman under all circumstances. However humble our work may be, we all have our little niche in this world's work."

Maples' designs followed Ross' words. His courses weren't grand gestures to be gushed over. Instead, he preferred subtlety and simplicity. He always believed the customer was right, too. He didn't try to impose his thoughts on his clients. Instead, he gave them what they wanted.

Maples built his courses from high point to high point. That took advantage of the natural landscape and helped minimize construction and daily maintenance costs as well.

If there's a single characteristic that defines his work it is his bunkers. Maples wanted bunkers to be a visual element around his golf course so he built flash-face bunkers, where the sand rises dramatically up the sides. Maples also didn't use bunkers as strategic elements, say putting them in a spot where a golfer would have to decide what club to use from the tee box. Instead, Maples used them for framing and direction. Interestingly, he never placed a bunker inside a dogleg.

Here's how Maples once described his thought process: "I first consider how a man has to walk a course to play it. You consider the desirability of the location and make it a point to eliminate blind par-3 holes. Make them so you play a 3-iron and up and with slightly sloping greens that hold a shot. I try to make my par 5s sufficiently difficult, tight fairways with bunkers."

Maples designed more than 60 golf courses, most of them in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and the Mid-Atlantic. Some of his works include Raleigh Country Club, the Country Club of North Carolina, Pinehurst No. 5 and Whispering Pines Golf Course in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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