"Putting greens are to golf courses what faces are to portraits."
How great was Donald Ross? He managed to keep wowing golfers with new courses even after he died.
Ross created a design plan for New Smyrna Golf Club in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., in 1948, the year he passed away. The golf course would not be built until five years later, overseen by J.B. McGovern, one of several builders Ross trusted to execute his vision while he crisscrossed the world.
New Smyrna endures, mostly intact, as a hidden gem in the Sunshine State. For no more than $50, city residents and visitors enjoy a course that is more fun to play than many flashier Florida layouts with green fees several times higher.
Like so many golf courses that punch above their weight, New Smyrna's secret is in its greens, which bulge and burble just enough above the mostly flat, parkland tract to put up a spirited but fair challenge against all calibers of player. All but two are open across the front, meaning the older and higher-handicap players who make up the course's clientele can use the ground to access the putting surfaces, or have relatively straightforward shots should they come up short. For the lower-handicapper, who is more used to clearing obstacles like bunkers and water hazards to reach greens, the lack of foreground definition sows uncertainty about the true yardage of the shot.
Contour is king when it comes to interesting green sites. And like Macdonald, Ross knew how to use it to maximum effect in overt and subtle ways.