An endangered species
Historic Donald Ross Course To Be Replaced By... a Cemetery?
By Torleif Sorenson on 4/26/13
sac·ri·lege [sak-ruh-lij]
  1. the violation or profanation of anything sacred or held sacred

  2. the planned destruction of an historic golf course by an entity or party that has no clue what they have in their hands.
1275–1325; Middle English < Old French < Latin sacrilegium, equivalent to sacri- (combining form of sacrum holy place) + leg ( ere ) to steal, literally, gather + -ium -ium

Okay, so I made up that second definition. But it is this writer's opinion that the second definition is entirely justified, given this ugly piece of news out of Detroit, Michigan: New Rogell Golf Course, a century-old layout designed by the legendary architect Donald Ross, is scheduled to close permanently on May 31. The course owner, Greater Grace Temple, has announced the sale of the property to Detroit Memorial Park, a firm that plans to turn the historic course into...

(gulp) ...a cemetery.

The church purchased New Rogell in 2004 for $2 million, making it the first black-owned course in the state of Michigan. Set aside the fact that two other cemeteries are located nearby — destruction of the course is likely to devalue the properties of nearby homeowners. One resident who is against this move is James Beeler, who was quoted by the Detroit Free Press:
"It was one of the premier golf courses in the city of Detroit. We had great hopes."
Any number of investors and would-be-golf course owners would love to take ownership of a course designed by Ross; the respect and cachet generally attached to his name would be enough in most cases to draw golfers to the course. But the already toll suffered by Detroit residents as a result of corruption and financial mismanagement by previous Detroit mayors and politicians, coupled with the devastating crime rates, very probably makes entrusting ownership of this property to a benevolent steward extremely difficult.

For those of you who live in the area who have not yet played New Rogell, now would be the time to do it, given the May 31 deadline. And if you have played there, please chime in below about your experience. After all, it isn't every day that the average golf enthusiast has an opportunity to play a Donald Ross-designed layout.

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Image via WWJ-TV

[ comments ]
bkuehn1952 says:
I played the "old" Rogell back when the City of Detroit had two nickels to rub together. Even then, it was rather rough around the edges and much of the Donald Ross influence had been lost. It is funny; I bought 2 pre-paid 18 hole rounds (with cart) through GroupGolfer back in January for the New Rogell. The cost was $8 each and the vouchers are supposed to be good until 9/1/2013. At the time I figured for $8 one couldn't really go wrong as I had heard the church had made a nice effort to improve the maintenance. Guess I better use them soon or I will be bouncing tee shots off headstones!
Dusty23 says:
There is a Ross course here in Mass. that fell into serious disrepair, Rick Reilly used it as the basis of the course in his book "Missing Links". Course was run by the city as part of a two course layout, both were Ross designs. One was just sort of neglected and 4 or 5 holes just kind of grew over. Don't know if it was ever recovered.
onedollarwed says:
Everywhere you go in NE there is a Ross course. I find them interesting, though they are not the modern visually stimulating tracks. In fact Ross seems to use visual uncertainty/deception as a key element on many holes. I have run into a few Ross courses in need of maintenance: Whaling City, Trigg's, Tokoa, yet the inherent design still holds up even with lost/new trees, missing bunkers, encroaching waste areas, and very long par fours!

AS for Rick Reilly, loved "Shanks for Nothin'!"
Kurt the Knife says:
Dang. I remember playing there once as a teen. So it goes, I reckon.
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