Last Friday, Northeast Ohio Golf broke a story questioning the oft-made claim that Hawthorne Valley Golf Club in Solon is a historical Donald Ross design.

The proof of that error: a Cleveland Plain Dealer golf article from 1928 that named the actual golf course architects, Frank H. Pelton and F. T. Stafford.

Today, Jan Ludwig, the Secretary of the Donald Ross Society, provided the Society’s response to that story (bold text ours to highlight key points):

As the Secretary of the Donald Ross Society and a volunteer at the Tufts Archives in Pinehurst, NC, where the bulk of Donald Ross material is held, I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Society about the recent finding by Sven Nilsen that Hawthorne Valley CC may not have been designed by Donald Ross.

It is true that the Society currently lists Hawthorne Valley in Solon, Ohio as a Ross course. This course has been listed since the earliest days of the listing, back in the late 1980’s. The Society list at that time was largely based upon information in The Golf Course, by Geoffrey Cornish and Ron Whitten; their book was later revised and republished as The Architects of Golf. In both books Hawthorne Valley in Solon is listed as a Donald Ross design completed in 1926.

The Tufts Archives in Pinehurst has a complete set of 18 Donald Ross hole drawings for Hawthorne Valley Golf Club, but this course was in Westland, Michigan (near Dearborn) and there is no doubt that the drawings are for the Michigan course. This course was also completed in 1926 (it no longer exists).

The Archives has no information at all about Hawthorne Valley Country Club in Solon, Ohio. Moreover, neither The Golf Course nor Architects of Golf list the Michigan Hawthorne Valley course at all.

Neither Frank H. Pelton nor F. T. Stafford are listed among the many architects with biographies and course listings in the Cornish and Whitten volumes, so I have not been able to find any information about these two gentlemen. The news article claims that Stafford was tutored by Donald Ross, but I have so far found no association between the two men.

This of course does not disprove what the Plain Dealer article of 1928 states. It is certainly possible that Hawthorne Valley CC in Solon is not a Ross design, but it is also possible that Stafford and Felton were working for Donald Ross when the course was built.

One further possibility: It could be that Cornish and Whitten were confusing the Hawthorne Valley CC course in Ohio, which they include in their book, with the one in Michigan that they don’t even mention, but which is provably a Donald Ross design. Then the Society member who was doing the early listings of Ross courses saw the Michigan course drawings and listed both courses as Ross designs. After this, both courses were listed in later Society listings, including the current one. This would suggest that the Ohio course should not be listed as a Ross design, unless further evidence emerges to document his involvement in the design of the Solon Hawthorne Valley.

I hope the above remarks will be helpful to you. I suggest further digging in local newspapers from 1924 on might provide additional information about the origin of Hawthorne Valley in Solon.

Yours truly,
Jan Ludwig
Secretary, Donald Ross Society

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