Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
|Robert Trent Jones, Sr.|
Robert Trent Jones, Sr. for many years was America's leading authority on golf architecture. Sixteen of his courses are among what Golf Digest calls the greatest courses in America. Another four are the best in Europe.
Jones was a golf course architect who designed about 500 golf courses in at least 42 states and 35 other countries around the world. He said with a shy smile and some pride, "The sun never sets on a Robert Trent Jones golf course." Jones passed away in 2000, but his legacy, and his immense contribution to golf, lives on.
Jones was born in 1906 in Ince, England, the only child of Welsh parents, who moved to East Rochester, New York, when he was four. Jones caddied, worked with green keeper crews, and played golf on a nine-hole course in East Rochester. By the time Jones was sixteen, he was playing par golf and patterning his golf swing and life after another Jones, the legendary Bobby Tyre Jones of Atlanta.
Trent Jones might have been the second great golfing Jones, but at sixteen he developed a duodenal ulcer which made competitive golf impossible for him.
"I finished high school and worked for two years as a draftsman," he told me when I interviewed him at his office in Montclair, New Jersey, "but that type of work was too frustrating. I wanted to be more creative and I wanted to stay with golf."
Jones thought that building golf courses might be the answer.
"Someone built them. They weren't born. But I didn't know how anyone went about learning the business. There weren't any technical schools for it."
At the time, Donald Ross, a Scottish architect, was building two courses in Rochester, the East and West Courses of Oak Hill Country Club. Jones talked to him about a career in golf architecture.
"Ross told me what I needed to know to build golf courses and then the head of the engineering department where I worked suggested Cornell University as a school that had all the subjects I needed."
Jones was off to college and a golf architecture career that would bring him back to Rochester and Oak Hill Country Club in the early 1960s, and twice more in the '80s and '90s, to add his own creative genius to Oak Hill and prepare the course for the 1989 U.S. Open and the 2003 PGA Championship.
Now the tour is back again to Oak Hill Country Club and playing the 2013 PGA Championship in the hometown of Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.