As the U.S. Open rolls around this week, those of us at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort can’t help but think about our own, Robert Trent Jones Sr., who not only designed the resort’s original golf course in 1967, but also was the original “U.S. Open Doctor.”
Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course at Palmetto Dunes Resort
In his seven decades as golf's most prolific architect, Robert Trent Jones Sr. (1906-2000) logged an estimated eight million miles of travel while creating or remodeling more than 400 courses in 45 states in the U.S. and 35 countries worldwide, including more courses — 79 — that have hosted national championships than any other golf architect.
Robert Trent Jones Sr.
“The sun never sets,” he enjoyed saying, “on a Robert Trent Jones golf course.”
Through the years, Mr. Jones worked on 21 courses that would hold the U.S. Open, notably Oakland Hills in Birmingham, Mich., in 1951. None of the world's best golfers broke par 70 that year until the final day when Ben Hogan, the winner, shot 67 and Clayton Heafner shot 69.
At the presentation ceremony, Hogan said, “I’m glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees.”
The architect known as “Trent” was infamous for his sadistic use of huge bunkers, ponds, creeks and undulating greens that would often anger the touring pros, especially during the U.S. Open. Mr. Jones believed he was merely defending par against the evolution of golf equipment and the golf ball. “The shattering of par without a proper challenge is a fraud,” he often said. “I make them play par.”
When Mr. Jones redesigned the fourth hole at the Baltusrol Golf Club's Lower Course in Springfield, N.J., before the 1954 U.S. Open, some members thought the par 3 over a pond was unfair. He offered to play the hole along with Johnny Farrell, the club pro, and two members while other members watched.
Playing from the 165-yard members tee, Mr. Farrell and the two members each hit balls on the green. Mr. Jones stepped up and swung his 4-iron. His ball landed on the green and rolled into the cup for a hole in one. Turning to the assembled members, he said: “Gentlemen, the hole is fair. Eminently fair.”
In addition to 21 U.S. Open courses, Mr. Jones worked on a dozen courses that have held the PGA Championship and six that held the World Cup. He designed Valderrama in Spain, the site of the 1997 Ryder Cup matches, and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club course in Manassas, Va. — where former President Obama is reported to have recently joined — site of four Presidents Cup matches.
Mr. Jones was the first architect inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He was a founding member and a former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) and the first recipient of its Donald Ross Award. Perhaps not coincidently, Mr. Jones’s death came on the eve of the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where Tiger Woods won by a record-setting 15 strokes.
Of course, at Palmetto Dunes we are well aware that this is also Father's Day weekend and Mr. Jones was certainly a good father, too. His two sons, acclaimed architects in their own right, have made an impact on the U.S. Open as well. Bobby Jr., inherited his father’s name, but Rees earned his father’s moniker, “The Open Doctor,” through his renovations of national championship sites, including Torrey Pines and Bethpage Black. The 2015 U.S. Open was contested at Chambers Bay, the first Robert Trent Jones Jr. course to host our national championship.
During this U.S. Open week, visit Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort and enjoy the resort’s original golf course while playing tribute to its mastermind, the original “U.S. Open Doctor,” Robert Trent Jones Sr.