Tournament Spotlight – Donald Ross Junior

If one event has shaped the junior golf world, it’s the Donald Ross Junior Championship. This esteemed tournament is not just another competition but a celebration of golf’s spirit and a proving ground for young talent.

As an experienced golf dad, I’ve witnessed the event firsthand and guided young golfers through this prestigious competition’s rigorous but rewarding experience. 

Named after the famed Scottish golf course architect, Donald Ross, the tournament embodies his vision of challenging and nurturing young talent. The Championship offers a unique blend of tradition and competition, set against the backdrop of some of the country’s most iconic golf courses. It’s an event that brings together future golf stars, providing them a platform to showcase their skills, gain valuable experience, and compete for the coveted title.

Whether you’re a junior golfer looking to test your mettle, a parent supporting your child’s golf journey, or a golf enthusiast interested in the future of the sport, the Donald Ross Junior Championship is a tournament that deserves your attention. So, let’s delve deeper into this remarkable junior golf tournament’s history, structure, and significance. But first;

Why this event holds a special place in our hearts

A dad and his son golfing at sunset
  • Perfect Timing: With school out for the winter break, the tournament offers an ideal opportunity for young golfers to participate without academic distractions.
  • Inclusive Approach: With an open entry system for about 300 players, the tournament champions a ‘first come, first serve’ policy, making it accessible to all junior golfers.
  • Value for Money: Considering the legendary courses participants get to play and the tournament’s superb organization, it’s truly a bang for the buck.
  • Family Time: It’s an occasion for the entire family to rally together, enjoy a mini-vacation, and relish top-notch junior golf.
  • Parent-Child Bonding: The optional parent-child event post-tournament is a favorite among families, fostering a deeper connection through a shared golfing experience.
  • Opportunity to Earn Status/Exemptions: With a vast pool of competitors, a strong performance can significantly improve a junior golfer’s rankings and exemptions.

So, let’s take a closer look at the tournament.

A walk through the history of the Donald Ross Junior Championship

Established in 1947, the Donald Ross Junior Championship carries the legacy of its namesake, the legendary Scottish golf architect. An annual spectacle, the tournament has evolved over the years, witnessing changes in structure, rules, and venues while always staying true to its essence – promoting junior golf and honoring Donald Ross’s legacy.

Known for his meticulously designed golf courses that blend seamlessly with their natural surroundings, Ross believed in challenging golfers of all levels. This philosophy is reflected in the tournament, which tests the skills and resilience of junior golfers.

The tournament has been played annually since its inception, making it one of the longest-running junior golf events in the United States. Every December, more than 200 young golfers from across the country gather at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina to compete for the coveted title. 

The Golf Course

The Donald Ross Junior Championship is held at the historic Pinehurst Resort, a venue that’s as storied as the tournament itself. Known as the “Cradle of American Golf,” Pinehurst is home to nine distinct golf courses, each offering unique challenges and features. A selection of these courses is used for the Championship, providing young golfers with a diverse and enriching golfing experience.

The courses played vary by age group. The youngest competitors, those in the 11 & under age group, take on Pinehurst No. 1. This course, the first of Pinehurst’s courses, offers a classic layout that’s both challenging and enjoyable for young golfers.

The 12-14 age group competes on Pinehurst No. 8. This course, also known as the Centennial Course, is a nod to the resort’s rich history while offering a modern challenge. It’s known for its undulating greens and thoughtful design that requires strategic play.

The oldest competitors, those in the 15-18 age group, have the unique opportunity to play across both Pinehurst No. 4 and No. 5. These courses offer a blend of classic and contemporary design elements, with No. 4 recently redesigned to incorporate natural sandscapes and native wiregrass plants.

The optional Parent-Child event is played on Pinehurst No. 4, offering a unique opportunity for family bonding and a friendly challenge on the greens.

Each course at Pinehurst is a masterpiece of golf architecture, embodying Donald Ross’s philosophy of creating courses that offer a fair challenge to golfers of all skill levels. Competing on these courses is not just about the competition; it’s about experiencing the history and tradition of golf at Pinehurst, a place where the spirit of the sport is palpable in every hole and fairway.

Tournament structure

The Donald Ross Junior Championship is structured to provide a fair and exciting competition for junior golfers. The tournament is a 36-hole event spread over two days, allowing the young golfers to experience the challenge and beauty of the Pinehurst courses fully.

The Championship is divided into three age divisions: 11 & Under, 12-14, and 15-18. This division ensures that the competitors are playing against others of a similar age and skill level, making the competition more balanced and engaging.

The optional Parent-Child event also takes place the day after the main tournament. This event provides an excellent opportunity for parents and children to bond over their love of golf. The Parent-Child event is played in an alternate shot format on Pinehurst No. 4, adding a fun and challenging twist to the competition.

The tournament operates on a “first come, first serve” sign-up process, making it accessible to all junior golfers, regardless of their rankings or status. This inclusive approach aligns with the tournament’s commitment to nurturing young talent and promoting the sport of golf.

The Donald Ross Junior Championship follows the standard rules of golf as defined by the United States Golf Association (USGA). However, the tournament also has specific rules and guidelines provided to the participants before the event.

How to participate

Participating in the Donald Ross Junior Championship is a straightforward process designed to be as inclusive and accessible as possible. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get involved:

Eligibility: The tournament is open to male and female golfers who are 18 or under and have not completed high school. The competition is divided into three age divisions: 11 & Under, 12-14, and 15-18.

Registration: The Donald Ross, Junior Championship registration begins with the online application, which becomes available on October 1st each year. Interested participants should keep an eye on the official Pinehurst Resort website for updates and the application link.

Fees: The entry fee for the tournament is $295. This fee covers the cost of participation in the Championship. If you’re interested in the optional Parent-Child event, there’s an additional fee of $150.

Acceptance: The tournament operates on a “first come, first serve” basis. You should secure a spot in the tournament if you submit your completed application within the first week or so of the registration period. All applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on November 9th, 2022.

Preparation: Once you’ve secured your spot, it’s time to start preparing. Depending on your location, you might want to consider the weather conditions in Pinehurst in December and adjust your training accordingly. Remember, Pinehurst courses are known for their challenging greens, so honing your putting and chipping skills will be beneficial.

A few final tips

Coaching and training for the tournament

Preparing for the Donald Ross Junior Championship involves physical training, technical skill development, and mental preparation.

Coaches often recommend a balanced training regimen that includes strength and conditioning, swing mechanics, and short-game techniques. Given the challenging greens of Pinehurst, special emphasis should be placed on putting and chipping skills.

It’s also important to remember that golf is a game of strategy, so understanding course management and decision-making is crucial.

Parents’ perspectives

A parent coaching his son golf fundamentals

Parents play a significant role in their children’s golf journey. From the initial stages of registration to the tournament’s final round, parents are there every step of the way.

Many parents express appreciation for the inclusive nature of the Donald Ross Junior Championship and the opportunities it provides for their children. The tournament is not just about competition; it’s about family, camaraderie, and the love of the game.

The optional Parent-Child event is a particular highlight, offering a unique opportunity for parents and children to bond over their shared passion for golf.

Spectator’s guide

The Donald Ross Junior Championship is a fantastic event for spectators. The tournament is held at the historic Pinehurst Resort, offering stunning views and top-notch amenities.

Spectators can enjoy watching the competition from various viewing areas around the courses. The Carolina Hotel, known for its beautiful architecture and excellent service, is a great place to stay during the tournament. And don’t miss their breakfast buffet – it’s second to none!

Lessons learned from the tournament

Participating in the Donald Ross Junior Championship is about more than just golf; it’s about learning valuable life lessons.

Young golfers learn the importance of discipline, perseverance, and sportsmanship. They experience the thrill of competition, the joy of achievement, and the resilience needed in the face of challenges.

These lessons extend beyond the golf course, helping to shape well-rounded individuals.


The Donald Ross Junior Championship is more than just a tournament; it’s a tradition, a learning experience, and a celebration of junior golf. The Championship continues to nurture young talent, promote the sport of golf, and provide unforgettable experiences for players, parents, and spectators alike. As we look to the future, the Donald Ross Junior Championship remains committed to its mission of fostering the next generation of golfers. The legacy of Donald Ross lives on in this Championship, inspiring young golfers to pursue their passion and reach for their dreams.

mike - Tournament Spotlight - Donald Ross Junior

About the author

Mike Harris is a former college golfer and dedicated father of two talented junior golfers. With a passion for the sport that began in his own childhood, Mike now focuses on helping his children, Avery and Olivia, navigate the world of junior golf. He’s eager to share tips, advice, and insights with other families on their own golf journeys. Join Mike as he tees off into the exciting realm of junior golf, providing guidance to parents and kids alike.

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