History of Hope Valley Country Club

View down the current 10th fairway.  In the 1930's, this was the first hole.

Donald Ross

Hope Valley Country Club is the "total gem" of Donald James Ross (1872 - 1948), golf's most famous and prolific architect. Of the 385 courses designed by Ross, perhaps only at Hope Valley  in Durham, North Carolina did he have such a comprehensive role.


Even before the citizens organizing the club would accept the real estate developer's offer of a golf course, they insisted Donald Ross see the property and determine if it was suitable for a high grade golf course and country club." Moreover, Ross designed the course, made on-site inspections during construction, shared in planning its surrounding roads and buffer land, and had a personal acquaintance with the club architect.


Equally unique, the course of today is almost identical to the original 1926 layout of Hope Valley. The nines were reversed in the late 1920s. Over the years, several well-known architects such as Perry Maxwell, Dan Maples, and John LaFoy have left their imprint. The last total renovation based on Mr. Ross’s original plans was in 2003 by Brian Silva. Members and their guests are reminded on the score card, "When you play Hope Valley, you are part of golf history."

These are a few of the original hole layouts and notes Donal Ross used to create Hope Valley Country Club.

John Byron Nelson and Hope Valley

Golfers today recognize the “big thee” as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, yet that title defined the original “big three:” Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.  During the 1940’s these three giants captured a total of 198 PGA Tour wins.  Mr. Nelson, in his short seventeen-year career, personally won 52 events and is 6th on the All-Time PGA Tour wins list.  In 1945 Byron Nelson won 11 straight PGA Tour wins.  A record that still stands today and is quoted by Arnold Palmer, “I don’t think that anyone will ever exceed the things that Byron did by winning 11 tournaments in a row in one year.”  Among the 11 straight wins, The Fourth, came at the Durham Open at Hope Valley Country Club.


It was Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, in Durham, North Carolina, when Bryon Nelson began the final round at the Durham Open.  On a cloudy and overcast day Hope Valley Country Club played host to the PGA Tours’ best.  The Donald Ross design welcomed the likes of Sam Sneed and Sammy Byrd, who had a one shot lead over Nelson as they entered the final round.  Byron was to shoot 65 on the “lightning fast” greens at HVCC, setting a new course record.  Byron was the only player in the field to be under par on the final day, the only player in the field to finish under par for the tournament, and one of six players to shoot under par during the entire tournament.  Byron Nelson won the 1945 Durham Open by five shots, and he collected $6,666 dollars in war bonds for his great play.


On October 19, 1990, Byron Nelson returned to Hope Valley to remember that historic weekend.  A plaque dedication ceremony commemorated his 11 consecutive PGA Tour victories and is displayed on the 18th hole.

Byron spoke of his memories of Hope Valley in his autobiography, How I Played the Game:


"The following week (spring 1945) we were at the Durham Open playing the Hope Valley course, which was a very good one.  We played two rounds the last day, and the 18th hole was a slightly uphill par 3 of about 210 yards.  In the morning round, I used a 1-iron, put the ball four feet from the pin, and made birdie.  In the afternoon, I started out one shot behind but shot  65 to win by 5.  Toney Penna finished five stokes behind me at 270.  The icing on the cake was when I reached 18, got out my 1-iron and made another birdie.

Talking about that tournament reminds me that in 1990, the 45th anniversary of my streak.  I was greatly honored by a party at Durham.  My good friend Buddy Langley, the head of GTE Southwest, got together with the folks at Hope Valley, who in turn contacted the other nine clubs still in existence (Tam O'Shanter was gone, unfortunately - it had been sold and made into a development), and invited them all to come and celebrate.  They had a beautiful plaque made to commemorate the event and installed it at the 18th tee.  There was a little scramble tournament and a party that night, and everyone had a very pleasant day.  I'm always amazed that people think so much even today of what I did so long ago.  I guess it's a good thing they do, or I might think I dreamed it all up."

Byron Nelson at Hope Valley Country Club, 1990

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