After college at Yale and graduate studies at Harvard, Rees, a former ASGCA President, went to work in 1964 as a principal in his father’s firm, Robert Trent Jones, Inc. Ten years later he founded his own design firm, Rees Jones, Inc., headquartered in his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey. In the last thirty years, Jones designed more than a hundred courses, including Nantucket Golf Club in Siasconset, Maryland; Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Georgia; Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway, Michigan; Casata Golf Club in Boulder City, Nevada; Atlantic Golf Club and Golf at the Bridge in Bridgehampton, New York. Jones’s redesign of courses in preparation for major championships has earned him the nickname The Open Doctor. His remodeling skills have been applied to seven U.S. Open venues, five PGA courses, three Ryder Cup sites, and one Walker Cup redo, plus an original design for the 2001 Walker Cup. His redesign of East Lake has become the permanent site of the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship.
In the 1980s, I was vacationing on Nantucket with my family. I decided to go over to Sankaty Head Golf Club, an exclusive golf course I had heard much about but never seen. I wanted to do so without making a big fuss or telling them who I was. I just wanted to play this venerable old course.
I entered the pro shop and asked the golf professional if I could play the course.
“Absolutely not,” he told me. “This is a private club and you must play with a member.”
“I have a few friends who are members,” I told him. “May I see the club directory so that I can try to reach one of them?”
“Absolutely not,” he stated. “Our directory is solely for the use of our members.”
At a loss as to what to do next, I explained that I was a golf course architect and that since Sankaty Head was a historic course, I was quite interested professionally in seeing it.
At that point the golf professional said, “Who do you think you are, Robert Trent Jones?”
“No,” I answered. “But I am his son.”
“Well, then, I’d be glad to play with you tomorrow morning.”
At the finish of our round the next day, the entire green committee was waiting for me on the eighteenth green, anxious to ask me what I thought of their golf course.