Colonial Country Club: Tour Site Is The Masters Of The Southwest

By David R. Holland, Contributor

"A straight ball will get you in more trouble at Colonial than any course I know." -- Ben Hogan

FORT WORTH, Texas -- If you can't feel the history of Texas golf at Colonial Country Club, you ain't breathing.

"They may have the Masters in Georgia," said Dave Stockton, "but Colonial has the Masters in Texas. This is definitely it. It's very, very special."

"It's one of the great golf courses of the world," added Curtis Strange. "Why can't they build them like this today? This is one of those tournaments that, to me, is in the upper echelon. I could play this course every day for the rest of my life."

The Masters of the Southwest. The 1941 U.S. Open.

When John Bredemus designed this course in 1933, it was the first in Texas with bentgrass greens and there were skeptics everywhere. You can't grow bentgrass in the Texas heat, they said. Lots of hard work kept these true-rolling greens alive, but after the 1999 Colonial the greens were ripped up -- a victim of poa annua.

Renowned golf architect Keith Foster, a professed lover of traditional old-style tracks, was brought in for the restoration.

"Colonial asked me to update the golf course, but foremost was to maintain the integrity of the tradition," Foster said. "At Colonial we tightened fairways, took some bunkers out, put some in, and re-did all the greens. It wasn't my job to put my footprint on Colonial, just do the job I was asked to do.

"We photographed elevations every five feet and ran a cross-section. We knew every contour of the greens, rebuilt them to today's specs and matched the contours exactly. We cleaned up the cavities and put the greens back like they were. We used a new strain of bentgrass (A-4) and the all the new construction methods."

All 82 of Colonial's bunkers were reconstructed to improve drainage, 68 new trees were planted and the east driving range was enlarged.

Through the years the course has also lost some strategic trees -- a huge magnolia that framed the 18th hole's left side and a towering pecan tree that played havoc with approach shots on the position-demanding 17th. But fortunately, the tornado that devastated downtown Fort Worth earlier this spring, didn't cause major damage at Colonial.

Past champions? Fort Worth-native Ben Hogan won it five times -- the only player to win the Colonial more than twice. Hogan, who won the first two PGA Tour events at Colonial Country in 1946-47, also won in 1952-53 and 1959.

Julius Boros, Billy Casper, Ben Crenshaw, Bruce Lietzke, Corey Pavin and Lee Trevino have won the tournament twice. Also, Al Geiberger has triumphed twice at Colonial -- capturing the 1975 Tournament Players Championship (now called The Players Championship) and the 1979 Colonial National Invitation.

When Tom Watson won at age 48 in the 1998 MasterCard Colonial, it made him the oldest champion in tournament history. The previous oldest was Hogan, who won at age 46 in 1959.

"Just playing at Colonial makes you feel good," said Pavin. "There's such a great tradition here. No tournament outside the majors has the prestige this one has. This would be a beautiful U.S. Open course -- if it had thick rough the scores would be unbelievable. Something like four or five over would be leading. No kidding. That's how good a golf course this is."

No. 5, par 4, 470 yards ranks as the toughest hole. The Trinity River is out of bounds right and trees on the left with fescue rough make it tight and long. The tee has been lengthened by eight yards and requires a slight left-to-right shot. The pros could hit driver and still have 185 to the green.

At the 402-yard, par-4 9th, 10 yards have been added with a new tee shared by hole No. 12. You must bend it right to be in position to attack a green that is fronted by a scenic pond, but beware of the stacked bunkers on the left.

This is a great place to watch the action. In the past the pros have hit an iron off the tee, but a 3-wood or driver might be needed this year to get into good position. With the water in front, you have to take plenty of club on the approach. Too much club or too little could result in a double bogey, but you can see plenty of birdies, too.

No 13 is only 178 yards, but the lake in front causes many shots to end up above the hole. A bunker has been added on the left and the back bunker, which the pros putted out of in the past, has a new higher lip to prevent that shot.

It's target golf at No. 17, a 383-yard par-4. The pros hit a one- or two-iron then a wedge. But positioning is key. Too far left or right presents an approach over huge trees to the elevated green. Tiger Woods lost the tournament here a few years ago because he didn't find the fairway. He caught a flier out of the rough and went to the back of the green and three-putted. It's a birdie hole for most, however.

Colonial measures 7,080 yards at par 70.

Colonial Country Club
3735 Country Club Circle
Fort Worth, TX 76109
Telephone: 817-927-4221
Facts: Colonial is a private course so you have to be a member or guest of a member to play, but you can see it every year during the MasterCard Colonial.
Head Professional: Dow Finsterwald, Jr.
Additions/redesigns: Perry Maxwell, 1940; Dick Wilson, 1956; Robert Trent Jones Sr., 1960; Jay Morrish and Bob Cupp, 1982; Keith Foster, 1999.

Colonial's Awards:

Golf Magazine: Ranked in 1995 as 34th best course in America and 56th in the world. Selected 8th most prestigious PGA Tour event in 1986. Colonial's No. 5 and No. 18 listed in 100 Greatest Golf Holes in America. Rated best course in Texas in 1995.

Hole No. 3 rated toughest third hole in America by the PGA of America.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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