Colonial Gets Modern Upgrades During A Hanse-Led Restoration Inspired By 1941 Us Open

Jordan Spieth watches his tee shot on the sixth hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at the Valhalla Golf Club, Friday, May 17, 2024, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jordan Spieth watches his tee shot on the sixth hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at the Valhalla Golf Club, Friday, May 17, 2024, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Work was already underway on a complete renovation of the historic Colonial course the day after Emiliano Grillo won on the second playoff hole last May.

There are plenty of modern upgrades at “Hogan's Alley,” but a significant goal of the $20 million-plus project was to restore the course to much of its original form. Colonial Country Club opened in 1936, five years before a U.S. Open was there and 10 years before it began hosting what is now the longest-running PGA Tour event at the same venue.

“It's the same old Colonial, but better,” tournament director Michael Tothe said about the tree-lined course where Fort Worth great Ben Hogan won five times.

Renowned architect Gil Hanse oversaw the course renovation that was completed on time for the Charles Schwab Challenge this week — the first rounds played at Colonial since last year's tournament.

“New reads, new contours, new everything ... do my homework and pretend it's a place I've never played,” Grillo said.

“It's (my) 12th start here, but really the first start in the new Colonial era,” said local favorite Jordan Spieth, the 2016 champion and a three-time runner-up. “I imagine it's tough for a course designer to bring a course back in time, but accommodating the modern game, making it maybe more playable for an average member 51 weeks of the year, but still a championship golf course making it as or more difficult for us. I guess time will tell over the next four days, but it really seems like he’s somehow done that."

The first round is Thursday.

Every bit of sod was replaced over about 118 acres. There are new greens, tees and bunkers, and 65 miles of pipes that are part of a state-of-the-art irrigation system.

Colonial was the first course in Texas to have bentgrass greens when it opened nine decades ago, and still has them. The renovation included the installation of a hydronics system that can circulate cool or warm water to keep the putting surfaces at the peak condition, even during the often-brutal summer heat.

As for restoring the course, Hanse relied heavily on a program from the 1941 U.S. Open that included photographs and detailed descriptions of each hole.

Most of the greens were lowered, with some moved back and others shifted several feet to one side or the other. Among the most significant changes were on Nos. 8 and 13, both par 3s.

The No. 8 green was moved about 30 feet to the left, bringing into a play a creek along the left side, a twist on the original design when that hole was closer to the Trinity River on the right before a 1949 flood. Hanse moved back and raised the 13th green fronted by water to more like it was originally, and also expanded that tee.

Grillo had to go to a playoff last year after a double bogey on the 72nd hole, when his wayward tee shot went into the flowing water of a small concrete drainage canal to the right of the 18th fairway. The ball finally came to rest against a rock in the middle of the flow about 150 yards downstream.

That concrete canal and other drainage areas on the course, around half the holes, have been replaced by barrancas, which are often sandy areas dotted with native wild grasses and plants. They are part of existing natural dry beds on the property that channel water during heavy rains.

Hanse also incorporated barrancas in a restoration he oversaw at Los Angeles Country Club, where the U.S. Open was played last summer. Hanse also restored recent U.S. Open host sites The Country Club in Brookline (Massachusetts) and Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, and Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which hosted the 2022 PGA Championship.

Ryan Palmer is making his 21st PGA Tour start at Colonial, where he has been a member since 2010. His caddie, James Edmondson, is the five-time club champion.

“It’s been a crazy year for Colonial, obviously, but the restoration Gil Hanse and his team did, I mean it’s unbelievable how fast it came together,” Palmer said. “It’s pretty cool to kind of be a part of a lot of the conversations we had. ... To finally see it, and for the guys on Tour to be here playing it, I heard a lot of great positive comments, so that’s good to know. I was a little nervous, to be honest with you, for the course and for the club.”


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