Architect Gil Hanse, who consulted with Marty Leonard, the daughter of founder Marvin Leonard, and legendary golf writer Dan Jenkins, will restore the Fort Worth, Texas property to its former glory. Hanse also enlisted PGA Tour professional Ryan Palmer and his caddie James Edmonson, a member of Colonial and club champion on more than one occasion, to be part of the design process.
Marvin Leonard, founder of Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas once said, “excellence knows no completion,” Fort Worth Magazine reported. That mantra has stuck with General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Frank Cordeiro as inspiration in carrying out his tasks since arriving in in 2020.
And to that end, Colonial is undertaking a project of progress by walking back into its revered history, Fort Worth Magazine reported. This era of the acclaimed club will forever be known as the “Originalist” as Colonial undertakes to bring Leonard’s “baby” back to its original Perry Maxwell-John Bredemus form when it opened in 1936 in a $20 million renovation project to begin on May 28 as the final putt drops at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Club + Resort Business first reported on the tight timeline for the restoration in May 2022. The club was to have begun at the end of last year’s tournament, but was pushed back a year when it became clear that supply chain issues could cause disastrous delays.
“We had to ensure that we would have the materials we needed when we needed them,” Cordeiro said at the time.
Over the course of its eight decades, the club has tinkered with the course, making alterations and modifications, including some made by Ben Hogan and Ralph Plummer, Fort Worth Magazine reported. So many, in fact, that the course has changed significantly over its 87 years.
To restore it to its glory of the 1941 U.S. Open, Colonial has turned to Gil Hanse, the golf architect who designed the Olympic Golf Course for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Fort Worth Magazine reported. More recently, Hanse just finished up the 36-hole PGA Frisco with Beau Welling, the PGA of America’s new headquarters.
Hanse told Fort Worth Magazine the objective is getting the course back to something that looks as if it’s “been there forever.”
The 18-month project must be completed in 11 months, in time for the 2024 tournament, Fort Worth Magazinereported. It’s a tight deadline that requires all the bent-grass greens be seeded by Sept. 1, at the very latest, and grown in before North Texas’ winter arrives.
It’s doable, said Hanse, as long as Mother Nature is agreeable, Fort Worth Magazine reported.
Cordeiro is calling the face-lift a “monumental opportunity to celebrate our proud legacy with a nod to our storied history, but with an eye to the future,” Fort Worth Magazine reported. “It will still be the revered Colonial course we are all familiar with seeing and playing, but the Hanse work will improve, update, and maximize the legendary course and routing.”
It will also be high tech, Fort Worth Magazine reported. Colonial is installing a hydronics system on each green that can circulate warm or cool water to alter the temperature of the soil, the essential ingredient to a healthy putting surface. It’s like radiant heating and cooling of floors, Hanse said.
The superintendent at Southern Hills described the concept as being able to trick the grass in August into believing it’s June, Fort Worth Magazine reported. Conversely, if it’s a cool spring, you can “give them a little bit of a shot [of warmth] to get them ready” for the tournament.
It’s all somewhat ironic, considering Leonard built Colonial because River Crest wouldn’t take him up on his offer to try a — one — bent-grass green and to replace it, if it didn’t work out, all at his expense, Fort Worth Magazine reported.
The experiment at Colonial was revolutionary in Texas because everyone, not just River Crest, was telling him the bent-grass greens couldn’t grow in North Texas because of the heat, a not-so-new phenomenon, Fort Worth Magazine reported. So, he put them on his championship-caliber course. The other club he built, Shady Oaks Country Club, had them, too.
Hanse’s handiwork is seen in dozens of original designs, such as Rio and Scotland, and renovations and restorations all over the world, Fort Worth Magazine reported. Hanse and his wife Tracey essentially move to each location. They’ll basically live in Fort Worth for the duration of the project. The work at Colonial is something he relishes.
“It’s something we really enjoy, studying and trying to understand what the original architects did there and how it evolved over time,” Hanse said. “When you look back, particularly the 1941 U.S. Open, it was a very different golf course in appearance and character.”
As part of that study, Hanse and his team sat with Marty Leonard, Marvin Leonard’s daughter and Dan Jenkins, the late esteemed writer of golf, prolific author, and friend of Ben Hogan, Fort Worth Magazine reported. This project has been in the works for the better part of six years. Jenkins died in 2019.
“We had a great lunch with Marty and Dan Jenkins,” Hanse says. “I just sat and listened. It was great to hear the two of them reminisce about the character of the course.”
Jenkins recalled it as a “dark golf course,” Hanse says, the metaphoric language used to describe all the trees, Fort Worth Magazine reported. “He said it felt as if you were hitting into these dark corridors,” Hanse says. “Greens were shrouded in the trees.”
The trees aren’t coming back. Neither are some bunkers, many of which will be removed, Fort Worth Magazine reported. In its place will be rough, light enough for amateurs but thickened during tournament week. Just about every green will be lowered and “more receptive as targets.”
The biggest changes will be to holes eight and 13, both par 3s, Fort Worth Magazine reported. No. 8 will be brought back to its former self, with the green shifted to the left to bring the creek into play. Hanse called the changes on those holes “dramatic.”
The fairway on No. 5 will be leveled on the left side, Fort Worth Magazine reported. Trees will be removed on the right side, exposing the Trinity River.
“I was a little nervous at the beginning because of how great colonial is,” said Ryan Palmer, a PGA Tour professional who lives in Colleyville. “It always stands up to the professionals. I was real skeptical.”
Colonial, though, asked Palmer and his caddie, James Edmonson, a member of Colonial and club champion on more than one occasion, to be part of the process, Fort Worth Magazine reported.
“To give our two cents,” Palmer said.
Palmer consulted from a pro’s standpoint, and Edmondson gave perspective as an amateur, walking each hole with Hanse and sitting for hours-long lunches going over every hole, Fort Worth Magazine reported.
“I was shocked and impressed by how much Gil listened to us and took our advice,” Palmer said. “That said a lot about him and gave me more confidence in him and what the plan is. I think it’s going to be magnificent.”
Like Palmer, pros were concerned when first hearing about plans for the renovation, Fort Worth Magazine reported. “Don’t screw up Colonial” was a common theme.
For the everyday golfer, the course will play fairer without the traps, which the pros favor, Fort Worth Magazine reported. Pros have no trouble getting out of them and actually prefer them to alternatives. The amateur, of course, has trouble getting out of them.
Now the everyday golfer doesn’t have to fly every bunker, Fort Worth Magazine reported. There will be more opportunities to bump balls forward. For the pro, the rough will make the course harder.
“Most guys said, ‘You’re going to make it even harder,’” Palmer said of his conversations with professional peers. I said, ‘That’s the point. That’s the plan.’
“Most guys I’ve talked to have been very supportive. They love Colonial, which is a great thing to hear.”
Tell Us What You Think!
You must be logged in to post a comment.