LINKS course profile: Colonial Country Club

Colonial Country Club.
May 24, 2010
PGA TOUR staff

Colonial Country Club arrived on the American golf scene as the site of the 1941 U.S. Open, and buttressed in the ensuing half century by a cast of famous names headed by the incomparable Ben Hogan, has never surrendered the national spotlight.

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The USGA's selection of Colonial Country Club marked the first time the championship had been contested west of the Mississippi River and south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Colonial, founded in 1936 by J. Marvin Leonard, is a demanding, uncompromising layout forged from pecan groves and hackberry bushes on 157 acres of Trinity River bottomland in southwest Fort Worth.

Leonard, with an assist from John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell, fashioned Colonial into a course that places a premium on positioning off the tee, and with its smallish, well-bunkered greens, accuracy on approach shots.

One of Leonard's priorities was building a golf course with bentgrass greens, which he preferred to the native Bermuda greens found at virtually every existing Texas course. After he volunteered to underwrite the cost of converting several greens at nearby Rivercrest Country Club to bent, Leonard was chided by his fellow members, who said:

"Marvin, if you're so sold on bentgrass greens, why don't you build your own golf course and put them in?"

He did just that. In the finest Texas tradition of braggadocio, Leonard began lobbying USGA officials for an Open venue, and the USGA stipulated that the 4th and 5th holes be upgraded to Open standards. Leonard went overboard in acceding to the USGA's wishes.

He acquired acreage from an adjoining nursery and dairy and, with an assist from Perry Maxwell and Dean Woods, configured Colonial's famous "Horrible Horseshoe" -- a brutish trio of holes consisting of the dogleg-left 483-yard 3rd, the 247-yard 4th and the 481-yard 5th, which shows up on virtually every list of the greatest holes in golf.

Ben Hogan had an affinity for the course that became known as "Hogan's Alley." He won the Colonial National Invitation Tournament five times, beginning with the inaugural event in 1946. The last of Bantam Ben's 63 PGA TOUR wins was the 1959 NIT, in which Hogan beat fellow Texan Fred Hawkins in an 18-hole playoff.

Great courses produce great champions, and one look at Colonial's Wall of Champions, adjoining the 1st tee, reads like a virtual "who's who" in golf. Besides Hogan, you'll find the names Snead, Middlecoff, Boros, Palmer, Casper, Nicklaus, Trevino, Wadkins, Crenshaw, Price and Mickelson.

In addition to producing great champions, Colonial has produced, or at least inspired, its share of great golf writers. Dan Jenkins' early stories consisted of Hogan's exploits. One of Jenkins' colleagues was Bud Shrake, who collaborated with teaching legend Harvey Penick on the Little Red Book.

The Colonial was also the scene of another historic event. In 2003 Annika Sorenstam became the first woman in 58 years to tee it up in a PGA TOUR event. She missed the cut, but the course rewarded her consistent ball-striking, as she was in the top 20 in green hit in regulation.

Whether man or woman, visitors to this club would do well to remember the words of 1989 winner Ian Baker-Finch: "This course is an important part of golf history. It's a great tournament and it's played on Ben Hogan's home course. That means a lot to anyone who has every played this game, or ever will."