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Colonial Country Club’s historic $20 million renovation to go ahead on tight schedule

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One of the big challenges in Gil Hanse’s career as a golf course architect is still over a year from the time the shovels hit the ground, and he knows there is no room for error or disaster.

Almost as soon as the last putt falls at the 2023 Charles Schwab Invitational, work will begin on a major renovation to the Colonial Country Club course. Hanse calls this a historical restoration.

The greens will be torn. Bermuda grass in the fairways and roughs will be killed off and eventually replaced with turf. Trees will be felled and others pruned. New irrigation and drainage pipes will be dug. Much of what currently exists will be replaced.

If the golf course was a house, it would be like demolishing everything down to the tenons.

“The hardest part of the project is that we can’t get started – more or less – until June 1,” said Hanse, one of the hottest names in golf course architecture. “It’s a very tight deadline.

“It’s a very, very narrow window, and we hope Mother Nature is kind to us.”

Hanse spoke by phone last week from Frisco, where he was visiting the site of the PGA Frisco course he designed and which is set to host the 2027 PGA Championship. Other recent work includes the course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which hosted the 2016 Olympics, a renovation of the Southern Hill Country Club in Tulsa, which will host the PGA Championship next week, and a renovation of the Country Club in Brookline, Mass. , which will host the US Open in June.

“Even though we have a year,” he said, “we really only have six months of good growing weather.”

The catering, which was announced on the eve of the Schwab Challenge 2021, was due to begin at the end of this year’s tournament, which begins on May 26. It was pushed back a year when it became clear that supply chain issues could lead to disastrous delays. .

“We had to make sure we would have the gear we needed when we needed it,” said Frank Cordeiro, Colonial Country Club’s general manager and general manager. “We have a very well-defined schedule, which does not allow for delays.”

The decision to delay the project by more than $20 million was the right thing to do, he added.

The Colonial Country Club Master Plan shows the plans for the 2023 renovation of the golf course. The renovation was originally scheduled to start in 2022 but was pushed back a year.(Hanse Golf Course Design)

“Having a definite and inflexible plan forces us to do certain things. Our plan is to have the course ready for the event. If you don’t know you can do it, you don’t.

If the Schwab Challenge continues to occupy the Memorial Day weekend dates, the 2023 event will end on May 28, and the next tournament will begin on May 22, 2024.

Some of the changes above ground will be subtle. Tournament regulars of the last three quarters of a century will recognize Hanse’s touch.

The project required his team to do extensive research on the course founded in 1936.

“We searched a lot to find the true Colonial design,” Hanse said. “There are so many iterations of Colonial over the years.”

Early prominent architects include John Bredemus, Ralph Plummer and Perry Maxwell.

In their research, Hanse’s team discovered that issues 3-5, the Horrible Horseshoe, were Maxwell’s main contribution and did not originally include all of the bunkers that currently exist.

Hanse plans to remove one fairway bunker and two green bunkers on par-3 No. 3. The green bunkers on par-3 No. 4 would also be removed, as would the green bunkers to the left of par-4 No. 5 Smaller trees have already been removed on the right side of No 5 to bring the Trinity River into view, if not also into play.

“It’s a win-win for PGA Tour members and players,” Hanse said of the bunker removal because it makes it more playable for members and bunkers don’t normally come into play for Tour players.

“We’re trying to bring it back to something that feels like it’s been there forever,” he said.

Catering balances member needs with the challenge of testing PGA Tour pros who visit for a week each year.

“Because we focus so much on the story, I think it’s usually members first,” Hanse said. “At the end of the day, we work for the members. But Colonial’s identity is tied to the tournament.

Although the work will not begin for more than a year, a schedule has been established for the completion of the tasks. First on the list are green complexes, Hanse said. It takes about a week to set up the underground cooling and heating system, shape a green and plant the grass for each green. If all goes as planned, this work should be completed by August.

Colonial took a bit of a lead. The pumping station of the underground system is already installed. Hydronic units control the temperature and humidity level and will create ideal conditions for the health and growth of bentgrass greens.

Colonial hired Rich McIntosh as Director of Agronomy in December 2021. He was at Torrey Pines in San Diego. He has experience in organizing major professional tournaments and PGA Tour events. And he participated in major construction projects.

The most dramatic changes will be to the par 3 holes, particularly numbers 8 and 13. Number 8 originally played with the Trinity River on its right hand side. Hanse will create a mirror image of the original design by bringing the green closer to the stream and the barranca on the left. The tee box will be moved forward into a valley, creating an uphill hole.

No. 13 originally played with a Trinity River rainbow up front. This look will be restored. The green will move away from the pond. The wall that currently separates the water from the green will be removed. A bunker will be added at the water’s edge.

“The evolution of the golf course was a more formalized landscape,” Hanse said of the improvements made over the years. “We restore the rustic patina. We’ll give it more of a sense of place, a riverside, a Texas landscape.

If all goes as planned, it will debut in 2024.

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