Nathan Crace returns classic style to Colonial in Memphis

  • Colonial Memphis
    Nathan Crace

    Nathan Crace has completed a renovation on the South course at Colonial CC in Memphis

  • Colonial Memphis
    Nathan Crace

    Bunkers have been rebuilt and greens restored

  • Colonial Memphis
    Nathan Crace

    Work finished in late July and the course is expected to reopen in October

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Nathan Crace has completed renovation work on the South course at Colonial Country Club in Memphis, Tennessee.

Colonial was founded in 1913 in the White Station neighbourhood of east Memphis until 1971, when it moved to nearby Cordova, where two eighteen-hole layouts designed by Joe Finger were built.

The South course was a long-time host of the Memphis Open (which became the St. Jude Classic) on the PGA Tour. The 1977 event was notable for Al Geiberger shooting the Tour’s first ever 59, and President Gerald Ford making a hole-in-one during the pro-am.

Crace was appointed in 2022 to develop a renovation plan for the South, which focused on greens and bunkers.

“The goal at Colonial is what I call a ‘restorvation’,” said Crace. “We’re restoring the classic feel of a classic layout that was once the longest course on the PGA Tour while making improvements for today’s game and modern players.

“Over the years, multiple contractors had been brought in to redo a green here or there and a few bunkers at a time, but not all of them. And none of the work was done under the direction of an architect, so there was no consistency.”

Forefront Golf Construction began work on Crace’s plan in early 2023 and finished in late July, despite record-breaking cold temperatures and rain in the spring, and summer storms that uprooted 14 large trees, including the oak in the middle of the seventeenth fairway.

“We expanded greens back out to their original sizes using old aerial photos and other information the club had and worked to restore contouring while keeping in mind the speeds the new TifEagle surfaces reach,” said Crace.

“The next piece of the puzzle was addressing bunkers. The owners and members wanted a classic bunker style with simple edges and sodded faces, and we rearranged some bunkers that were out of play and even added a few to frame holes and improve strategy. Overall, there’s a net decrease in square feet of sand and we used Better Billy Bunker liner, Premier Play sand and Tahoma 31 sod.”

Work also included replacing sprinkler heads around all greens with new Toro equipment and adding some rock-lined creek beds on the first, seventh and eleventh holes to improve drainage and aesthetics.

“The membership covers the full spectrum, including young juniors, ladies, seniors, average players and single-digit handicappers, so we were careful to include everyone in the project,” said Crace, who also added some new forward and back tees.

The course is expected to reopen for play in October. “The members love the renovated course,” said Crace. “It has been open with temporary greens throughout the project, so they have been able to see progress up and close. They are raving about the new look of the bunkers, and they can’t wait to play the layout now that work is complete.”