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Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas is not only one of America’s finest golf courses, but it is also forever associated with one of the world’s greatest-ever players because it is nicknamed ‘Hogan’s Alley’.
The nine-time major championship winner Ben Hogan was a Fort Worth resident who dominated the Colonial tournament, winning it five times (three more than any other player has managed).
A traditional design that features tree-lined, doglegged fairways and small greens, it is a superb test of ball-striking which explains why Hogan’s sublime long game excelled there.
The club has made nothing more than subtle changes down the years so it remains a tight examination which takes driver out of play for the wildest big-hitters.
It opened in 1936 with a layout co-designed by John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell, the latter one of the great pioneers of American golf who was known as “the father of Oklahoma golf”.
Founder Marvin Leonard’s chief desire was to introduce bent grass greens to the region and it is said that this was less down to high-minded design principles than pig-headed determination to prove it could be done.
The quality of the examination was such that Leonard’s club very soon hosted the U.S. Open (in 1941) and five decades later the U.S.G.A. would return to Colonial for the U.S. Women’s Open.
The course would also play host to an early version of THE PLAYERS Championship in the 1970s, but it is best-known as the annual PGA Tour stop for the Colonial tournament.
This event often goes by different names owing to whichever company is the current sponsor, but for golfers and golf fans it is treasured as just ‘The Colonial’.
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Colonial Country Club
Yardage: 7,209 yards
Colonial CC course designer: John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell
Colonial CC course record: 61 (Keith Clearwater, Lee Janzen, Greg Kraft, Justin Leonard, Kevin Na, Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell)
Kevin Na was well down the field after a first round of 70 but shot a Friday 62 which helped catapult him to victory.
A high-class renewal which ended with a weekend duel between Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka, with the Englishman emerging victorious.
Conditions were perfect and Zach Johnson took full toll, carding 65-66-64-64 to win by three shots with a record 21-under-par total of 259.
Ten men have won at the course twice, but none dominated in their victories like Kenny Perry. He’d trounced the field by six shots in 2003 and bettered that in 2005, winning by seven.
2003 Bank of America Colonial – Legend of the women’s game Annika Sorenstam accepted an invitation to play. She missed the cut but impressed with her composed performance.
The winner was Meg Mallon, but the star was Lori Garbacz who, to protest the slow pace of play, had her caddie order pizza and it was delivered to the 17th tee.
The forerunner of THE PLAYERS Championship toured the States in its early guise and was played once at Colonial when Al Geiberger went wire-to-wire in his victory.
The greats have always excelled at Colonial. Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Tom Watson have all triumphed there, but Lee Trevino won it twice, the second time in 1978.
Ben Hogan won the inaugural edition of this tournament in 1946 and he defended the title 12 months later. He would go back-to-back again in 1952-53 before claiming a fifth win at the end of the decade. It truly was his alley.
A tournament noted for the sweltering conditions and success for Craig Woods who defied a back injury and a double-bogey 7 on his first hole of the week.
Par 4, 481 yards: This long par-4 completes a three-hole stretch of the course known as the ‘Horrible Horseshoe’. It plays down an avenue of trees with the Trinity River running all the way down the right-hand side.
Par 5, 645 yards: There are just the two par-5s at Colonial, one on each nine, but the second is a brute at well over 600 yards. The tee shot is tested by a narrowing of the trees and two fairway bunkers, whilst the choice of lay up is tricky: Leave a long shot in or risk landing the second blow in among a crop of bunkers closer to the green?
Par 3, 190 yards: The shortest hole on the course, but a ferocious test. Indeed, in 2012 no less than 37 players recorded double bogey or worse. It plays right across water and has the added pressure of the green being surrounded by grandstands and corporate boxes.
Par 4, 441 yards: One of the many famed doglegs on the course, the final hole twists right-to-left and the approach is protected by a pond on the left.
“It’s no secret, this is one of my favourite weeks of the year. I love the association with Mr Hogan and I love a traditional course that really tests your full game.”
Kevin Kisner (2017 champion):
“This is the kind of golf course I dream about playing. In my opinion, too many courses are getting too long. You can tell the history here when you tee off here and they haven’t changed it. It’s precision golf.”
“It’s a shot-maker’s course. You have to manage your ball and experience is a factor, too.”
“Winning is winning, no matter where you win. But if you can win at a course with great history and great champions, that makes you very proud and this place has that.”
“To win at Mr. Hogan’s place, a tough golf course with a lot of history, I tell you what, it’s pretty special.”
Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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