COLONIAL COUNTRY CLUB, the site of this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational, ain’t what it used to be. Not by a long shot, or an average J.B. Holmes drive you might say.
The historic layout where Ben Hogan recorded five victories is less than 7000 yards and plays to a par 70. That’s pitch-and-putt length by current PGA Tour standards. Today’s bombers can drive over the doglegs and spin their short irons on the small greens. As John Hawkins said the other night on the Golf Channel, pros are hitting wedges into greens to which Hogan hit 4-irons.
Yet when Colonial first opened in the early 1940s and later began hosting the Colonial Invitational, it was considered one of the toughest courses anywhere. Texan Jackie Burke Jr. said, “If you’re told to just go out and shoot par on a golf course, Colonial is the last one you’d try it on.”
Not coincidentally, Colonial was built for a fade, Hogan’s trademark ball flight. Of Colonial’s 14 par-four holes, nine favored a controlled fade off the tee. “A straight ball will get you in more trouble at Colonial than any course I know,” Hogan once remarked.
One of the better players during Hogan’s heyday, 1951 winner Cary Middlecoff called Colonial the toughest par-70 in the world. This is how Middlecoff once described playing the 466-yard par-four 5th hole:
“First, I pull out two brand-new Wilson balls and throw them into the Trinity River. Then I throw up. Then I go ahead and hit my tee shot into the river.”
Phil Mickelson is the 36-hole leader at seven under.
−The Armchair Golfer