Brackenridge Getting Back in the Swing of Things


After nearly a year's absence, San Antonio's Brackenridge Golf Course will reopen December 1 after a $7.5 million project that completely restored and renewed all 18 holes. The work was done to recapture the original design of A.W. Tillinghast, one of America's great golf course architects.

Built in 1915 and opened in 1916, Brackenridge was the first public golf course built in Texas, as well as one of the first courses designed by Tillinghast. Renovations have been done by John Colligan, of Colligan Golf Design headquartered in Arlington, Texas. Construction was handled by Golf Works of Austin. The 114-acre, par-71 course, located in downtown San Antonio's historic Brackenridge Park, will measure 6,350 yards.

"From a historic standpoint, we had a great responsibility to Texas golf," said Colligan, who grew up in Dallas. "We realized we were blessed to be given this. It was something we all took very seriously. We felt strongly about getting the golf course back as close as possible to its original configuration."

Upon discovering a local surveyor's 1925 copy of Tillinghast's original routing - stored away in the clubhouse all these years - and analyzing numerous photos and images of the course from that period, Colligan retraced 15 holes at Brackenridge to Tillinghast's plans. He also returned some of the unique Tillinghast touches, which include "reef bunkering," where bunkers curve out into the fairway, and six greens shaped into virtual squares.

The course had been compromised over the years, particularly during highway construction in 1968. The new routing on the back nine includes renewal of the natural flow of the San Antonio River on several holes, as well as the restoration of several classic stone bridges that cross the water.

The renovation project includes sodded fairways (TifSport Bermuda), rebuilt greens (MiniVerde Bermuda) and the extensive restoration and replacing of bunkers - as well as the addition of new ones - all to USGA specifications. Numerous oak and pecan trees have been preserved and, with the addition of 160 newly planted specimens, the tree count now is roughly 1,500.

In addition to on-course work at Brackenridge Park, the project also includes refurbishing the clubhouse and rebuilding the adjacent Gutzon Borglum studio, where in 1924 the famed sculptor worked on his Mount Rushmore models. A Texas Golf Hall of Fame and Museum are also being added. The Hall of Fame was located in Houston from 1978-1996.

"We want the golf course to be a 'living Tillinghast museum,' " Colligan said. "As opposed to art on the walls, the golf course is the art. It is Tillinghast's art."

Brackenridge, the site of the first Texas Open in 1922, will be the premier venue of the newly launched Alamo City Golf Trail, which includes San Antonio's six municipal courses. The course is located near the center of the city and is part of Brackenridge Park. For additional information or tee times, call 210/226-5612 or visit www.playsanantoniogolf.com .


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