After 3 decades as host to the PGA Tour, the Ron Prichard-designed TPC Southwind adds a new chapter as a World Golf Championships site
TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn., has played host to the PGA Tour annually since 1989, but this week will be only the second edition of the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational at the course.
The former WGC Bridgestone Invitational moved south from longtime host Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, to the corporate home of the Tour’s biggest sponsor, package giant FedEx. Like last week’s 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities, TPC Southwind was designed by a prominent architect who turned to a prominent champion – in this instance, two of them – as a player consultant. That architect was Ron Prichard, with input from Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller.
Prichard is commonly known in course-architecture circles as the “father of restoration,” particularly with Donald Ross-designed courses. Prichard began restoring classic courses in 1983, when Texarkana (Ark.) Country Club, a 1922 classic design by William Langford and Theodore Moreau, asked him to renovate the course. After studying the course’s original plans, Prichard suggested restoring the course to its original look rather than updating the 1950s redesign.
Additional noteworthy Prichard restorations include: Portland (Maine) Country Club, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Country Club, Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, N.J., and Mountain Lake in Lake Wales, Fla. With this pedigree, it’s interesting to see an original Prichard design in TPC Southwind.
Players will see numerous course refinements and enhancements led by TPC Southwind superintendent Nick Bisanz. Most notably, every bunker on the course was redone in some fashion. A few bunkers were removed, and a couple of new ones were added; a few were enlarged, and a few were shrunken. But all of them were re-edged, fitted with new liners and new drainage and a fresh fill of sand. The work certainly will prove timely should the predicted thunderstorms soak the course, as predicted.
The most visible architectural change comes early in the round, at the par-5 third hole. Players will notice a shift in the former straightaway routing. A large lake that runs the length of the hole on the right starts midway down the fairway and extends to the green. The fairway was shifted 15 yards to the right, and a new tee box added 25 yards to the hole, which now will play 579 yards.
Holes to watch:
No. 9, par 4, 457 yards: The hardest hole on the course plays into a 30-yard-wide fairway 300 yards off the tee. A pond lurking another 40 yards beyond the landing area doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when standing on the tee of this dogleg right that requires a near-perfect drive for any hope of a birdie chance. Big numbers lurk on this hole, where par is a good way to finish the front side.
No. 11, par 3, 162 yards: Maybe the most duplicated par-3 design in the world is the island green at TPC Sawgrass. This pint-sized version plays 25 yards longer but is far less intimidating.
No. 18, par 4, 453 yards: A classic closing hole that will remind some of the 18th at Pebble Beach or other numerous examples of a dogleg left with water running down the entirety of the left side of the hole. Watch out for Bryson DeChambeau to try bombing it over the water, which requires a 305-yard carry to avoid the fairway bunkers on the right. From there, it’s a straightforward finishing hole with a medium-sized green.
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