FORT WORTH, Texas -- Golfers who played the old Rockwood Park municipal golf course in Fort Worth will have a hard time recognizing the new course, at least most of it.
That's because the Arlington, Texas-based design team of John Colligan and Trey Kemp (Colligan Golf Design) have completely transformed the old municipal into a modern 18-hole championship golf course capable of playing host to amateur and professional events alike.
The new course, while retaining elements of the original 1938 John Bredemus design, has been lengthened from 6,300 yards to nearly 7,100 yards and completely rerouted with new grasses, bunkers and tees, while retaining great views of downtown Fort Worth and the Trinity River.
The old Rockwood also had an additional nine holes (the Blue Nine), so Colligan Golf Design was able to use land from a couple holes from the Blue to expand the new golf course, which was set to officially open on June 30, 2017.
Work on the $5.1 project began in late 2015 when the old course was shut down. Kemp and Colligan, who have a history of restoring and/or redesigning old worn-out municipals, have done some of their best work at Rockwood. It ranks among the top municipal courses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, along with Dallas' Stevens Park, which Colligan also renovated.
"For me, it ranks right up there with Stevens Park, Brackenridge Park (San Antonio) and Mustang (at Ross Rodgers) in Amarillo," said Kemp, who was responsible for much of the routing ideas on Rockwood Park and the others. "John and I had been working on this for almost 10 years. We started the master plan in 2008, so today was a great day to finally get out here and play it. After playing it, we're very pleased."
Early rave reviews for Rockwood
That was the reaction by everyone who played and saw the course during a preview round in mid-June. The course was in near-perfect condition with smooth, undulating TifEagle greens, lush Bermuda fairways and old-style, but modern bunkers that flash white sand from the tees and fairways.
While the course certainly has modern technology going for it, though, it retains much of its old-time look. Kemp used photographs of the course from the 1940s to recreate some of the greens. On the ninth, for example, there's a rectangular green that also serves as an optional teeing ground for the first hole. A rock bridge built by Works Progress Administration workers in the '40s also remains. And the greens and tees are fairly close together, making the course very walkable.
The course has a windswept look to it as Colligan incorporated native grasses around its wide fairways. And it features a great variety of par 3s and par 5s. Kemp's favorite hole is the par-3 eighth, where the tee is at the highest point on the golf course. It's just 142 yards from the top tee and plays much shorter since it's downhill.
"Eight to me is what made the whole front nine work," Kemp said. "Once we found the eighth hole, it opened up the rest of the front nine."
And the seventh is a risk-reward drivable par 4 with deep bunkers catching tee shots that aren't hit precisely in the right spot. The smart play is probably to hit an iron off the tee to set up a full wedge, because tee shots hit near the green are not easy up-and-downs by any means.
The back nine is about 300 yards longer than the front nine at 3,662 yards, and it's also the more difficult of the two nines, ending with a par 5 that features deep cross bunkers about 50 yards in front of the green.
Rockwood could be the pride of Fort Worth
"It's a great piece of property, and we really did maximize the topography," Colligan said. "Then you combine with the great views of downtown Fort Worth and you've got something really special."
Nancy Bunton, director of golf for the city of Fort Worth, predicts the golf course will be a hit in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.
"It's a brand new golf course, and it's gorgeous," Bunton said. "We're hoping to attract all golfers, whether they are our regulars, haven't played the course in several years or have never played the course. I think the public will be pleasantly surprised."
Green fees for walkers are just $25 during the week and $35 on the weekends for a course that no doubt ranks among Fort Worth's best for public golf.