Founded in 1922 Chickasaw Country Club opened its William Langford-designed course in 1924. It was here at the 1945 Memphis Invitational that Byron Nelson’s eleven PGA tournament winning streak ended.
Since its early beginnings, the course has been renovated numerous times down the years and much of Langford’s original design intent had been lost, so Bill Bergin was tasked with returning Chickasaw to its Golden Age roots. Bergin used old aerial photographs in the restoration process. The architect commented as follows:
“The project included all new greens complexes, bunkers that matched the original style and new forward tees on every hole. Over 150 trees were removed as the canopies on some holes seemed to practically touch from one side of the fairway to the other.
Langford’s work at Skokie and Lawsonia provided inspiration for the design. On the bunker faces at Skokie, material seemed to be dumped on the face of the bunker and allowed to ferment into its final form. The big angular slopes at Lawsonia were recreated on the fifth and tenth holes at Chickasaw. Angular grass-faced landforms can be found throughout the course and many were exposed, enhanced or added during the work.
A conversion from bentgrass, that struggled through most Memphis summers, to TifEagle Bermuda grass greens allows the surfaces to play fast and firm throughout the calendar year.”
I really enjoyed my recent round at Chickasaw. I had played Lawsonia links this summer and I was keen to try out this old classic design. In addition I was very favorably impressed by the restoration work that architect Bill Bergin had done at Chattanooga Golf and Country Club so I was looking forward to seeing what Bill had been able to pull off here.
The course sits on a nice piece of rolling land in the midtown area of Memphis. The course is bordered by roadways so the current maximum length of 6700 yards is about all they can get out of the property. Langford did a nice job routing the course and he really used some ingenuity by looping the last five holes of the front nine around the outside of the early holes in the back nine. In addition the front has three par 3’s, three par 4’s and three par 5’s. The result is that the course is a little confusing to follow for the first time player but the flow of the holes seemed very natural The course is tree lined but a significant amount of tree clearing has really opened up he playing areas. Essentially all the trees that are left are beautiful hardwoods and their elevated canopy allow grass to grow around them and also offers the player some play out options if you miss the fairway. Overall this is a fairly narrow driving course and driver may not always be the best play on many holes.
The course was playing firm and fast and the course was in great condition. Head greenskeeper Dan Stump has done a great job keeping the playing conditions appropriate for the course as well as keeping the rough in good shape around the many trees . I would guess the greens were running 10-11 on the stimp and they caused me no shortage of problems. The strength of the course lies in the greens and green complexes and Bill Bergin did a wonderful job of capturing the run offs and slopes that help make Langford courses unique. The 12the green may have been the best with two bunkers guarding the right side of the green, a steep slope the left and a significant back to front slope defined the challenge of the green. Overall a perfect green for a short 365 yard par 4. There were a nice variety of par 3’s from the short 142 yard 6th to the strong 216 yard 15th. I though 17 was a fun, short downhill par 4 that could be played a number of ways, even tempting he longer hitter to go for the green and 2 was a probably the strongest hole on the course demanding two well played shots to reach the well designed and well guarded green. On the downside the short par four 7th is an awkward sharp dog leg right and 11 and 8 are two par 5’s that run parallel to each other and play very similar.
I found Chickasaw to be a fun yet challenging course. It would be a very easy course to walk and the variety of challenges the greens provide would be sufficient to keep you interested. This is a classic old style golf course that has been well updated moving forward in the 21st century. If I lived in the areas this would be a great course to join as a member.