Founded in 1905, when James Foulis set out a 9-hole course for the membership, Memphis Country Club expanded its original layout to eighteen holes in 1915, with Donald Ross somehow managing to fit the fairways into a 105-acre property located close to downtown Memphis.
In recent years, North Carolina-based Kris Spence carried out a restoration in two phases, concentrating on bunkers and tees in 2011 then bunkers and greens five years later. Using detailed 1930 aerial images and a full set of ground level photographs, the architect was able to recover more than a third of putting surface areas that had been lost over time.
Apart from a shallow drainage ditch that bisects the property, there are no water hazards on the course but don’t expect a wall in the park when playing here as the tree-lined fairways play to greens that are often crowned and well protected by sand – indeed, a slope rating of 142 from the back tees on this par 70 track tells its own story regarding the degree of difficulty at Memphis.
Making good use of almost every inch of a near-square tract, Ross routed the front nine in a counter-clockwise direction along the perimeter of the property then fashioned most of the back nine using two interior loops, including a challenging, but inspirational “triangle of terror” on holes 15 to 17.
Ross’s design genius is perhaps most evident at the 154-yard par three 4th hole, where the tee shot is played from a slightly raised tee position to one of the architect’s famous “volcano” greens, where the putting surface is elevated, with large falloffs and deep bunkers on all sides.
The club has hosted a number of national golfing events down the years: the US Women’s Amateur in 1937 and 1979, the US Amateur in 1948, and the US Senior Men’s Amateur in 1959.
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Donald Ross worked with Old Tom Morris at St Andrews in 1893 then spent part of the following season at Carnoustie before returning to serve under the Dornoch club secretary John Sutherland.