Memphis Golf: City goes All-In to Upgrade its Golf Courses

The City of Memphis is doing what a lot of other metropolitan areas aren’t–it is investing big time in its municipal golf courses. With the resurgence of golf during and after the pandemic, the city leaders and private donors have invested approximately $20 million in their golf courses.

Overton Park

One project- the restoration of Overton Park, the city’s oldest municipal course-was just completed. To renovate the Overton Park 9 holes, officials brought on board, King-Collins Golf Design, one of the hottest architectural firms in the industry. The firm gained recognition for its initial project–Sweetens Cove–another nine-hole course near Chattanooga.

The Memphis Golf project was close to designer Rob Collins’ heart. His wife attended nearby Rhodes College and he spent time at Overton in the late 1990s. “I fell in love with the city at that time,” Collins said. “It didn’t take a lot of convincing.”

With Overton Park complete except for finishing the renovation on the clubhouse, City of Memphis Director of Golf, Mickey Barber PGA said his department then turned its attention to other projects. The Links at Fox Meadow is nearing completion of a greens renovation and new Ultra-Dwarf Bermuda sodding project. The Links at Pine Hill is being revamped and getting a new clubhouse, and a lighted driving range is expected to be up and running just 3 miles from Beale Street in the heart of the city by the summer of 2023. A new Bill Bergin Golf Design 7000+ yard championship golf course is being built on the property where the Links of Audubon is located with a new driving range and short course.

The last rework of any kind to a Memphis city-owned golf course came in the early 2000s at Galloway. City officials said the upgrades were long overdue and they are banking on golf maintaining its upward swing in play.

Nick Walker, Director of Memphis City Parks (which includes Memphis golf), laid out the overall vision at the reopening of the historic Overton Park 9, earlier this summer. Overton opened in 1916, and according to Walker, it is the oldest continuous running 9-hole in the country.

Walker credited Mayor Jim Strickland and the late George Cates, a longtime Memphis philanthropist, with setting in motion the massive commitment. Walker called them “true visionaries.” Walker says, “I use the word visionary to describe both of them because of what their actions have meant to the future of this city. Large-scale investments, both from private donors, philanthropies and the city reciprocate each other. If we show that we care about something that helps others to feel more comfortable caring about it.

Cates, who died in a plane crash in 2021, first breached the idea of renovating Overton Park. Doug McGowan, the city’s Chief Operating Officer added that Cates explained his vision for the conservancy that would care for the park and make the necessary improvements to make Overton “Memphis’ Front Yard” so everyone could feel proud and welcome.

“Mayor Strickland has been phenomenal for golf,” says Barker. “He pushed $75 million to the parks and with Nick’s help, we were able to push a lot of that money to golf. By the end of 2023 when we hope to have everything finished, it will be close to $20 million spent on golf courses which includes some private money. It’s a huge commitment for golf by the administration.”

Memphis Golf: Memphis Public Links

Memphis Public Links consists of seven Memphis municipal golf courses located around the city. In addition to the public play, they provide Nike Summer Junior Golf Camps to help younger players who might not have the opportunity to learn the  game of golf in a fun environment. Austin Chinn is in charge of player development and the camps.

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