Jackie Burke Sr. is not and probably never will be a household name in the world of golf course architecture, but in the early 1920's he did dabble in the arts. An accomplished professional of the day, Burke designed two courses that are today owned and operated by the City of Dallas; Tenison Park and Stevens Park.
Tenison was renovated ten years ago and it was now time for Stevens Park to get its due.
The City of Dallas contracted with the firm of Colligan Golf Design, located in Arlington, Texas, to prescribe them the best medicine for the nearly 90 year old course in order to bring it back to good health in a sickly golf economy.
John Colligan a Dallas native and his associate, Trey Kemp, a Texas native in his own right proudly accepted the challenge of putting the Burke Sr. classic back into the limelight.
“Quirky” is the term John Colligan used to describe the original routing. There were several “Snap” dogleg holes and many others that technology had removed driver from the hand of the average player. On 110 acres the course was segmented into pieces by streets, creeks, vegetation, topography and utilities which criss cross below the surface. A project with many restraints, according to Colligan.
Trey Kemp was given the challenge of re-routing the 5,700 yard course into a respectable layout and that is just what he did. The new Stevens will allow all handicaps to hit the driver off of the tee if so desired. It now measures close to 6,300 yards but feels much longer. Kemp took advantage of existing bluffs, creeks, trees and vistas which had been ignored in the original routing.
One key was to convert the short par 4 8th into a par 3 thus allowing the ninth tee to be extended. The result is the 602 yard, par 5, 9th hole, with the clubhouse as a dramatic backdrop.
Another primary key to the routing was the reversal of holes 13 through 17. The brightest star of this bunch is now the par 4, 15th. This hole offers an elevated tee of some 40 feet above the fairway and the best view of “Big D” to be found anywhere in the city.
Stevens Park plays to a par of 70 with a rating of 70.3 and a slope of 127. “I feel this will be the most enjoyable short course around,” in the words of Colligan. Our motto is “Golf Should be Enjoyed, Not Endured."
Along with the revamped irrigation system new turf types have been introduced to the Dallas public golf scene. Fairways and tees are covered with Premier bermudagrass while the rough received Tifton 10 bermudagrass. “These two provide great playability and superb texture and color contrast,” according to Kemp. In conjunction to these, Miniverde bermudagrass was prescribed to provide a superior putting surface.
Thirty eight sand bunkers were incorporated into the design in order to provide definition, beauty but most of all to establish the strategy for each hole. The feature noticed as most unique by those seeing the new layout for the first time are the geometric green shapes.
During Kemp's research, a 1930 aerial of the course was located and he noticed the variety of shapes each green on the course had back in the day. Square, rectangular, diamond, triangular and round. These same shapes were re-introduced into the classic green complexes for a more authentic retro appearance.
While the rest of the golf community is talking about brown being the new green; the City of Dallas wanted Stevens Park to be a “Garden Golf Course.” This term was coined by Assistant City Parks Director Barbara Kindig, who along with the Head Park and Recreation Director Paul Dyer set the tone for the aesthetic appeal of the course.
The course is the focal point for the Historic Kessler Park community in Oak Cliff, which was established in the early 1920s and like the neighborhood the the golf course is making a comeback of its own. The course is adorned with many of the same plant materials used in the neighborhood. This allows for a seamless transition from community to course. Over 800 trees were planted including magnolias, arizona cypress, live oaks, red cedars, red oaks, pond cypress and chinquapin oak to name a few along with a variety of holly, pittosporum, nandina and over 2000 knockout roses.
Colligan stated, “It was a perfect storm, with the City of Dallas, Pegasus Management, Dan Farrier, Wadsworth Golf Course Construction and Golf Course Superintendent Frank Hutcheson. Everyone worked as a team toward a common goal.
That goal was to create the most user friendly, aesthetically pleasing public golf facility possible given the site constraints and budget. Head golf professional of 34 years, Jim Henderson, 23 of which are at Stevens Park, has tossed down the gauntlet; stating that he will put his short sporty course against any in the Dallas Fort Worth area.