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2024 Charles Schwab Challenge Course Preview and Breakdown - Colonial Country Club

What a week it was! The PGA Championship always delivers, and while some may have their opinions about the course setup, there is no doubt that Valhalla gave us a dramatic finish and deserving Champion. We quickly hop right back in the saddle with one of the oldest running tour stops, The Charles Schwab Challenge and Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, TX. We all know this event well, but the course is going to look and play slightly different this year post-restoration.

I wanted to use this piece to hopefully highlight a few different angles and elements that may be less spoken about to provide some value in this course preview.  It's not a golf course that is going to appeal to those with a keen eye on course architecture, but nonetheless, it's shown its cards, so we know exactly what to expect and how to attack this tournament.

We are going to dive into great detail in an attempt to digest the statistical data and historical stats to create actionable info.  You can utilize this for building lineups and making your bets for the 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge!

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An Introduction to the Course

Colonial Country Club is a classic tree-lined golf course that has proven to be one of the favorites of PGA Tour pros dating back to when this course was opened in 1936. A Perry Maxwell/Jim Bredemus design has annually produced various winners and playing styles. The course sits on a flat piece of property in Fort Worth, Texas, that runs alongside the Trinity River and is known for its ability to reward a magnitude of skillsets and strategies.

After the 2023 Charles Schwab Challenge, in came the hottest names in the golf course architecture streets, Jim Wagner and Gil Hanse. The primary goal was to improve the drainage and sustainability of the course conditions but also to restore elements of the ruggedness from when the course hosted a U.S. Open in 1941. What they noticed was a much different-looking golf course aesthetically. There was a charming unkemptness about the course and a property that was built to work hand in hand with the river and tributaries that weaved between the holes.

The course has become very modernized with appeasingly circular bunkers, widened cart paths, and rock features that were added over time. When Hanse and Wagner looked closely at photos from that U.S. Open, they saw none of that. Their goal was to restore the course to its roots modestly. They brought the barranca that runs through many holes back into play as a hazard, which adds a true risk/reward element to many holes because of the uncertainty of what happens if you go in it. It can be very enticing for aggressive players, knowing they might be fine if their ball rolls into the barrance, versus a traditional water hazard where they won't take on the risk.

Recent Winners:

2023: Grillo - 70/1

2022: Burns - 30/1

2021: Kokrak - 50/1

2020: Berger - 70/1

2019: Na - 70/1

2018: Rose - 20/1

Scorecard

 

Course Specs

Ahead of the 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge, the course has been lengthened nearly 90 yards to a grand total of 7,289 yards. The greens average 5,000 sq ft. and typically run very slippery, which pushes the limits of a 13 on the Stimpmeter. They are pure Bentgrass greens, the same grass type that we just saw at Valhalla, and this will be the 4th tournament this season with pure bentgrass green surfaces.

Here's an important note about the greens. While the shaping remains largely unchanged, all 18 greens were resodded during the renovation. It typically takes time for them to settle into the dirt below the greens, so it's common that for the first year or so, they are very bouncy. This essentially shrinks the landing zones for players, placing an increased emphasis on approach play as it could be tough to hold shots on the greens for less-than-elite approach players.

The rest of the course, from tee to green, is all bermudagrass. The rough, while not overly high, has always presented problems to players because of its unpredictability. That said, the GCSAA fact sheet has the rough being cut down to 2.5 inches this week. It was 3 inches high last year. This could impact players perhaps being more aggressive off the tee if they have mitigated fears surrounding the penalty for ending up in the rough. It will be something I keep my eye on as the week progresses to see if any players speak on the change.

One of the other big changes made by the Hanse/Wagner group was the removal of 20 bunkers on the property. Bunkers are just tough on the maintenance staff and require a lot of work, particularly in areas like Fort Worth that can quickly and easily get flooded out. They have been replaced with grass bunkers and native areas. With only two par 5s and a difficult set of par 3s, this course just does not present the amount of scoring opportunities that we are used to. Par...not too bad.

 

Statistical Considerations

Despite the multitude of changes, it is yet to be seen the impact it will have on statistical correlations and how the course plays. My gut tells me that it will not be all that dissimilar to what we are used to at this event which has hosted PGA Tour events for nearly 90 years. It's been a sticky spot for course history narratives, and while that may be somewhat mitigated for 2024, I am absolutely still factoring it into my stat models.

I'm putting a large amount of weight on Total Driving. Distance is always important, but at Colonial, it has to be accompanied by a strong level of accuracy. If you are off with the Driver, players are more likely to pull irons or positional clubs off the tee box because the importance of hitting the fairways is paramount if you want to have scoring opportunities. Total Driving is essentially a combination of distance x accuracy which is a strongly correlated metric this week for the Charles Schwab.

A player must also be honed in with their mid-length irons. The particularly important range is anywhere between 125-200 yards on approach. As I mentioned earlier, I think that proximity and exactness are only heightened this week due to the newness and potentially bouncy nature of the freshly sodded bentgrass greens. Here goes Scottie again! This could also, in turn, put a larger emphasis on the green play if you're like me and believe the Greens-in-Regulation rates will be lower than average.

 

GCSAA Fact Sheet - Charles Schwab Challenge

 

2023 Approach Shot Distribution Ranges via DataGolf:

Best Player Course Fit Rankings for the 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge:

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Doug Ghim
  3. Keith Mitchell
  4. Adam Scott
  5. Davis Thompson
  6. Lucas Glover
  7. Christiaan Bezuidenhaut
  8. Jorge Campillo
  9. Denny McCarthy
  10. Chris Gotterup

*Based on the last 36 rounds of player data via Rickrungood.com.

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