Skip links

Golf project FAQ

This week we announced a proposal to renovate the Overton Park golf course, and since then we’ve gotten a lot of questions. We’ll attempt to answer them all here, but if you’d like to do some additional reading:

Why now?
Overton Park Conservancy and the City of Memphis have been talking about this possibility since 2012, and we were making very slow progress on it. This current window of opportunity came open rather quickly due to some major funding commitments, including a $500,000 gift from Bill and Amy Rhodes. Our partners in this project, King-Collins, are a design/build firm that supervises their own projects on site during construction. That means they schedule their projects sequentially, and there was an opening in the schedule if we could start right away. If we don’t take this window, it could be two or more years before they have another opening.

Is Overton Park Conservancy assuming management of the golf course?
Not yet, but possibly after construction. With the Conservancy’s 10-year management agreement with the City coming up for renewal in 2022, we are discussing adding the course to the Conservancy’s managed area so that we would operate and maintain the course once it reopens.

Will the course still be welcoming to beginners and casual golfers?
We want to preserve the very strong culture of the golf course (and the park generally). It’s friendly; affordable; good for beginners, juniors, and seniors; relaxed; and low-key. We’re working on ways to make sure that culture carries through even as the course begins to attract more players and higher-caliber players. We’re considering beginning with a mission statement to the effect that this course prioritizes junior players, so patience will be necessary.

What will happen to the golf clubhouse?
The clubhouse will be preserved, with some cosmetic improvements. Patrick Canale, the current manager, will still manage the course, and he has some ideas on how to improve the concessions. It’s a gem that doesn’t need a major overhaul, but does need some polishing.

What does this mean for the park’s natural elements, like the Old Forest?
On the course itself, we’ll assess all the trees and keep as many as possible, bringing greater attention to some of the outstanding specimen trees. There will be no encroachment whatsoever into the State Natural Area boundaries, which will be somewhat fortified before construction with new boundary markings by the team that originally surveyed the SNA boundaries in 2013. The understory has been allowed to grow further and further into the golf course each year, and in some areas is thick with non-native species like Chinese privet and Japanese honeysuckle.

The Conservancy staff includes a forester, a bird biologist, and a naturalist. This team has put a lot of work into integrating the golf course design into the George Kessler design aesthetic, meaning that the beauty of nature speaks for itself and should be highlighted. We created a comprehensive analysis of the secondary forest edge habitat and presented it to the team at King-Collins, who enthusiastically adopted our recommendations. We are suggesting some careful, selective treatment of that forest edge to soften the transition, maintain and protect the areas that are high-functioning habitat for birds, and remove things like giant ragweed that have low value. A buffer of native grasses will be planted to ease that transition between the forest and the course. Everyone working on this project has agreed that the design is not just for golfers. It’s a unique space in that so many non-golfers also use it – runners, birders, dog-walkers. Everyone is a stakeholder, and everyone should benefit.

We’re also focused on making this a habitat-friendly course as much as possible. We’ve suggested pollinator gardens in some of the rough areas (think about the weeds that grow along Lick Creek that are sprayed with pesticide every year being replaced with wildflowers).

How can I contribute to this project?
You can make a gift online or mail a contribution to Overton Park Conservancy, P.O. Box 42189, Memphis, TN 38174 (noting that it is designated to the golf project).

I have more questions! Who can I ask?
Please feel free to email us at info@overtonpark.org or leave us a voicemail at 901-214-5450. We welcome input into the plans and particularly how we can make the course even more welcoming to Memphians.