From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:
A couple of years back, I visited Corsicana Country Club in the small town of Corsicana, Texas, southeast of Dallas, because I'd read that it was an early design of A.W. Tillinghast. I found it to be an interesting if curious course.
Founded in 1916, it features a reservoir called Fish Lake (originally called Fish Tank No. 2.) prominently in the routing. The par-3 second plays beneath its broad earthen dam, the beautiful boomerang par-5 third wraps around a bluff above the lake and the fourth and the 17th (both par 3s) play over necks of the lake. The routing is excellent with each hilly hole heading in a different direction than the previous one.
Some greens are very dramatic. The fifth green is perched at the crest of a slope, and putts from above can roll off the front and back down the fairway. Walking up this slope, I felt like a mountain climber. What a green.
The par-5 16th has the wildest fairway on the course, containing lots of dips and rolls, and its green is long and skinny with a front pinched finger of putting surface between two bunkers that's only 10 paces wide.
None of it looks much like anything I'd ever seen from Tillinghast, but Tillinghast is a hard architect to peg because he was so site-specific in his designs and rarely used trademark features. But a green like the fifth felt more like Perry Maxwell, and the skinny 16th green reminded me more of Floyd Farley.
When I finished, I was fortunate to meet with the club's historian, Gerry York, a second-generation club member who assured me that his research established that Tillinghast was indeed the architect of at least nine of the 18 holes. He referred me to his 2018 club history, which I located and purchased in downtown Corsicana later that day. At 450 pages, it would seem to be exhaustive, as York searched through a hundred years of back issues of the Corsicana Daily Sun newspaper. But I still feel more documentation is needed.
He states his case for Tillinghast: "The original course at Corsicana C.C. consisted of nine holes designed by Willie Lorimar, an immigrant from Monteith, Scotland. On April 9, 1926, a check of $3,015 was subscribed for the purpose of building another nine holes. Mr. A.W. Tillinghast would design the course and add improvements to the existing 9 which had sand greens. Mr. W.C. Stroube became friends with Tillinghast while he was designing Brook Hollow in Dallas. Stroube was a member of Brook Hollow. Tillinghast visited Stroube’s home many times. Additional nine opened October 22, 1927."
The source of that information was not from a newspaper article. York writes, “[This] story has been donated by Greg Linnell." He does not explain who Linnell is or how Linnell obtained that information.
A few pages later York contradicts the story, citing an April 5, 1926 Sun article: "The survey for the new golf field was made by engineer W.M. Elliott with architect Harry Blanding making a colored drawing of the new field which is now on display in the show window at Cunningham Bros. hardware store. Work on the new field will begin sometime this week and will be rushed to an early completion."
I've never heard of Harry Blanding. Maybe he worked for Tillinghast?
In March of 1937, Tillinghast did make a documented visit to Corsicana, as part of his PGA-sponsored nationwide tour of member clubs to inspect courses and recommend cost-saving measures. York reproduces the one-page report that Tillinghast sent to the PGA's main office. In it, Tillinghast made no mention of any prior involvement with Corsicana's design, which persuades me that maybe Tillinghast wasn't involved. (I've read all his PGA letters, and Tillinghast routinely mentioned his authorship of courses he'd designed and remodeled.)
York does mention in passing that in 1941 Perry Maxwell was brought in to redesign the course, an intriguing piece of information that was left unexplored. Maybe that's because he also offers a June 19, 1951 Sun piece: “Corsicana CC has 13 holes gathered from all over the world. They are replicas of holes on golf courses in Scotland, England, Canada, Cuba, Nassau and America. The man who brought them here is H.R. “Bill” Stroube, oil man and rancher, who has played some 300 courses in his lifetime. Each time he saw a hole he thought would go good, he would sketch it and duplicate it."
According to the Sun, Stroube's hobby was rebuilding the Corsicana course, even buying a bulldozer for the purpose. He redid every hole at least once.
I admit I didn't recognize any replica holes during my round at Corsicana, but I wasn't looking for them. I'd like to return sometime to see if any still exist.