IRVING, Texas (AP) — J.J. Henry has been involved throughout the renovation project at the course that hosts the tournament bearing the late Byron Nelson's name.
Even knowing what was being done over the past 10 months as a player consultant for the project, Henry is amazed at the changes that have been made at TPC Four Seasons course, where the PGA Tour plays in four weeks.
"To see everything come full circle, I can't believe what kind of shape the golf course is in," Henry said Tuesday, when course officials showed off the renovations. "We always talked about what would Byron want. … I think he is up there smiling today at what was accomplished."
Traditional square tee boxes and white-sand bunkers throughout the course and the cascading waterfalls next to the 18th green are among some of the changes.
Despite record rainfall last summer that pushed the $10 million redesign project back by nearly two months — plus snow, a freeze and another day with three inches of rain just this month — changes have been completed on all 18 holes with a month to go before the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
"We're really happy to be at the finish line. I'm not sure if we'd want to start over," course designer and Champions Tour player D.A. Weibring said. "There were plenty of challenges."
Weibring's goal was to honor Nelson's legacy by creating a clean, traditional and straightforward course.
"Sometimes it's business," Weibring said. "This (project) was personal."
PGA Tour players will notice changes right away, with the landing area on the first hole tilted to improve visibility from the tees, reworked bunkers and the green moved back about 65 yards into a hillside.
A water feature with ponds and waterfalls defined by rocks at No. 18 replaces a lake put there only two years ago. The finishing hole next to the new water feature is more challenging with the tee moved about 40 yards left and the green lowered several feet.
"The perception is it's a harder course," Weibring said. "I'm not sure that's the case. … It creates options, gets drivers back in players' hands."
Among the notable changes between Nos. 1 and 18 are the separation of the green that was once shared by Nos. 5 and 9, but now has two distinct putting areas; the lengthening of four other holes and extra bunkers throughout. There is a new tee box option over the water at No. 11, providing a different look at drivable 323-yard par 4.
More than 165 trees, one that was 60 feet tall, were relocated on the course. About 75,000 cubic yards of dirt has been moved and 72 acres of new sod planted since May, only weeks after the completion of last year's tournament, the first since Nelson passed away.
Many of the changes were made to eliminate awkward tee shots, a recurring complaint from players in surveys Weibring did while planning changes to the course.
Henry left the unveiling on the way to New Orleans to play in this week's Zurich Classic, where he planned to spread the word about changes at the Nelson course.
"We'd like to think a lot of guys will play here this year," Henry said. "Even if they don't this year, word of mouth is probably the biggest asset as a Tour player, when guys talk about how great the redesign or how great the venue."
Along with the redesigned course, this will be the first time since 1993 that the Nelson tournament will be played on only one course. In past years, two courses have been utilized for the first two rounds, with players completing one round on the Cottonwood Valley course across the street before all weekend rounds at the TPC.
"Absolutely, I think it's great to all be back here on one course," Henry said. "We don't like playing more than one course."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.