Pine Dunes Resort: Deep South Golf Meets Lutz Family Operation

By David R. Holland, Contributor

FRANKSTON, Texas -- Here in East Texas, where the Deep South ends with its western boundary, folks still eat grits, sit on front-porch rockers to cool off on hot summer evenings, drive pickups, say howdy and pitch in to help their neighbors.

And golfers can now find a classic course that could be at home in Pinehurst, but it's only 90 minutes southeast of Dallas.

Pine Dunes Resort & Golf Club, opened in June 2001 from a series of visions by Jodi Lutz, a young, entrepreneur former pro figure skater from Minnesota, and the good advice of PGA Tour player David Frost and golf course architects Jay Morrish and son Carter.

The resulting 7,117-yard par-72 design takes you through a dense pine forest dotted with dogwoods, around rolling mounds, over bunkers with rust-colored sand and past a modest four bodies of water. Venture into the trees and you will have a typically sandy lie, although the Bermuda grass from the fairways is creeping into the rough.

Wanting to keep the experience all about golf, you won't find any ornate granite layout plaques or ball washers (they are on the carts), but you can get a glossy-color yardage guide. Simple flowering potted plants are the tee markers. And you will love the fact houses won't line the fairways although surrounding acreage away from the golf course will be developed with homes.

"There is no need to go all the way to Augusta National or Pine Valley to play a superb golf course, we have our own right here in Texas," said Frost of Pine Dunes.

Pat Summerall, a Dallas-Fort Worth area resident, and former NFL great and Fox Sports TV play-by-play man, said it reminded him of the land where he grew up in northern Florida. "Pine Dunes is a great place to play golf and relax," he said. "I know I'll be there as often as possible."

When Dallas native Justin Leonard (he holds the course record 69) visited, he raved about the design. "He liked the consistent bunker sand, the fact the subtle, slightly undulating greens require an accurate read, and he loved the tight fairways," said Tom Lutz, brother of Jodi, and general manager of the course.

Lutz, a senior portfolio manager for some D-FW professional athletes and creator of a million-dollar art supply business, was dabbling in commercial real estate when her agent posed this question: "How would you like to own a golf course?"

Even though she had never played the game, Lutz took the challenge. The land included a nine-hole course named Dogwood Trails, but it was primitive. She asked Frost to survey the property and he was "blown away" and convinced it would make a first-class golf resort. Frost then persuaded her to hire Morrish.

She moved her parents down from Minnesota (her dad had always wanted to own a golf course) and started dreaming of the day Pine Dunes Resort would become a reality. Sister Lisa Lutz was asked to take care of admin duties and manage the clubhouse. And Dallas investor Scott Miller chipped in with the additional financing.

"Morrish sent his son Carter down for the initial site visit and he went back to Dallas and reported to Jay all excited about the land, the soil and the trees. We decided to scratch the original holes and add 175 acres," Lutz recalled. "And we knew that no one would want to drive all the way from Dallas to play unless it was a great golf course."

Morrish says the par 3s are the best he's ever designed, you will find his trademark driveable par 4s on both nines and a par 5 that has a split fairway divided by towering pines. The golf is traditional, but No. 11, a 605-yarder does have a fairway interruption 307 yards from the back tees where you have to traverse a native, sandy area.

"I think just about every architect today is designing reachable par-4 holes," Morrish said. "It's a concept Tom Weiskopf and I loved to do. Everyone has the physical ability to play well on them if they use their head. It is strategic golf that's much more fun than those long par 4s that only the young big-hitters can reach in two. I know I couldn't compress a ball like that at age 65."

The Texas-sized par-3 No. 6 is 254 yards from the back to a amphitheater green cut into a hillside. This one will challenge anyone. There's water left, but you have to really yank it to go there. Even if you hit this massive right-to-left sloping green in one, there's a tricky, slick putt on the Tiff Eagle.

The only parallel holes on the course at 14 and 15 are beauties. No. 14 is a healthy 434 yards slightly uphill with a pond on the right 281 yards from the tee. The 15th is one of those reachable par 4s, 344 yards, with the same pond on the right and a huge bunker engulfing the fairway 260 yards from the tee. A 275-yard drive from the back tees will clear the trap, setting up a birdie opportunity.

Pine Dunes also has a double-sided 300-yard practice facility, where Frost would like to develop a golf academy lined with resort cabins.

This piney woods golf experience is not to be missed -- you just might think you are playing golf in North Carolina.

Where to Stay: The Pine Dunes Resort guest condos opened on June 14th. Stay and Play packages start at $79 Sunday-Wednesday night and $114 Thursday-Saturday night. Rates are per person based on foursomes. Includes one night stay and 18 holes of golf. Unlimited use of driving range.

Frankston History: Frankston is situated at the intersection of U.S. Highway 175 and State Highway 155, near Lake Palestine and within a 25-mile radius of Tyler, Jacksonville, Palestine, and Athens in far northeastern Anderson County.

The town was founded in 1902 when the Texas and New Orleans Railroad was built through the area and most early residents moved from Kickapoo, a tiny community two miles to the southeast on an old Indian battleground site.

The lumber business thrived for years and cotton was the basis of the economy in the 1920s until the boll weevil infested crops. At one time in the early days Frankston had three hotels, a variety of stores, cafes, a basket factory, a Masonic hall, a livery stable and a movie house. The old rail depot was converted into the Depot Library in the 1980s.

In the early 1990s the population of Frankston was reported as 1,149.

Take State Highway 175 from Dallas to Frankston. In Frankston go south on State Highway 155 at the blinking red light. Go six miles to County Rd. 319. Entrance is one mile up CR 319 on right.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Pine Dunes

    Daniel Malaguilla wrote on: Jul 19, 2016

    Great golf experience! Friendly people, top-notch practice facility and a wonderful course with near-perfect conditions, memorable holes and postcard vistas.
    I live 200 miles away, but I'm coming back.


  • Pine Dunes Course

    J Hardin wrote on: Jan 3, 2016

    I have played the course several times. It is professional level with signature holes. Many improvements have been made in the last few years and the course has seasoned. Plus, they are not through with the expansion and improvements. The course is challenging. It will punish you if you make a bad shot and will reward you if you make a good shot.


  • pine dunes

    Andy wrote on: Aug 15, 2014

    Played three rounds this week. Wonderful course and everyone was very friendly. Beautiful and difficult at the same time. We live about 2.5 hours away but it was worth the drive. We will return.


  • Golf Course

    Rodney wrote on: Nov 13, 2013

    Before anyone travels to this course or spends any money I would suggest asking around about the course.
    I personaly spent over #60.00 and played only 6 holes before getting upset that I was scammed!
    And when I asked to be compensated for only playing 9 holes I was told that all they could do is give me a rain check - lets see - very unhappy with course so you want to give me another time to play it again ???????
    I would be happy to talk with anyone who wants to know about this course.
    Do not be fooled like I was with all the advertisment about being an award winning course.
    You will be surprised !


  • Pine Dunes

    K Lowe wrote on: Aug 6, 2012

    The golf course has never been in bad condition in all the years I ve been coming but the lack of customer service has gotten terribly bad over the last five years. The overnight accommodations are over-priced for what you get. I haven t seen as many flies in a horse barn as I ve seen in my room over a two day period. No normal refrigerators? How are you suppose to store your food for grilling after playing golf? The answer, in your own ice chest. The food preparation and service in the grill is less than desirable. Burned hamburger patty and cold fries? The Pro Shop staff make you feel your visit to the course is burdensome to their day. There s no means of showing appreciation for coming and spending thousands of dollars. No flexibility of arrangements or pricing, even if you brought 20+ players! They won t get another penny from me unless I hear and see some dramatic positive changes in their customer relations and updating of their overnight accommodations. The golf course is a 4 but all other negative issues bring the rating down to a 2.


    • RE: Pine Dunes

      bec wrote on: Sep 4, 2012

      I have noticed every yr we play there, they are less friendly. I have to agree they do act like they just as soon you not be there. Not very good customer service.


  • Pine Dunes

    Bobby Churchman wrote on: Jun 28, 2011

    Played yesterday (6-27-11) with three friends and what a GREAT golf course it is!!! I have played some really nice courses in Texas and this is by far one of the best I've played. Very well maintained and just beautiful! Cart girl was pretty darn cute too ;-)
    I'll be back for sure!


  • Pine Dunes experience

    Micah Jackson wrote on: May 15, 2011

    I played yesterday and the golf course was in great shape. The grass is in superb condition and and greens are some of the best that I have ever putted. Very fast and true, requiring more than a casual glance to read correctly. A great course that should be a regular on any Texans play list.


  • Course In Great Shape

    Roy C. Strickland wrote on: Oct 25, 2009

    Friends from 3 states gathered at Pine Dunes for 3 days of great golf, course in awesome shape even after all the rain - couldn't have asked for better weather


  • Pine Dunes GC

    Ernie Pasveer wrote on: Jul 13, 2009

    What a gem of a course!
    Nestled in the pine trees with rolling fairways, elevated greens and tee boxes, this course rocks.
    It's in excellent condition, it has tough narrow fairways, a real treat.


  • paradise

    tommy wrote on: Jun 7, 2009

    what a great course.friendly staff,beautiful layout,paradise for the discerning golfer,a cut above anything else you'll find for the price, Thanks Jodi,looking forward to meeting you some day,your place is unique,wonderful,and my favorite golf course in east texas



    JOE ZALMAN wrote on: Nov 28, 2006



  • accomodations

    Harry Thrasher wrote on: Aug 12, 2005

    Your web-site looks great and the course I've heard about through a friend. My wife does not play golf. Are the any other stay and play packages and are there any pictures of the hotel or lodge. thanks


    • RE: accommodations

      Mike wrote on: Aug 19, 2005

      I live 20 miles away and have driven by the course. It is very isolated and the accommodations look pretty basic from the outside. I would predict that your wife would not enjoy it much. Tyler is an easy drive away, though. Maybe 45 minutes. The Rose festival is the weekend of October 15-16.
      P.S. The course looks great!


Comments Leave a comment