The Golf Club at Fossil Creek: Still striving for excellence in Fort Worth

By David R. Holland, Contributor

The Golf Club at Fossil Creek was a pioneer.

The upscale daily-fee golf course -- a common term today, was a relatively new nomenclature in 1987 when this popular Arnold Palmer-designed layout opened. Back then it was almost unheard of to have a bentgrass greens course that wasn't exclusively private.

Now, Fossil Creek has gone full circle. Last summer the course was closed to install the new Tif Eagle Bermuda greens, said to be a very fine-bladed grass that you can cut to 1/10th of an inch and mimics the traits of bentgrass. That means the Stimp Meter can be a fast nine to 12 on this surface.

Bermuda greens have always been perceived as slow and grainy while bentgrass grows up and then sideways to hug the turf and present a much smoother flat putting surface.

"The changeover to Tif Eagle has been very well received," said Rob Larkin, Director of Golf. "Our past few summers have been really hot and that really hurt the bentgrass greens. We had 60 days of 100-degree plus days in 1998, but the real problem around here is that the nights just don't cool off very much."

Tif Eagle may become a trend in sweaty Texas. Fort Worth's exclusive Mira Vista Golf Club and Garland's Oakridge Country Club have also recently switched to the more heat-resistant greens. Bentgrass has always been a moniker of upscale or private country clubs, but it is a struggle to keep the bentgrass alive in parts of Texas.

Fossil Creek, which includes 1,150 acres, is most interesting on holes that cross the creek or go along the old limestone rock quarry. You will see water on 15 of the 18 holes.

The carts are equipped with the "Pro Shot" electronic yardage system, which is a smaller LCD monitor, without the frills of graphics. But it is definitely a key for speeding up play. It will give you tips on how to play the hole plus the yardage to the hole.

The Golf Club at Fossil Creek measures 6,865 from the back "Palmer" tees and 5,066 from the forward tees. The Palmer rating is 73.6 with a 131 slope.

"I think the golf course is unique for the Metroplex with the white limestone cliffs and elevations changes," Larkin said. "Palmer had some nice natural terrain to work with -- the old quarry in the back and the cliffs and creek. You can score if you don't hit is sideways, but there is lots of trouble if you don't hit it straight."

No. 6, a par-4, 377-yarder named Big Fossil, is one of the favorites. The elevated tees are staggered left to right offer a ample view of the fairway. If your tee shot finds the short grass you have an elevated shot to the green. The limestone cliffs on the far side of the creek guards the approach along with two bunkers.

The No. 1 handicap hole follows as No. 7. This dogleg-left 430-yard, par 4 requires an accurate target-tee shot. The landing area, cut through a thick stand of oak, cedar elm and pecan trees, is small and tough to find. But if you do there's a second shot back over Fossil Creek to the rolling, uphill green, requiring an all-carry approach.

When you arrive at No. 12 you will see Fossil Lake, the water-filled quarry area. It is a par-4, 372-yarder with water all down the right side. You can cut as much as you dare off the dogleg, but too much right is wet. It's not worth the gamble, just hit a solid shot left-center and you will have an easy shot to the green.

The Cliffs, No. 13, is a water-carry par 3, 194 yards. If the green is firm, a front pin placement can really be tough because most are going to be safe and carry onto the green. That, of course, will give you a long, long putt from the rear of the green. You can get wet mis-hitting the tee shot short, to the right or long off the back.

The finishing hole, named The Chute, is a par-5, 555-yarder that requires a pinpoint drive with trouble and out of bounds left and right. From an elevated tee, the view drops downhill to the creek. The second shot goes over the creek with large mounds and deep rough areas in play. The green itself is also surrounded by large mounds, traps and grass bunkers. Once on the putting surface, the golfer will find that the multi-level green provides a number of challenging pin placements, ranging from easy to most difficult.

The only negatives are that the Fossil Creek area is being heavily developed for businesses -- there's lots of construction noise and eye sores. The creek back toward No. 9 is also fairly stagnant and stinky.

The Golf Club at Fossil Creek
3401Clubgate Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76137
Phone: 817-847-1900

Green Fees: Fees vary from $55 on weekdays to $70 on weekends (cart, range, bag tag included).

Directions: From Dallas: Take 183 west, to 820 west, to I-35W north, exit Western Center Blvd. Immediately off the highway make the first possible right turn on Sand Shell Drive. Clubhouse is 1/16 of a mile on the left side of the highway. From downtown Fort Worth take I-35W north to the Western Center Blvd. exit. Immediately off the highway make the first possible right turn on Sand Shell Drive.

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.

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