The Dallas Golf Scene: Everything Looks Attractive For Big D Links Future

By David R. Holland, Contributor

DALLAS, TX -- Driving down Preston Road in North Dallas, a busy stretch of traffic gridlock in the Yuppie Kingdom, one sees SUVs and 4-wheel-drive vehicles everywhere. Doesn't matter if the average Texan needs that extra traction once a year -- you gotta look good in this trend-setting city.

Dallas has never had a problem with attractiveness. The Oil Boom brought great wealth here and Yankees by the multitudes continue to move to Texas to escape the cold winters of the north. They don't seem to mind the stifling, 100-degree summer weather complete with 90- percent humidity.

Snowbirds and native Texans have year-around golf temperatures and countless good-looking golf courses to select from, too. In the summer just play as early in the morning as you can or as late in the afternoon to avoid the heat.

At ultra-exclusive Preston Trail Golf Club, former host to the Byron Nelson Golf Classic, a member has to die for a spot to open. One of those recent member deaths was Mickey Mantle. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area definitely has been home to greats of the game. Fort Worth legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson first played at Glen Garden Country Club, where LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Palmer also learned the game.

Dallas' Tenison Park was and early home to the hustler Lee Trevino, Lee Elder and Titanic Thompson. Babe Didrickson Zaharias also played many rounds of golf here.

Scott Zerplank honed his teenage skills at Brookhaven Country Club while British Open champ Justin Leonard played at Royal Oaks Country Club.

Even two of Texas' most notorious gangsters, Bonnie and Clyde, hid out at Oak Cliff's Stevens Park Golf Course when they were fleeing from Texas Rangers. Barrow's grave is just one minute away from the course on Fort Worth Avenue.

The golf boom hit here hard in the 1990s leading into the 2000s with more than 25 new daily-fee, resort or upscale municipals opening to the public.

Metroplex's North Golf Corridor

The early beginnings of this golf corridor, just north of Dallas, started in the 1970s. It included standout private layouts such as The Trophy Club near Roanoke, designed in 1976 by Ben Hogan and Joe Lee. In 1984 they added a second course designed by Arthur Hills. Stonebridge Country Club, designed in 1988 by Pete Dye, is in McKinney.

The Grapevine Municipal Golf Course, designed by Byron Nelson and Joe Finger in 1979, has reported hosting as many as 80,000 rounds in one year. It's in remodeling mode currently with a goal of 27 holes when finished.

But the list of recent openings is even more standard-bearing. The Trails of Frisco Golf Club opened in October 2000. Just south of the Texas Motor Speedway at I-35 and Highway 114, is The Creeks at Beechwood, and just up Highway 121 in Frisco is the Westin Stonebriar Resort -- both opened in November 2000.

Other new courses to the area include The Tribute at The Colony, Tour 18 Dallas, Grapevine's Cowboys Golf Club and Bridlewood Golf Club in Flower Mound.

Coming soon to the corridor in Collin County are Panther Creek Ranch and Heritage Ranch Golf Resort.

"It's really wonderful that we have so many great new golf courses to pick from," said Rick Sullivan of nearby Frisco. "The growth in this area is unreal and the traffic is awful. So when you have so many daily-fee courses north of the Metroplex, that means you don't really have to drive clear across Dallas or Fort Worth. You can stay right here at home and enjoy lots of variety."

Here's a closer look at some of Dallas' most interesting...

Daily-Fee Gems

On the eastern banks of Lake Lewisville in The Colony is The Tribute, a Scottish replica course that, unlike Scotland, has lush conditions. It also has fun holes such as No. 1 and No. 18 and the Road Hole No. 17 from The Old Course at St. Andrews.

You will face undulating greens and if you play it on a day the wind is 30 mph you will know at least that part of Scottish golf weather. The layout, designed by Oklahoman Tripp Davis, is a par-72, 7,002-yard layout was developed on 250 acres of ranch and farm land.

"We've had nothing but rave reviews about the layout and conditions," said head pro Chance Blythe. "Golfers notice the stacked-sod bunkering and the square-cut tee boxes. It's just different from anything you have seen in Texas. And you will never see a house built on this golf course."

Not far away is another tribute to great golf holes in the USA. Tour 18 Dallas in Flower Mound recreates Augusta's Amen Corner, the island green at Sawgrass and the famous 12th at Tulsa's Southern Hills. It leads off with Denver's Cherry Hills' No. 1, where Arnold Palmer drove the green on the par-4 and went on to win the 1960 U.S. Open.

Actually, Tour 18 Dallas isn't in Dallas. It's in the rolling hills of Denton County, 35 miles from downtown Dallas and 30 miles from downtown Fort Worth. Since it opened in 1995, Tour 18 has been a hit. More than 59,000 golfers a year play the course and play is so heavy in April, May and June that shotgun starts are used.

PGA Tour veteran D.A. Weibring was quite impressed when he first viewed the site for Bridlewood Golf Club.

"There isn't a golf course similar to Bridlewood in the entire Metroplex. With fairways surrounding each green, chipping will play a big role," Weibring said of the Flower Mound gem. "Our goal was to accentuate the rolling terrain and forests without disturbing them, so the open feeling of the front nine contrasts with the hardwoods and Timber Creek on the back nine."

Others to check out include Buffalo Creek in Rockwall, The Golf Club at Castle Hills in Lewisville, Twin Creeks in Allen and Twin Wells in Irving.

Some of these courses are also considered in the Fort Worth area. A separate story on Fort Worth's best will come at a later date.

Upscale Municipals

Texas Star in Euless opened in 1997 and was the city's first golf course. They hired noted architect Keith Foster and created a major winner. You would never know you are in the heart of an industrial park as you play this 6,936-yard layout that keeps you entertained with its shot-making variety.

"This can be a very difficult course, especially when you play from the back tees, and when the pins are in tough places," said Duff Cunningham, the Head PGA Golf Professional. "The greens have very subtle breaks and they are hard to see, but G2 bentgrass it is one of the best putting surfaces you will see anywhere.

"There are some forced carries over the natural grasses and environmentally sensitive areas, but only No. 7 has a carry that is 200 yards from the back tees," Cunningham said. "Another unique thing people like are the black and white poles in the center of the fairways marking 150 yards out."

Tierra Verde Golf Club in Arlington is the first Audubon Sanctuary Municipal in the world. Throughout this noteworthy David Graham and Gary Panks 6,975-yard, par-72 layout you will find "red stakes", indicating off-line shots are not OB, but lost in a protected environment and played as a lateral hazard.

That won't bother you because Tierra Verde is one of the best examples anywhere of the golf course boom in the USA that now includes upscale municipal courses. In California this layout would be $100-plus. Here it's $29 for an Arlington resident on weekdays.

The City of Grand Prairie's upscale muny project was Tangle Ridge Golf Club opened in 1995. Jeff Brauer of Arlington-based Golfscapes designed the course that traverses the rolling hills of south Dallas County, and through mesquite, cedar, evergreen and hackberry trees. The course measures a hefty 6,835 yards from the back tees.

Golf Resorts

The TPC at Las Colinas located at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Irving is host for the Byron Nelson Classic and isn't far from the airport and Texas Stadium. It's a nine-story hotel and golf complex that has been named a Silver Medal Resort by Golf Magazine.

The golf course was designed by golf architect Jay Morrish, in consultation with Byron Nelson and Ben Crenshaw. Morrish's Mesa Design Group, Inc., will also be handling more enhancements through 2002.

"It's a golf course the players term very fair," said Crenshaw. "The wind is such a factor here that we tried to adjust for it by opening up the entrances to the greens."

TPC at Las Colinas was built in 12 months, an amazing feat, and opened just in time for the 1983 Byron Nelson Classic. It has 419 Bermuda fairways and bentgrass greens. The resort overseeds in the winter with rye.

In Frisco, check out the brand new Westin Stonebriar, the first Tom Fazio layout in North Texas. Bring your putting skills because these greens are quick and rolling. Click here for a view of the 11th and 8th hole at Stonebriar.

The Hyatt Bear Creek opened in 1980 at D-FW Airport and has two of the best courses in the state in Bear Creek East and West. The 1999 Texas State Open was held here.

Dallas City Municipals

In Oak Cliff, Stevens Park Golf Courseis a short, rolling course that's only five minutes from downtown. Beginners will love this course, but better players will be challenged by the tricky greens.

There's lots of history at Cedar Crest in Oak Cliff where you can play a gem by legendary designer A.W. Tillinghast opened in 1917. In 1927 when Cedar Crest hosted the PGA Championship, Walter Hagen was the champ and the tourney was witnessed by a teenager who would become a future golf legend -- Byron Nelson. The City of Dallas took over the course in 1947 and although it measures only 6,550 yards, it's a tough golf course with very challenging par-3s.

More history can be found at Tenison Park on the eastern edge of downtown where a renovation of the East Course has been completed. Legendary Trevino stories center here around his ability to hustle with a Dr Pepper bottle. He also made a famous quote here about pressure: "Pressure is having to make a $5 putt with $2 in your pocket."

Grover C. Keeton Park is located east of downtown Dallas off Jim Miller Road, and has a tight front nine with an open back nine. L.B. Houston is another tree-lined Dallas Muny located in the northwest part of town.

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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