Magnificent municipal golf courses of Dallas-Fort Worth

By David R. Holland, Contributor

DALLAS, Texas - Tall tales roll off a Texan's lips - stories of golf hustlers and the formative years of greats of the game. It's part of the Lone Star golf heritage.

Even Depression-era bank robbers enter the discussion. Just imagine two of Texas' most notorious criminal gun-toters, Bonnie and Clyde, hiding out at Oak Cliff's Stevens Park Golf Course when they were fleeing from Texas Rangers. Clyde Barrow's grave is just one minute away from the course on Fort Worth Ave.

Dallas' Tenison Park was a home at one time to Lee Elder, Titanic Thompson and Babe Didrickson Zaharias. Tales have placed Lee Trevino there, but he actually didn't play at Tenison until he was 21. Lee learned the game at Bob-O-Links, another East Dallas course.

Trevino and the Dr. Pepper bottle? Those betting games actually took place at Hardy Greenwood's driving range and par-3 course, at Lovers Lane and Greenville Avenue, a place the teen-ager helped build and also worked.

Generation X neophytes migrated to the Dallas country club lifestyle. Scott Verplank and Andrew Magee honed formative skills at Brookhaven Country Club while British Open champ Justin Leonard grew up at Royal Oaks Country Club.

Fort Worth legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson first played at Glen Garden Country Club in, where LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Palmer also learned the game.

It all began in 1895 at the corner of Haskell and Cole streets as Dallas Golf and Country Club, a place for the wealthy. But the first muni came along in 1917, Cedar Crest Golf Course in Oak Cliff, and this A.W. Tillinghast design is a golf history buff's dream. This site of the 1927 PGA Championship can be played today for as little as $16.

Exaggerated tales or not. The D-FW Metroplex has a collection of some of the best municipals in the world - it's no embellishment.

Here's a look at the best municipal golf courses in the Metroplex ...

Texas Star Golf Course in Euless

Keith Foster's Texas Star Golf Course is somewhat of a miracle. Tucked into an industrial area, once you are on the fairways you would never realize you aren't in the middle of the fashionable North Dallas shopping scene.

Century-old oak trees shelter you completely throughout these 275 acres that encounter Hurricane Creek, over wavy landscape, past stacked rock ponds, waterfalls and natural woodlands. A strategic layout, it spans 6,936 yards at a par of 71, and is just minutes from D-FW Airport.

"We wanted to create a nature walk," explains Foster. "We want the golfer to experience nothing but golf - a place where you can enjoy the game for golf's sake."

Tierra Verde in Arlington

Following the success of Texas Star, Arlington decided it was time to build an upscale muni. The result is Tierra Verde Golf Club, a 1998 David Graham, Gary Panks, Gary Stephenson 6,975-yard, par-72 gem with Audubon International Signature Certification.

Here you will face countless "red stakes," indicating wayward shots are not OB, but lost in a protected environment. Golfers can't enter those hazards. Located on wild terrain with strategically placed bunkers in southwest Arlington, this stellar layout has been a host site for the EDS Byron Nelson Championship Qualifying tournament. Bring your A game to Tierra Verde.

Tenison Highlands in Dallas

When D.A. Weibring renovated Tenison West in 2000 it was renamed Tenison Highlands. The new look on a historic site has fresh features, 32 new bunkers, five new lakes, TifBermuda 419 fairways and TifEagle putting surfaces.

In Dallas since 1926, Tenison Park opened its West Course first and added the more scenic East Course in the 1950s. The original layout, routed through pecan, sycamore and oak trees, was done by Jack Burke, father of 1956 Masters champ Jack Burke Jr., and Syd Cooper, father of Harry Cooper, nicknamed Lighthouse Harry. Ralph Plummer designed the East on the edges of White Rock Creek and later authored the ultra-exclusive Preston Trail Golf Club just up the same river northward.

The 1968 Public Links Championship was staged on the East Course, now called Tenison Glen, which was a final hurrah before folks started noticing this historic complex needed a facelift.

Tangle Ridge Golf Club in Grand Prairie

Jeff Brauer's 6,835-yard, par-72 layout has the feel of the Texas Hill Country with elevation changes in the rolling hills of southwest Dallas County. Trees line the fairways at Tangle Ridge Golf Club, sand guards every hole and the Crenshaw bentgrass greens are subtle but testy.

Tangle Ridge will test you mightily with shot options from the back tees as you try and dodge the rocky hillsides, the hackberry trees and dips in terrain.

Firewheel Old Course in Garland

Built in 1983, the Firewheel Old Course measures 6,845 yards at par-71 and winds through rolling land and past moving streams. It's heavily wooded an a challenge to keep the ball in the fairways and avoid the 65 bunkers.

Firewheel has hosted the Texas State Open and has been a PGA Tour Qualifying site as well as hosting the Nitro Texas State Open. The complex includes the Old Course, Lake Course and 27-hole Bridges at Firewheel to make this a 63-hole municipal golf facility operated by the City of Garland. It's the largest in Texas and third largest in the USA, located on 600 acres.

Sherrill Park in Richardson

Sherrill Park includes 36 holes through the woods of Richardson. Course One at Sherrill Park re-opened in 1997 after undergoing extensive renovations on greens, tees, bunkers, drains and the irrigation system by Weibring.

Course Two at Sherrill Park has also been retooled and presents a variety of shot making choices from the tee shot and shots into the green. It hosted the 1999 local U.S. Open Qualifying, and also hosted the U.S. Amateur Qualifying in 1998.

Cedar Crest Golf Course in Dallas

The 1927 PGA Championship won by Walter Hagen at Cedar Crest Country Club put this A.W. Tillinghast design forever in golf history. But the years were hard on this old track. Many of the original bunkers were removed for easier maintenance. But it retains its old-fashioned look, crowned greens and opportunities to be creative in your short game.

Now known as Cedar Crest Golf Course and a City of Dallas municipal, is getting modernized. Once again it is Weibring who has been selected to retool the 6,550-yard par-71.

Iron Horse Golf Course in North Richland Hills

Bowling-alley narrow fairways, lay-up shots, subtle draws and fades, sturdy hardwoods, creek carries and a railroad trestle - these are the ingredients that define this Dick Phelps design that was opened in 1989 in the flood plain and bottom lands of Fossil Creek. Leave the driver in the bag on what is one of the more popular tracks in the area.

Iron Horse Golf Course is a real test for your long-iron play and water will tease you on 15 holes in this scenic location just off the burgeoning Loop 820 corridor. It's 6,580 yards from the tips and both the par-5 holes require three shots for the average golfer.

The River Course at Pecan Valley Municipal Golf Course in Fort Worth

Pecan Valley, a 1963 Ralph Plummer design, was for many years a heavily-played 27-hole staple in Fort Worth. Today there are 36 holes where you can enjoy the calm atmosphere of vast Texas skies, old pecan and oak trees and views of the Clear Fork of the Trinity River.

The Pecan Valley River Course, a 6,609-yarder, is the favorite, but the Hills Course at Pecan Valley is also a fun alternative.

Grapevine Golf Course

The Grapevine Golf Course, designed by Byron Nelson and Joe Finger in 1979, is one of the busiest in Tarrant County and hosts about 65,000 rounds a year. Pace can be somewhat slow, but it is an excellent bargain. The original 18 plays to more than 6,900 yards from the black tees and is dotted with plenty of sand traps, tree-lined fairways, waterways and large-tiered greens.

Again Weibring was brought in to expand and renovate. The new nine is named Bluebonnet and it opened for play in the fall of 1999. It sparkles with elevation changes, blind shots and fast TifEagle greens. Mockingbird and Pecan, the original nines, also got a facelift which included TifEagle.

Indian Creek Golf Club in Carrollton

Brauer redesigned the Creek Course at Indian Creek Golf Club. It's 7,235 yards from the tips at par-72 and includes awesome acreage on 412 acres along the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. How about a 260-yard par 3, the longest in the state? Indian Creek's Lakes Course, designed by Dick Phelps, measures 6,999 yards at par of 72.

There you have it. And there are many more municipal opportunities in this golf-rich area.

Off course: Things to do in the Metroplex

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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
  • bob o links

    todd wrote on: Apr 7, 2009

    my dad was the brother in law to Harry McCommas, the owner of bob-o-links.
    I still remember going there as a kid.
    I miss my dad and uncle harry. they were both characters !


    • RE: bob o links

      Vernon {pat} waite wrote on: Jan 26, 2014

      I was in the Army with Hal in 1958 in Babenhausen, Germany. WE play golf a few times. If you see him have, him wright me so I can get his e-mail address.
      Vernon {Pat} Waite