If you’re not one of the nearly 28 million people who reside there, you might not agree with the statement, ‘It’s Better in Texas.”
However the state that gave us Hogan, Nelson, Kite, Crenshaw, Trevino and Spieth, (not to mention Kathy Whitworth and Babe Zaharias) does stake a claim for some of the nation’s finest public golf, particularly around Dallas. Here’s three courses to consider next time you’re inclined to plant a tee in ‘Big D’.
This is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after tee times in the city, for both golfers and gourmands. We’ll discuss the former shortly, but for the price of a greens fee, this unique facility offers patrons the ability to eat-and-drink pretty much non-stop upon arrival. (Alcohol, cigars and gratuities are emphatically not included!) It’s also a treasure trove of Dallas Cowboy memorabilia, including replica Super Bowl trophies and rings, plaques at each hole with nuggets of team history, and plenty more. So it’s got the sizzle, but (pun intended) what about the steak?
This Jeffrey Brauer design dating from 2001 has myriad elements that make for a great stick-and-ball adventure. Players have to navigate around trees, waterways and natural habitats, negotiate dramatic elevation changes, forced carries, dog legs, treacherous bunkers, and deal with the frustrations endemic in contoured fairways and puzzling greens. Not to disregard the seventeen challenges preceding it, but the home hole is a beguiling par-5 with a fairway that twists and turns through a minefield of creative bunkering; half-a-dozen within a wedge’s distance of the green. It’s enough to make a player want to go marching back to the first tee to start again.
Owing to the endless sprawl of the Dallas Metro-plex, many of the dozens of daily fee options available don’t allow the player to escape the urban environment. In other words, the ball might be on the grass, but the surrounding atmosphere is rife with apartment buildings, roadways and other signs of city life. Not so at Old American. This Tripp Davis design, in conjunction with twelve-time PGA Tour winner (and Dallas native) Justin Leonard, is routed by the shores of beautiful Lewisville Lake. It features waving stands of native grasses, abundant flora, and wildlife habitats throughout. Golfers might encounter wild turkey, deer, coyotes and birds, such as the Red Tail Hawk, which nests in the immense oaks to the left of the thirteenth and the right of the sixteenth hole.
However beyond the pastoral nature of the property, it’s the anachronistic, timeless feel of the course that has won so many kudos. (In other words, the course name was well chosen.) The bunkering is in a throwback style, hearkening back to the ‘Golden Age’ of course design in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Nothing uniform or ‘cookie cutter’ about them, they have an organic feel, and sometimes the lies are perfect, and other times penal. Subtle touches like a steel railroad bridge and a beautifully restored barn, both dating from the early part of the previous century, help reaffirm the throwback feel that makes Old American such a unique experience in the heart of one of the nation’s busiest cities.
It’s a bold moniker, to be sure. However this impressive facility, not far from the airport and curiously located amidst an industrial area, lives up to its name. This Keith Foster design from 1997 isn’t a brute length-wise, it tops out at a shade over 6,900 yards. But the course is rife with challenges, including encroaching water on a trio of holes on both the outward and inward nine. Foster made wonderful use of these 275 acres of rolling terrain, featuring Hurricane Creek, hundred year old oaks and natural woodlands and tall native grasses.
Holes with names are generally the purview of courses in the UK and Ireland, stateside we are primarily subjected to numerals only. Happily, Texas Star uses more imagination, so beware of the eleventh, known as Double Barrel. It’s barely 340 yards long, but there are three bunkers surrounded by thick grass on a ridge in the middle of the fairway. The fifteenth is called Battle Cry, another modest-length par-4, with a waterfall centerpiece. Presidio follows, a picturesque, downhill par-3, featuring a stacked rock wall edging the creek on the right.
Dallas-area vegans are as rare as a hole-in-one. At least they ought to be, considering the superb barbecue at their disposal! Try Pecan Lodge, in memorably-named Deep Ellum. The handmade sausage and brisket have their ardent devotees, but some swear by the Hot Mess, featuring barbacoa, cheese, onions and butter with a jumbo sweet potato. You have to love a place like Cattleack simply for the name. It’s a real Cadillac among the myriad Fords and Chevys serving smoked meats throughout the city. No need to choose between all the delectable offerings. Just order the famed ‘Toddfather’ Sandwich, and enjoy brisket, pulled pork and a hot link simultaneously. Finally, the Lockhart Smokehouse, with their counter service and use of butcher paper, has a cult following that extends across the state, the nation and even to Europe. As they like to say, no forks, no sauce, no problem! Ribs, chops, brisket, pork; doesn’t matter. If you need a cleaver to prepare it, it’s going to be served at Lockhart’s, and it’s going to be delicious!