Compared with what has been going on in the golf construction business in Texas for most of the past decade, the activity of the last couple of years could be regarded as a deluge.
Bent Tree, Brook Hollow Golf Club, Northwood Club, Royal Oaks, Fort Worth’s Shady Oaks and North Richland Hills’ Iron Horse are among the courses that have undergone face-lifts.
In addition to the two new courses at PGA Frisco that are scheduled to come online next spring, Heath Golf and Yacht Club opened in 2020 and two new private courses will join the roster this year. Driftwood Golf and Ranch Club, which opened nine holes in October 2021, opened the remaining nine holes May 4. Big Easy Ranch near Houston is on pace to open in the fall. Also, construction on a course in the massive Legacy Hills development in Celina is set to begin this summer.
Brook Hollow Golf Club
Perhaps no course in recent years has undergone as extreme a transformation as the venerable Dallas course that opened in 1922. It was conceived as the Pine Valley of Texas when the founding members hired AW Tillinghast to design the course in what was then the countryside 7 miles northwest of downtown Dallas. Legend has it that Brook Hollow founding member Cameron Buxton, who was also a member of Tillinghast-designated Pine Valley that is considered one of the finest courses in the United States, persuaded Tillinghast to bring his skills from him to Texas.
The sandy soil on what was then farmland was considered ideal for growing Bermuda grass. Early aerial views of the course show few trees.
Over the years, the trees on the property flourished, grass was allowed to spread beyond the fairways and the course took on the characteristics of what has become a modern country club look with lush fairways and wall-to-wall grass.
Plans for the renovation gained momentum when it became clear the aging irrigation system and bunkers needed to be replaced. Brook Hollow president Robert Allday said members voted to add the hydronics system to control the temperature at root level and keep the bentgrass greens healthy and then decided to undertake the majority if not all of the master plan.
“The focus was on going back to what we perceived what Tillinghast would have done if he were alive today,” said Brook Hollow president Robert Allday, noting that the course celebrated its centenary. “Did the course really fit the tradition and history of Tillinghast’s roots? Ultimately, we decided it didn’t.”
Architect Keith Foster removed more than 300 trees and many more were trimmed to create open views. The club has added 550 trees to the perimeter of the property and created a hardwood area in the middle of the property. Rough in some areas was replaced with sandy waste areas dotted with native scrubs, sage and coastal Bermuda.
Recognized Tillinghast elements such as grass-faced bunkers and squared-off greens and greens with false fronts were restored. No 15 features the Great Hazard, the largest waste area on the grounds. It is considered a staple of Tillinghast designs.
The private club was closed for 18 months before having a soft opening in November 2020. It opened for full member play in the summer of 2021.
Meadowbrook Golf Course
The immediate future of the municipal course east of downtown Fort Worth rests with the results of a $560 million bond package on Saturday’s ballot. Included in that package is $123.96 million for Park and Recreation improvements. One of those improvements in a major renovation of Meadowbrook Golf Course, which is closing in on its 100th year. About $7 million has been set aside for design and construction, according to city documents.
John Bredemus, who was also involved with the design of Colonial Country Club, is credited with designing the course when it opened in 1924 as Meadowbrook Country Club.
John Colligan, an Arlington-based golf course architect, has done a master plan for Meadowbrook that includes major changes to the course. His plan would call for new routing, fairways, lakes, greens and irrigation.
“We want it to be something the public will enjoy playing,” Colligan said. “They’ll play it and want to go back and play it again.”
Colligan, who with Trey Kemp transformed Arlington’s Ditto Golf Course into Texas Rangers Golf Club and made major changes to Dallas’ Stevens Park Golf Course, said he plans to utilize some of the Bredemus-style architecture such as grass-faced bunkers in the renovation.
“Very few holes will stay the same,” he said. “All the changes are for the better and to make it more playable and more enjoyable.”
If voters approve the bond package, Colligan estimated the course could be open for play in 2025.
Driftwood Golf and Ranch Club
If the Tom Fazio course that opened this week matches the amenities — and by most accounts it does — it will soon appear in the Texas Golf rankings.
Discovery Land Company, which is developing the 800-acre residential property 25 miles south of downtown Austin, is known for its customer service. If Discovery didn’t create the template for superior golf course experiences, it can be said it perfected it. Among the features that have become typical for such ultra high-end Texas courses as Dallas National, Vaquero, Escondido, Blue Jack National and Spanish Oaks are well-stocked comfort stations and chefs on the course preparing inviting morsels to nourish golfers.
“We don’t have a manual for how to treat our members. We have 300 different manuals,” said Casey Paulson, the president of sales and operations at Driftwood. “The service is always personal.”
And the golf isn’t bad, either.
The course has a Hill Country feel without the actual hills of courses in Austin, Horseshoe Bay and Fredericksburg. But Fazio has made the most of the 80 feet of elevation change on the property.
“It was built for member and guest play,” Paulson said. “It’s big enough and strong enough to challenge the best players. It can create a test of golf for anybody if you play the right tees. I know you’ll have a great experience.”
Fazio was the guest of honor at an event in 2021 to promote the course. By then most of his work was done and the course was growing in. He was understandably excited about the course’s prospects.
“People will expect it to be good because it’s Hill Country, because Discovery Land Company is involved, because Fazio is involved — all those expectations are high,” he said at the time. “When they come here and see it, they will be shocked beyond their imagination because it’s even more substantial than their expectations could lead them to believe. That’s how good the whole property is, and the golf experience we’re creating here.”
Construction is scheduled to begin this summer for the daily fee course on the northwest side of Celina in a 3,200-acre Legacy Hills residential development. It will tentatively be called Golf Club at Legacy Hills. Centurion American Development Group announced the Legacy Hills project near the intersection of Legacy Drive and Celina Parkway. The property has about 4 miles of frontage on the Dallas North Tollway extension.
Lee Singletary, who is designing the course, said the course site is a large greenbelt area in the core of the project with a combination of open space, mature trees and meandering creeks and streams.
“It is a large canvas to work with, and there are many opportunities for outstanding golf holes,” Singletary said in a news release. He said he plans to use the creeks and streams in the routing and strategy for the course.
Singletary, who designed Woodbridge Golf Club in Wylie, said the budget for the golf course, which is expected to stretch to 7,500 yards, is $10 million to $20 million.
“We’re not cutting any corners on this project,” he said.
Centurion American is planning 7,000 single-family homes and 4,100 multifamily units.
Big Easy Ranch
The facility that bills itself “a sporting club like no other” will add a new feature by the end of the year. The addition of an 18-hole golf course that is expected to be ready for play in November, will give members and guests another activity to go along with hunting, shooting clays, fishing and water sports.
The ranch, 9 miles north of Columbus in Colorado County, already had a nine-hole par-3 course designed by Chet Williams. Construction on the 18-hole course, also designed by Williams, began in July 2021. Zeon zoysia sod for the fairways and rough was to be laid in early May. Grassing for the Tiff Eagle greens will begin in June, Williams said.
The property has 90 feet of elevation change. Williams raved about the terrain, calling it “almost perfect.”
“It rolls in the right places at the right times,” he said. “It’s Hill Country-like, but not Hill Country.”
The course features plenty of mature oaks, including about 20 that were moved from to make room for roads in the residential area. The par-72 course measures 7,448 yards from the tips. There are no houses adjacent to the course.
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