Few spectacles are as big as the Final Four, so it's fitting that Jerry Jones' AT&T Stadium and Big D are the settings for this year's NCAA Basketball's semifinals and championship game, April 5-7.
For the 80,000 fans or so who will be attending, this is also the perfect time of year to take in a few other activities such as golf, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area is primed with more than 100 daily-fee or semi-private courses to enjoy. Narrowing it down to a few isn't easy, but here are a few suggestions.
Arlington and Grapevine munis
The games will be in Arlington, which isn't too far from Grapevine, and both cities have superb municipal courses.
Arlington's Tierra Verde Golf Club is a great Jeffrey Brauer design on the outskirts of town. No homes, excellent conditions and plenty of challenges make Tierra Verde a memorable experience. Even better is the clubhouse food afterwards, offering a gourmet menu that's anything but typical. It's so good, in fact, that locals who don't play golf have been eating there for years.
Grapevine Golf Course has 18 holes designed by the legendary Byron Nelson as well as another nine added by former tour player D.A. Weibring, a Dallas-area resident who's gained a favorable reputation for both his original designs and renovation work, which also occurred at the Grapevine course. With rolling hills, mature pecans and oaks and plenty of water hazards, the course has more of a high-end daily fee feel but is priced like a muni.
And while you're there, you might want to check out Cowboys Golf Club just a couple of miles away next to the fabulous Gaylord Texan resort. Formerly owned by the Pokes' owner Jones, Cowboys Golf Club is all Cowboys all the time, from the star painted on the fourth fairway to the Cowboy cheerleader-types on the drink carts to the scores of memorabilia inside the clubhouse. Best of all the course, another Brauer design, is among the best conditioned and well-laid-out golf courses in the Metroplex.
Venture north for the unusual
If you're looking for something unique, the DFW area has three courses that are either copycat in nature or pay homage to other great courses or architects. All three do a great job of just that.
Perhaps the best known is Tour 18 Dallas in Flower Mound, just north of Dallas. The second such course in Texas (the original is in Houston), the course features copies of Amen Corner from Augusta, Pinehurst, TPC Sawgrass and other famous venues.
My favorite copycat course, maybe because I like links golf so much, is The Tribute Golf Links in The Colony, also north of Dallas on the shores of Lake Lewisville. Always in great shape, The Tribute showcases replicas of famous Scottish holes that have played host to the British Open. Courses include holes inspired by courses such as St. Andrews, Royal Troon and Prestwick.
Even more unique, however, may be The Tribute's sister course, Old American. Designed by Tripp Davis (who also did The Tribute) and tour player Justin Leonard, Old American is a tip of the cap to the "Golden Age" of golf course architecture from 1910 to 1937. Davis and Leonard channeled design elements from Seth Raynor, A.W. Tillinghast, Donald Ross and Perry Maxwell to create a throwback experience to the golden age with the advantage of modern agronomic practices. A member-driven club that's open to outside play, sub four-hour rounds are the norm, not the exception.
The Tribute has a Scottish-inspired clubhouse with limited accommodations, but you can also book stay and play packages with Old American and The Tribute with boutique NYLO hotels in Plano, Las Colinas and South Side or the new Omni Dallas Convention Center. The latter is a state-of-the-art, 1,000-room shrine to cutting edge hotel design. For those boxed out of Final Four tickets, its Owner's Box sports bar features a 16-foot big screen TV.
More Final Four golf options
For golfers looking to step off the plane and get in some golf right away, there's the 36-hole Bear Creek, which offers two distinct layouts -- the East Course and West Course -- renovated in recent years and should be in excellent shape.
If you're looking to stay at a resort good options include The Four Season Resort in Las Colinas, the Westin Stonebriar in Frisco (on the way to The Tribute) and the Marriott Dallas Fort Worth at Champions Circle near Texas Motor Speedway.
Both the Four Seasons and Westin have 36 holes of championship golf. The Four Seasons' TPC Course, designed by Jay Morrish and renovated by Weibring, is home to the GTE Byron Nelson Classic, while there is an outstanding Tom Fazio course at the Westin Stonebriar. The Marriott features an enjoyable Morrish design that winds through trees, creeks and lakes.