DALLAS, Texas -- While the Dallas area offers lots of great golf, you might be surprised to know that much of it is private or municipal. That's right; courses like Tierra Verde in Arlington, Texas Star in Euless and Firewheel Golf Park in Garland are all really good municipals, for example.
But the area does offer good daily-fee golf courses that don't fall under the municipal or resort category. Here are a few of my favorites:
Cowboys Golf Club
Football and golf go well together most anywhere, but especially in Texas, and Cowboys Golf Club does as good a job as anybody in that department. It is, in fact, the only NFL-themed golf course in America. Formerly owned by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the experience at this Grapevine daily fee is Cowboys all the time, from the play-by-play being piped into the parking lot to the scores of memorabilia in the golf shop to the star painted on the fourth fairway.
Best of all, perhaps, is that the club has a darned good golf course. Terrific conditioning and a wonderful design by Jeffrey Brauer make this 7,000-yard layout over rolling wooded terrain a delight to play. And as part of the green fee, you get all the non-alcoholic beverages and food you want, including the signature jalapeno sausages available at the halfway house on the course.
The best way to experience Cowboys? Stay next door at the Gaylord Texan, a magnificent domed hotel and conference center with indoor replicas of famous Texas landmarks like the Alamo and San Antonio Riverwalk.
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Tour 18 Dallas
The second of such replica courses (the first one is in Houston) Tour 18 Dallas is a collection of what its developers consider the greatest 18 holes in America. For the average golfer, that represents many courses they'll likely never play like Augusta National, Oakmont Country Club, Winged Foot, Medinah and Cherry Hills.
Located in Flower Mound north of Dallas, Tour 18 Dallas probably isn't the kind of golf course you would want to play every day, but if you've never played it or only played Tour 18 Houston, this should be on the short list. After all, who doesn't want to play Amen Corner, and Tour 18 has that. It also has the par-3 17th from the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, which like the real deal, will test your nerves.
Best way to experience Tour 18? Couple it with Bridlewood Golf Club a solid residential daily fee a couple of miles away.
Old American Golf Club, The Tribute
Also located north of Dallas, Old American Golf Club in The Colony is one of the most unique courses in America. Architect Tripp Davis paid homage to great, early American architects like Seth Raynor, Donald Ross, Alister MacKenzie and A.W. Tillinghast. The result is an extremely challenging layout, reminiscent of classics such as Shinnecock Hills, Links, Prairie and Crystal Downs. Old American includes natural contours, hazard styles, native grasses and green shapes influenced by those great courses. In fact, the policy dictates all bunkers are to be played as waste bunkers, so they truly are hazards, although players are allowed to rake when they finish.
The par-71 layout, which wraps around Lake Lewisville, tips out to nearly 7,200 yards from the "Leonard" tournament tees (named for player consultant Justin Leonard). Add some wind, and it's really difficult. Old American Golf Club also features a unique landmark, a railroad bridge, more than 100 years old, that was transported from the Red River about 100 miles north to The Old American and placed between the second and third holes. Old American was named 39th the Dallas Morning News' "Top 100 Courses in Texas" rankings released May 11, and seventh in the paper's "Top 50 You Can Play" list, making it the highest rated course in the Metroplex.
Really, though, a trip to Old American should also include The Tribute golf course next door. Also designed by Tripp Davis, The Tribute is a collection of holes replicating famous holes from Scotland, including the first and 18th at the Old Course in St. Andrews (they are also the first and 18th at The Tribute). The experience comes complete with a Scottish-themed clubhouse that actually has a few large suites upstairs for overnight guests.
Best way to experience Old American and The Tribute? Book a room at the NYLO (New York Loft hotel) in Plano. There are three NYLOs in the Dallas area and if you've never stayed at one of them, you're in for a unique experience. The NYLO in Plano is less than 15 minutes from Old American. It features large rooms and suites with that have that distinctive warehouse loft look. Featuring concrete floors and exposed plumbing, it combines with all the modern amenities you would expect in a luxury hotel. Best of all, it's affordable, and golf packages are offered with Old American. It's also next to one of two Plano PGA Tour stores, where you'll probably want to spend another hour or two.
Heritage Ranch Golf & Country Club
Nestled in the heart of a retirement community near Allen north of Dallas is a course most everyone can enjoy. Designed by Arthur Hills, who usually pens much tighter, risk-reward type courses, Heritage Ranch Golf & Country Club represents everything that's right with golf. Hit it, find it, and hit it again.
Though it meanders through a housing development, houses almost never come into play because of its extremely wide fairways. There are, in fact, parts of this course where you can't even see homes.
The nearly 7,000-yard, par-72 golf course has six sets of tees, all the way down to 4,000 yards, making it playable for every level of golfer. No forced carries and fairways that seem as wide as they are long make this course very forgiving, perfect for the retirement community that surrounds this daily-fee golf course.
An excellent clubhouse, which features an indoor pool and exercise facilities for its members, is all part of the Heritage Ranch experience. The club also offers large practice facilities, dining, lessons and an app for your smartphone that provides GPS yardages and hole layouts.
Best way to experience Heritage Ranch? It might not be a bad idea to stay at Courtyard by Marriott Dallas Allen at the John Q Hammons Center three miles away. Mega shopping and restaurants are next door at the Village at Allen Village at Fairview as well as the Allen Premium Outlets. It's also next to one the Dallas area's three TopGolf facilities, where you can keep playing golf into the night thanks to its state-of-the-art hitting bays.
Bear Creek Golf Club
Located in the middle of the DFW area right next to the main airport (perfect for arrival or departure golf), Bear Creek Golf Club offers 36 holes of solid Ted Robinson golf. Both the East and West Courses offer plenty of challenge, interesting layouts (including a few blind shots) and excellent conditions, especially after the facility converted its difficult-to-maintain bentgrass greens to Bermuda a few years ago.
You'll also like the fact that there are no homes on either layout. Just plenty of mature oak trees, creeks, waterfalls, lakes and ponds over a rolling terrain. This busy facility has it all -- lessons, a large golf shop, restaurant and excellent practice facilities.
Best way to experience Bear Creek? Try staying at Grand Hyatt DFW Airport, which offers golf packages. With a rooftop pool, fitness and conference facilities, terrific dining and luxury accommodations, it makes it easy if you're just in Dallas for a couple of days for business and want to get in a couple of rounds of golf. (The Hyatt also offers golf at Cowboys Golf Club just a few minutes away).