FORT WORTH, Texas -- They're lumped together like they're one and the same, but they're not. Fort Worth and Dallas are almost nothing alike, except for the proximity to one another.
Yes, they are the anchors in the Metroplex, but there are dozens of municipalities and towns that separate them as well as one of the busiest and largest airports in the world.
Dallas is high fashion, high finance and tall skyscrapers. Both are Texas personified, of course, but Fort Worth is cattle and stockyards, but not without its sophistication as well (it has an impressive museum district). It's probably a little more laid back than Dallas, a little less populated (just under 800,000 residents) and less hectic, but just as impressive when it comes to golf and things to do.
Golf in and around Fort Worth
Texas has produced many great golfers, but perhaps none more storied than the polar opposites and rivals Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. Nelson, of course, is associated with the Dallas (technically Irving) PGA Tour event that bears his name, while Hogan's Alley is at Fort Worth's Colonial Country Club, home of the Crowne Plaza Colonial Invitational, one of the most storied events on tour.
Laid along the banks of the Trinity River under the shady oaks (where Hogan was also a longtime member of another Fort Worth country club of the same name), Colonial is what comes to mind when you think Fort Worth golf. And even though visitors to Fort Worth will have to get a reciprocal invitation or know a member to play Colonial, it doesn't mean they can't play where Hogan, Nelson and even Sandra Palmer played golf in their formative years.
Unfortunately one of the most nostalgic and affordable golf experiences in the area shut down forever at the end of 2014. Glen Garden Country Club, which had become semi-private, was sold to a distillery, which may preserve part of the course as a museum, though nothing is set in stone as of yet. The 102-year-old course had a great history. Hogan and Nelson met and played an epic match there as caddies, and later Nelson won his record 18th PGA Tour event there in 1945. Jack Grout, Jack Nicklaus' longtime teacher, was once a pro there, and LPGA great Sandra Palmer also played much of her golf at Glen Garden.
But there are other historic options open to the public; you just have to go beyond Fort Worth, but not too far. The Golf Club of Dallas in South Dallas, for example, has a great history. Designed by Perry Maxwell, the course was home to the Dallas Open (now the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship) from 1958-1967. The 6,719-yard par 70 features 52 bunkers, a lake and a winding creek that comes into play on seven holes.
Or you could check out 36-hole Tenison Park, which is just a 10-minute drive from downtown Dallas and can trace its history back to 1924. The original Glen Course is where Lee Trevino did a little hustling in his early days, or try out the Tenison Park Highlands Course, , which was redesigned by D.A. Weibring in 2001 and is one of the most popular courses in the Metroplex.
Of course, there's modern golf in Fort Worth, too, like The Golf Club at Champions Circle, a beautiful Jay Morrish's design that takes players through beautiful live oaks, creeks, wetlands and a few wide-open spaces. The 7,005-yard, par-72 journey, managed by Troon Golf, is as scenic as it is difficult from the back tees. Or check out the city's Meadowbrook Golf Course, located in the east-central metropolitan area of Fort Worth. Meadowbrook, which has the most rolling terrain of the city's five golf courses, underwent renovations in 2005.
Just north of Fort Worth in Richland Hills is Iron Horse Golf Club, a semiprivate club with a great railroad theme attached to it. And while Texas Star, another municipal, isn't in Fort Worth, it's also next door in Euless and definitely a must-play (Texas Star will be closed from June to October 2014 for renovations).
If you head a little bit east toward the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, be sure to play the 27-hole Grapevine Golf Course, where Nelson designed 18 of the holes there. And while you're in Grapevine, you might as well stop by and play Cowboys Golf Club, the terrific Jeff Brauer course with the over-the-top Cowboys theme. NFL memorabilia galore in the clubhouse, golf carts with numbers of Cowboy greats, cart girls who look like Cowboy cheerleaders and even a star painted on the fourth fairway help complete the experience.
Off the course in Fort Worth: The real cowboys
After golf, if you've never been, you have to head to the famous Stockyards National Historic District, where you can see the world's only twice daily cattle drive. This really is the Old West where a team of cowhands drives a herd of longhorns along Exchange Avenue through the Stockyards. From the saddles to the chaps, hats, boots, it is authentic and historically true, although these cows supposedly never make it to the dinner table; they are put out to pasture after their years of service are over.
The Stockyards are also where you can see the Livestock Exchange Building as well as the Stockyards Station shops and restaurants, including Cooper's Barbecue. There's also the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Cowtown Coliseum, as well as plenty of Western shops, including Maverick, Fincher's and Leddy's, which are located along historic Exchange Avenue. Fort Worth's Rodeo Plaza is also home to the legendary Billy Bob's Texas, a three-acre honky-tonk that stages some of the biggest names in music.
Fort Worth also has one of the best museum districts in the country, including the Amon Carter Museum and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. The latter is the only museum in the world dedicated to honoring and documenting the lives of women who have distinguished themselves while exemplifying the pioneer spirit of the American West.
You'll also want to check out Fort Worth's quaint downtown area, which is full of great bars and restaurants, including Reata Restaurant in Sundance Square. This rooftop patio restaurant offers up a unique menu of Southwestern grub that includes favorites such as tenderloin tamales, blackened buffalo rib eye, chicken fried steak and pan-seared pepper crusted tenderloin.