My Top 10 public golf courses in Texas

HOUSTON -- The Dallas Morning News recently published its list of the 100 best golf courses in Texas and once again, Whispering Pines, the splendid philanthropic private club about two hours north of Houston, topped the list.

Perhaps more intriguing, though, was the "Top 50 You Can Play List," i.e. public and resort courses. No. 1 in the rankings is Black Jack's Crossing, a golf course many of our readers have probably never heard of in a place most have never been.

Located in Big Bend, Black Jack's Crossing at Lajitas Resort is other worldly, unlike any other golf course in Texas, and in a mountain setting that most Texans have never experienced personally. It's out there -- eight or nine hours by car for most people, a faster trip by private jet for others. But it's well worth the trip, not only for the course but for the Lajitas Resort as well.

Second on the public list is Crown Colony Country Club in Lufkin, a Bruce Devlin-Robert von Hagge design that has long been the site for major amateur events in the state. Interestingly enough, Crown Colony doesn't show up on the Morning News' overall top 100 list until no. 27. That's right; the top 26 in the state are all private.

The rest of the top 10 courses you can play rounds out with: 3) Pine Dunes Resort in Frankston; 4) Barton Creek' Fazio Foothills in Austin; 5) the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio; 6) Golf Club of Houston's Tournament Course (formerly Redstone); 7) Old American Golf Club in The Colony near Dallas; 8) The Lakes of Castle Hills (which is now fully private; 9) Wolfdancer Golf Club at Lost Pines in Bastrop; and 10) The Canyons Course at Barton Creek Country Resort.

Shuffle the top 10

The Morning News rankings are determined from a panel of 90 who rate the courses on a scale of 1-10. Naturally, biases are built in with a group that small, the majority of whom probably don't get to remote places like El Paso, for example.

Enough of them, however, found their way to Lajitas to make Black Jack's Crossing no. 1. Courses needed only eight raters to be eligible on the public list, while they needed 13 of the 90 for the top 100, which explains why Black Jack's Crossing isn't in the top 100.

Black Jack's Crossing at no. 1 is certainly worthy, but there are a couple of serious omissions in the top 10. Butterfield Trail in El Paso, for example, is one of the best Tom Fazio courses I've ever played and it's been ranked among the top five municipals in the country by more than one national publication.

The Rawls Course at Texas Tech University is the only Tom Doak design in Texas and the closest thing the state has to links golf. Built below grade level, the course is reminiscent of Ballyneal in Colorado (ranked on Golf Digest's top 100 in the world list). It's infinitely walkable and interesting; its only real knock is that it's in Lubbock, not Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin or San Antonio.

The Dallas Morning News has The Rawls and Butterfield Trail ranked nos. 11 and 12 respectively, which is at least a half dozen slots too low.

Other courses I would have put in the top 10 include Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine (a great Jeff Brauer layout to go with the cool Cowboys theme) and TPC San Antonio's AT&T Canyons Course, a Pete Dye design that I actually like a little better than the Greg Norman-designed Oaks Course).

My top 10 golf courses in Texas

As you might guess, my rankings would be a little different, although I'd keep Lajitas on top.

Here's how I see it:

1. Black Jack's Crossing at Lajitas Resort
2. Pine Dunes Golf Resort
3. Butterfield Trail Golf Club in El Paso
4. The Rawls Course at Texas Tech
5. Barton Creek Fazio Foothills in Austin
6. Golf Club of Houston Tournament Course
7. Crown Colony Country Club in Lufkin
8. Old American Golf Club in The Colony
9. TPC San Antonio Canyons Course
10. Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine

My next five would be the TPC Four Seasons, the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, Woodforest Golf Club in Montgomery, Horseshoe Bay's Applerock Course in Austin and Palmilla Beach Club in Port Aransas, which has ocean views.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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My Top 10 public golf courses in Texas
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