Saturday, April 30, 2005

Going Too Far

Texas golf enthusiasts might recall (those in San Antonio definitely will) the rancor over the original PGA Village proposal for San Antonio about 4-5 years ago. The project was to be built over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and the original plan involved the creation of a special taxing district. The developer, Lumbermen's Investman Corp., would have been able to assess and collect taxes after a special bill was pushed through the Texas Senate by San Antonio Sen. Jeff Wentworth.

The city's environmental and labor interests led an opposition effort that raised 70,000 signatures in opposition to the deal, forcing a referendum on the deal (the project almost surely would have been defeated at the ballot box had the city not rescinded that original deal).

Instead, the San Antonio City Council put together a non-annexation agreement with the developer; the city agreed not to annex the property for 15 years, saving the developers mucho dinero.

I didn't like the original deal - the one that called for a special taxing district - but strongly supported the second. I consider myself a dedicated environmentalist, but the issue for me was pretty simple: the developer held grandfathered rights to the property and could do pretty much whatever it wanted with the land. Negotiating a non-annexation agreement, while a huge tax giveaway, is what gave the city the leverage to get stringent environmental controls built into the deal. Controls that would not, otherwise, have been there. The deal was very satisfying to me, given that I am both an environmentalist and a golfer.

Well, the PGA Village project wound up dying anyway. But the PGA Tour came along and resurrected the deal, agreeing with Lumbermen's to build a TPC resort on the same property. This time, the San Antonio City Council agreed to a 29-year non-annexation deal. Still, the environmental controls negotiated are thought to be the most stringent ever included in such a development deal in the U.S.

So while I would generally oppose major development over sensitive environmental areas, the TPC deal I supported because the city, through its non-annexation deal, guaranteed far better environmental controls than would otherwise have been possible to get.

The huge giveaway to developers seemed justified in order to secure the environmental regulation.

What is this leading up to? Well, San Antonio Sen. Jeff Wentworth - the guy who tried to give the developer taxing powers in the original PGA Village deal - has now come up with a bill that would give the developer taxing powers for its TPC project.

In other words, the developer gets a non-annexation agreement and a special taxing district. This is too much. Here's how the San Antonio Express-News' political reporter described it:

To recap, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, passed a bill through committee this week to allow the developer of the PGA Tour's planned golf resort over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone to seek a special taxing district through the county.

The district essentially would allow the developer, Lumbermen's Investment Corp., to assess and collect taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements that it would normally have to pay on its own.

The move comes four years after Wentworth passed a similar piece of legislation, which at one point he admitted he didn't even read, granting the same taxing power to Lumbermen's in what was then the PGA Village project.

The major problem was that it was done out of the public eye and the resulting backlash helped fuel serious questions about the project.

Under the revised PGA Tour deal, the special taxing district with the city went away in exchange for stricter environmental controls and a 29-year non-annexation agreement. But now we come to find out that the city's deal gives Lumbermen's the opportunity to have the non-annexation deal and a special taxing district from the county.

What an amazing sweetheart deal, thanks to Sen. Wentworth. But that's no surprise - Wentworth feeds at the trough of developers, then excretes whatever bills they want (he's even supported and sponsored bills that would weaken what already-weak regulations San Antonio and the Edwards Aquifer Authority have on the books relating to the aquifer). Wentworth is bought and paid for. It's time for San Antonians to tell him enough is enough - Lumbermen's got plenty out of its negotiated deal with the City of San Antonio. They don't need more.

Whatever happened to the idea of developers actually earning their profits? It seems quaint - no, naive - these days, but maybe the developer should actually develop something and profit (or lose money) based on the quality of the job they do.

Friday, April 29, 2005

"Free Lesson Month" in May

May is "Free Lesson Month" across the U.S., part of the 2006 Play Golf America campaign. Thousands of golf instructors in the U.S. - and hundreds and hundreds in Texas - are offering free, 10-minute lessons. All you have to do is find an instructor and sign up. How do you find an instructor? Visit www.playgolfamerica.com and use the search box on the left-hand side of the page. Simple as that.

But can you really get anything out of a 10-minute lesson? Here are some great tips to make the most of it.

Next Up for NGT: Firewheel

The next tournament in the Lone Star Series of the National Golf Tour is scheduled for Firewheel Golf Park in Garland on Monday, May 23. The NGT tournament follows a Tight Lies Tour event at the same course that concludes on the preceding day. The 2005 NGT national champion receives entry into the 2006 PGA Tour Qualifying School. For more info, visit www.nationalgolftour.com. And don't forget - the NGT Texas Golf Blog Classic takes place at Barton Creek - Lakeside on June 13. Registration info is available on the website.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Near Plano? Get Tips from Justin Leonard

DFW resident Justin Leonard (he's a member at The Vaquero) will appear at the Golfsmith in Plano on Monday, May 2, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., at a Nike Golf Demo Day. Leonard will be giving swing tips to golfers who show up to demo Nike products. There are some good door prizes, too. The Golfsmith is at 900 Central Expressway. Call 972-424-4823 for more info.

Justin in good at these kinds of events. I spoke with him at a PGA Tour event media day where he was the defending champion. (It's common for the defending champ to be present at media day, where media members get to play the golf course a month or two prior to the tournament. The defending champ usually tours the course in a golf cart, stopping and chatting with each foursome and sometimes hitting a shot or two). He chatted us up and read our putts for us, then put a 45-footer of his own right in the center of the cup.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Hog wild

Feral hogs are becoming a bigger and bigger problem for golf courses around Texas. The 400-pound, tusk-wielding monsters can tear up fairways and greens rooting around for grubs and shoots. They especially like the collars of greens, where the turf is easier to uproot (if you've ever seen a golf course attacked by feral hogs, you've probably marvelled at the circles of tilled ground around the greens). This article mentions the hogs' attacks on golf courses only in passing, but it does put the problem in perspective: there are an estimated 2 million feral hogs in Texas, causing $52 million in agricultural damage every year, and their population is only expected to increase.

Popular S.A. Course Going Private

River Crossing Golf Club, off U.S. 281 near Spring Branch, is one of the most popular public courses in the San Antonio area. Problem is, it won't be public much longer. River Crossing is in the process of going private. Details here and here.

Texans on CBS' "Reality Golf" Series

The second season of CBS's "reality golf" series, "PGA Tour 18 - Golf’sUltimate Road Trip," begins airing on May 7. Eight contestants, split into two teams, will play 18 holes in 10 different states over the course of 13 days. And it turns out that three of those eight contestants are Texans.

The Texas contestants are (blurbs provided by CBS Sports):

Roland Bassett, 50, Cypress – A business development manager for a technology company, Roland has been married for 17 years and has three children. He has been playing golf for 20 years and is almost entirely self-taught.

Dana Batiste, 39, Houston – A former linebacker at Texas A&M (1984-1987) who was drafted by the Dolphins, Dana saw his NFL career cut short by a knee injury sustained in a preseason game against the Eagles. Now a six handicap, Dana’s favorite PGA TOUR player is Vijay Singh because of his tireless work ethic.

Troy Hitt, 32, Humble, TX – This married father of four held a PGA of America teaching card from 2002-2004, after shooting a 71 in the final round of his Player’s Ability Test. The mild-mannered Texan doesn't drink and claims he never loses his temper. His favorite PGA TOUR player is Davis Love III, because he is "the perfect gentleman and a professional who puts his family first."

A guy from Cypress, one from Humble and another from Houston. CBS' talent scouts must have spent a couple weeks in the Bayou City. The series will be hosted by CBS golf analyst David Feherty. The three one-hour episodes will air May 7, 21, and 28, from 1-2 p.m. on CBS.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Brownsville Company Introduces "Club/Savr"

texas golfA Brownsville-based company called DSR Productions has an unusual golf product out on the market. It's called the Club/Savr, and it monitors the presence of selected golf clubs in your bag.

The Club/Savr is made up of "golf club sensor tubes" and a "master control unit." The sensor tubes go into your golf bag, and the clubs you want to protect go into the tubes. As the company's press release about the Club/Savr states: "When a Club is removed from a Sensor Tube, a User Selectable Time Interval is initiated, and if the club is not returned to the tube before this time expires, an Audible and or Visual alarm will be activated."

So, if you've left your favorite wedge next to the green on the previous hole, the Club/Savr will alert you. The selectable time periods are 6, 10, 14, and 18 minutes. Options include additional standard or jumbo sensor tubes, an external revolving amber light that attaches to the cart for visual indication, and a unit for the hearing impaired.

I'm not sure that the Club/Savr sounds all that useful or utilitarian, but it certainly sounds interesting. The company website is at www.clubsavr.com.

Monday, April 25, 2005

"Big Break" Contestants in Texas

A couple of the popular contestants from "The Big Break III" are in Texas during the Futures Tour's swing through the Lone Star State.

The Jalapeno Futures Golf Classic was played April 22-24 at Palm View Golf Course in McAllen. Jan Dowling finished tied for 20th, shooting 73-74-70 - 217. That's the best finish yet this year for any of the BBIII women in their Futures Tour appearances. Valeria Ochoa was also entered in the event, but withdrew with an injury.

The Futures Tour moves on to El Paso this week for the IOS Futures Golf Classic at Underwood Golf Complex (Sunrise Course). The preliminary player roster shows Valeria Ochoa and Jan Dowling scheduled to compete. If you're interested in attending, visit the tournament page.

There's another "Big Break" contestant in Texas full-time. Randy Block, from the original season, lives and works in San Antonio. He was manager of GolfCraft until that pro shop sold out to Edwin Watts; then he spent some time caddying and now works in the pro shop of The Resort Course at La Cantera.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Book Review: Texas Golf Bible




The Texas Golf Bible is a hymnal to the game of golf across the Lone Star State, from our finest resorts to the dustiest, backroads 9-holers. It's one of the best browsing books I've run across in a long time, and one that I'd recommend to any Texas golfer who wants to know more about the state or is looking for that next golf adventure.

The Texas Golf Bible is a thick tome chock full of information. That's because it attempts to cover every single golf course in the state. That's close to 1,000 golf courses. The book doesn't quite get every track in Texas listed, but it comes mighty close. Author Jason Stone has visited hundreds of golf courses himself, while his correspondents fill in the blanks on the others.

But the Texas Golf Bible isn't just a recitation of dry facts (contact info, yardages, etc.). It attempts to provide nuggets of info about every single golf course in the state. Things such as the toughest holes on the course, or the most picturesque. Or maybe interesting historical facts about the course. Even what you'll find in the clubhouse, or the best place to eat nearby.

The Texas Golf Bible is - and I mean with as a huge compliment - the perfect bathroom book for any golfer. Pick up a copy, and you'll soon wear the corners dog-eared with addictive browsing.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Stars are Coming to Nelson

Looks like this year's Byron Nelson Classic, scheduled May 12-15, is going to have a tremendous field - likely to include the Top 5 golfers in the world. That's according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which reports that the Colonial (May 19-22) field looks pretty good, too, although not as good as the Nelson.

The Nelson has a leg up this year: there's a party going on to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Byron Nelson's legendary 1945 season.

The Star-Telegram reports:

... Officials at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship already have received commitments from five of the world's top nine golfers for their May 12-15 event at the Four Seasons Resort in Irving. There is optimism - well-founded optimism, from all indications - that the world's top five players might be in the field when opening rounds are played at the TPC Las Colinas and the Cottonwood Valley Course.

At the Bank of America Colonial (May 19-22), officials are holding commitments from three of the top nine golfers in the world rankings, as well as 10 of the top 25. Those numbers should only increase before the pursuit of the plaid jacket begins in Fort Worth.

...

Thus far, the Nelson headliners are Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, the respective No. 3 and No. 5 players in the world rankings. Other top-10 members include Chris DiMarco, Sergio Garcia and David Toms. Nelson officials anticipate a late surge of commitments from other high-profile players who seek to take part in tournament-week activities that honor the event's namesake, Roanoke golf legend Byron Nelson, on the 60th anniversary of his record-setting 1945 season (18 tour victories, including 11 in a row).

At Colonial, the early headliners include DiMarco (No. 7), Garcia (No. 8) and Toms (No. 9). Colonial also has landed a couple of high-profile names that are not on the Nelson list: Davis Love III (No. 14) and Fred Funk (No. 24), reigning champion at The Players Championship.

Friday, April 22, 2005

72 Holes, 72 Hours in Houston

The Travel section at cnn.com has a piece on golf in Houston, appropriate with the PGA Tour there this weekend. The article recommends where to play if you can get in four rounds in four days: High Meadow Ranch, Meadowbrook Farms, River Ridge and Tour 18.

Tour 18 is a gimmick, of course, but at least it's a good one. Most of us will never get the chance to play the real Amen Corner, so no harm in finding a version of it in Houston. The real winner on that list, in my opinion, is High Meadow Ranch. My favorite course in Houston.

Down in the Valley

The southern tip of Texas, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, doesn't get much pub as a golf destination ... but don't tell that to local golfers whose courses are overrun every winter by Winter Texans. In other parts of Texas, however, Brownsville, McAllen, South Padre, et.al., aren't the first places golfers think of when they think of golf.

So let's give a shoutout to Valley golf by recognizing the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College men's golf team, which is heading to nationals for the first time in school history. Check out the article on the team and its leader, Brownsville native Anthony Cantu.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Driving Range Hero

I hate the driving range. It's boring and there are no cart girls to look at -- although you will sometimes find a nice looking mom driving junior to get this golf lesson. Getting back to the topic, if I haven't played in a while because I've been stuck at work I need to head out there and hit a few just to loosen up a little. You know, so I don't look like a complete idiot when I plop down my hard earned chedder to play a little stick. When I'm out there it does not mean I'm looking for somebody to tell me I'm not getting my hips into my swing. I know I suck, just leave me be. I'm just looking to loosen up, not trying to qualify for the friggin US Open. So if you're not asked for your opinion, don't offer it up. Unless you're bored cause the pro is helping junior with his short game.

Update: Boot Ranch

We wrote about Hal Sutton's swanky project near Fredericksburg, called Boot Ranch, a while back. There was some controversy because, as we wrote, "The project is behind schedule and has run into some funding issues because of a dispute taking place between the state of Louisiana and one of the project's investors, the Municipal Police Officers Retirement Association."

That controversy is getting lots of play in Louisiana, where the Baton Rouge newspaper is reporting that MPERS, the retirement association, has already loaned the Boot Ranch developers $30 million without seeing any return. The developers have failed to meet deadlines to show home and golf club membership sales, and now say they need even more money.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Texas' Top Players

The "Fact or Fiction" feature in espn.com's golf section leads off this week with this: Chad Campbell is the best Texan golfer on Tour. We weren't too sure of that (neither were the four espn.com/Golf Digest participants, three of whom said "fiction"), so we decided to put together our own ranking of the best Texas golfers.

First thing we discovered is that, these days, the pickings are slim. Texas boasts one of the all-time best rosters of golf legends (Hogan, Nelson, Trevino, etc.), but today's Texan tour players are, well, not up to snuff.

Our rankings count only native Texans, by the way. And here they are, the best Texans on the PGA Tour at the time of this writing:

1. Chad Campbell. It's fact after all. Campbell is 19th in the world rankings and 21st in money. Although he hasn't won in a while, he's consistent and often in contention. He did win the Nissan Open playoff, although it's not an official victory because only two rounds were played.

2. Scott Verplank. He's more associated with Oklahoma than Texas, but he was born in Dallas. As consistent as they come. Second, 20th and 10th in his last three starts.

3. Justin Leonard. Leonard was the pick of the three espn.com panelists who didn't choose Campbell, on the strength of his major championship and his one win this year. The major was in 1997 - what have you done for me lately? Well, there's that victory this year. But there are also four missed cuts this year.

4. Bob Estes. Made every cut this year, usually finishing in the top half of the field.

5. Ryan Palmer. A couple good showings in Hawaii and at Doral, but also five missed cuts and a w/d.

See what we mean about slim pickins? Here's the Texan to watch: Jimmy Walker. Last year's Nationwide Tour money leader was injured at the start of 2005, but finished 17th last week at the MCI Heritage Classic. He's got a big game, a combination of booming drives and good putting. Walker is the guy who's going to put Texas golfers back on the map.

Best of the rest: Brian Gay, Sean O'Hair, Harrison Frazar, Danny Briggs, Hunter Haas. Hank Kuehne? Ol' Hank's missing the cut on an almost weekly basis these days.

We'll rank the all-time best Texas golfers soon.

Hall of Famer Now Defending at Houston Open

The Houston Open, starting Thursday at Redstone Golf Club, now has a Hall of Famer as its defending champion. Vijay Singh has been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame, it was announced today. Interesting tidbit: Singh gets into the Hall despite failing to receive the "required" 65-percent of the vote. What happened? There's a rundown here.

See also:
Vijay Singh profile
Houston Open tournament page

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

STPGA Offerings at Shell Houston Open

The Shell Houston Open takes place this week at Redstone Golf Club in Houston. If you're heading to the tournament, be sure to stop by the Southern Texas PGA Presentation Area to check out some great offerings and programs. Some of the top teaching pros in the STPGA's membership will be on hand, offering free lessons. Special STPGA GolfPasses will be available, and guests will be able to get more info on STPGA junior and adult tours and tournaments. You can find the STPGA booth near the Grand Entrance and Expo Tent at the Houston Open. More details are available here.

Tight Lies Tour Report - Sprint Open

The Tight Lies Tour was in Baton Rouge, La., for the Sprint Open last weekend. Cody Freeman, a former All-America golfer at the University of Oklahoma, was the winner with a 20-under-par score. Four shots back in second was Adam Rubinson of Fort Worth. And tied for third, at 15-under, were Matt Brost of Mansfield, Jamie Rogers of Amarillo and Kelly Grunewald of Grand Prairie. Complete results are available here.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Texas Golf Blog Classic at Barton Creek

The Texas Golf Blog is proud to announce that we have become a title sponsor for a Lone Star Series tournament on the National Golf Tour. The Texas Golf Blog Classic will be played June 13 on the Palmer Lakeside Course at Barton Creek Resort in Austin.

The National Golf Tour is an up-and-coming circuit in professional golf. Its aim is to have Series Tours in every state within five years. The Lone Star Series is its Texas tour, and in 2005 the Lone Star Series of the National Golf Tour includes 15 tournaments. The series culminates with the Lone Star Series Championship in November. The NGT National Championship takes place in December.

The national champion of the National Golf Tour receives paid entry into the 2006 PGA Tour Q-School. Individual tournaments offer great rewards, too: tournaments can generate payouts exceeding $30,000, paid to the top 40-percent of the field. (Amateur winners are paid non-cash prizes in accordance with the USGA Rules of Amateur Status.)

The tour aims to be a proving ground for touring professionals, head and assistant pros, and collegiate amateur golfers working to develop their skills with tour-quality competition at top golf courses. (The Texas Golf Blog Classic certainly offers that, being played at Barton Creek!) Tournament formats include 18- and 36-hole events played at individual gross stroke play.

NGT membership is not required to play NGT events; however, non-members pay a larger entry fee. Also, non-NGT members do not accrue Series points.

Registration deadline for The Texas Golf Blog Classic is June 8. Registation information is available via the Lone Star Series schedule page here. For more information on the National Golf Tour, visit its website here.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Win a Round of Golf with Bruce Lietzke

VersaSport International is the company that supplies SofTrak Synthetic Putting Greens. The company is sponsoring a new sweepstakes. At stake - in addition to equipment supplied by Burrows Golf - is a trip for two to Dallas and a round of golf with Bruce Lietzke. Pretty sweet - I've signed up. If you want to take a shot, go here and click on the "Play with a PGA Tour Pro" link.

Another Course Bites the Dust

The 9-hole McKinney Country Club is going bye-bye. Bids are being taken for the 63-acres the course sits on, with the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary believed to be the top choice. The museum and sanctuary is interested in "restoring the land into a native ecosystem or creating more walking trails." At least the death of this golf course won't result in another DFW strip mall. Story here.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Don't Bogart that Golf Course

Here's something you don't see every day: anti-development forces in a community rallying in support of a golf course. It's happening in Clear Lake, according to an article published by Houston Community Newspapers Online.

The golf course in question is Clear Lake Golf Club. The course's owners say they can't compete with all the new and better golf courses around Houston, and that refurbishing the course will only make their dilemma worse. They want to sell the golf course to developers, who would pave over the course with residential units.

Not so fast, say community activists, who don't want to lose the "green space" in their midst that the golf course represents. It's an interesting article that touches on issues we're likely to see more of as golf courses continue to be built and land continues to be used up.

Smart Swing

Smart Swing Golf is an Austin company that has created what it calls the "Smart Swing System." It's a driver whose shaft includes computer hardware and software to measure and record your swings as you make them. There is immediate feedback, but you can also later download the information onto a computer for serious post-round or post-range analysis, and to chart your swings over time.

The Austin television station KXAN recently did a piece on the Smart Swing, and video of the club's features - highlighted by former LPGA touring pro Mitzi Edge - can be viewed here (click the link with the little camera next to it, underneath the headline).

Taking a break from work

It is always fun to take my lunch break at the local muni track close to work. (Well, it's nice now that the weather's not so dang hot)
While I'm there I always enjoy the putting games that go on on the practice greens. Old men playing for nickels sinking 40 foot snakes lets you appreciate the time and effort it takes to become a great putter.

Of course the next time I'm out on my round, I'm missing 2 foot gimmes and realize that I don't have enough nickels in the world to try and match my skills with those old farts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Watch Out for Counterfeit Pro V1 Balls

The Acushnet Company, parent company of Titleist, has filed a lawsuit in a Dallas court against the sports retail chain Academy Sports. The problem, Acushnet alleges, is that Academy has been found selling counterfeit Titleist Pro V1 golf balls in some of its locations.

The alleged infraction was brought to Acushnet's attention by an Academy customer who purchased what he thought were real Pro V1s at an Academy location in Austin. According to Acushnet, Academy is not an authorized retailer of Titleist golf balls.

The consumer became concerned, according to Acushnet, after opening the package and examining the golf balls. Acushnet verified that the balls were counterfeit, as were additional golf balls purchased from that and other locations.

Acushnet said Academy, based in Katy, Texas, is not an authorized retailer of Titleist products and purchases Titleist-labeled products through the gray market and other unauthorized channels.
See the full article here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Bring Michelle Wie to Texas

On Monday, it was announced that teen phenom Michelle Wie will be playing in the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic in July. The tournament offered, and Wie accepted, a sponsor's exemption.

Which leads me to something I've been saying for two years to anyone who will listen: The Texas Open should be doing everything it can to bring Michelle Wie to Texas. The tournament desperately needs an injection of excitement, and right now Wie is the biggest draw in golf other than Tiger Woods.

Every year, the Texas Open gets lost in the shadow of the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. The fields are weak because PGA Tour pros don't care for the golf course (a Dallas Morning News survey of touring pros several years ago found that the Resort Course at La Cantera was the least popular course on tour), which is a bear to walk. Crowds are weak because the fields are weak, and because out-of-shape golf fans particularly don't care for the course.

So now that Wie has shown she's willing to play additional PGA Tour events (outside of her native Hawaii), it's a no-brainer to go after her. She's even likely to do well at San Antonio's La Cantera, whose wide fairways, short length made shorter by many downhill holes, and bermudagrass greens (more similar to what Wie plays in Hawaii than the bentgrass greens that give her trouble) all suit Wie's game.

The folks who run Golf San Antonio - the group that organizes and markets the Texas Open - are out of their minds, just plain nuts, if they aren't working the phones today trying to woo Wie.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Finally, Another Texas Course Makes the Top 100 List

It's been a long time since Texas has placed a new course in Golf Digest's "America's 100 Greatest Courses" rankings. But the new rankings are out, and, finally, a new face from the Lone Star State makes the list.

Fort Worth's Colonial Country Club, of course, is in the Top 100, as it has been for as long as the magazine has done this list. Colonial is at No. 73 this year, down from No. 35 in the previous rankings.

The new course on the block is Dallas National, which entered the rankings at No. 65 with a bullet. Dallas National opened in 2002, designed by Tom Fazio.

Perhaps this signals a new awareness of Texas golf in other parts of the U.S. Golf Digest's state-by-state rankings includes a Top 25 for Texas. That list is probably more interesting for us Texans than the national list.

Here is the GD list of Top 25 Texas Courses:

1. Dallas National G.C.
2. Colonial C.C., Fort Worth
3. Whispering Pines G.C., Trinity
4. Spanish Oaks G.C., Bee Cave
5. The Club at Carlton Woods, The Woodlands
6. Briggs Ranch G.C., San Antonio
7. Champions G.C. (Cypress Creek), Houston
8. Brook Hollow C.C., Dallas
9. ShadowHawk G.C., Richmond
10. Crown Colony C.C., Lufkin
11. Royal Oaks C.C., Houston
12. The Rawls Course, Lubbock
13. The Tribute G.C.. The Colony
14. River Oaks C.C., Houston
15. Cimarron Hills C.C., Georgetown
16. The Vaquero Club, Westlake
17. Preston Trail G.C., Dallas
18. The Hills C.C. (Flintrock Falls), Austin
19. Barton Creek Resort & Spa (Fazio Foothills), Austin
20. The Club at Comanche Trace, Kerrville
21. Pine Dunes Resort & G.C., Frankston
22. Austin C.C.
23. Deerwood at the Clubs at Kingwood
24. Hill Country G.C. San Antonio
25. Barton Creek Resort & Spa (Fazio Canyons), Austin

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Bubba Watson Wins Second Stop on Tight Lies Tour

The second stop on the Texas-based Tight Lies Tour concluded in Houma, La., on Sunday, and a Nationwide Tour player was on hand to take the prize.

Bubba Watson, of Bagdad, Fla., cruised to an 8-shot victory at the Hibernia Open. Watson's second round 63 was a new course recourd at Ellendale Country Club. Watson's winning total was 21-under par.

Complete scores are available here.

Heads-Up Houston: Caddie for a Tour Pro at the Houston Open

You've heard us mention Caddy For a Cure before. It's a new non-profit organization that raises money for great charities by auctioning off the chance to caddie for PGA Tour players at PGA Tour events. The Shell Houston Open is one of those events, and Chad Campbell, Jose Maria Olazabal and Jeff Maggert are the three players for whom golf fans have a chance to caddie at the event. The winning bidders will carry the bag for their player during an April 19 practice round at the Houston Open. The three auctions are conducted through eBay, and you can get to the auction page and place your bids here. Hurry - the auctions close Monday afternoon.

Spring time

It's spring time and if you're like me you know this means the time of year when all those Winter Texans pack their RVs and head back home to their native lands so they can be close to their beloved Chicago Cubs when they choke away another opportunity for a World Series Ring. This of course means more free space for the rest of us. It means we don't have to wait behind some grandpa measuring up a 1 ft. putt. It is with this that bring up this point. ALL THE SLOW PEOPLE HAVE LEFT. Don't be the idiot group that comes out and plays a fivesome then not allow other more ill-tempered golfers the opportunity to play through. It's getting hotter outside every day and by early summer I won't be so cordial.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

"Throwback" Course Under Construction Near Metroplex

Texas-based architect Jeffrey Brauer has broken ground on a golf course that will be part of The Villages at Lone Oak, built on the shores of Lake Tawakoni east of the Metroplex. The golf course will be a "throwback" course:

At The Villages at Lone Oak, a new 1,000-lot lakeside planned community, Brauer will turn the clock back to the Golden Age of Golf Design when C.B. Macdonald, the “Father of American Golf Course Design,” roamed the United States creating tabletop greens, deep bunkers with steep-banked walls – and remarkable golf courses. The Lone Oak course will be an interesting historical complement to Rocky Ford, a famous spot on the property where wagon trains forded the Sabine River on their way West.


Nine holes are expected to be open by Spring, 2006, with construction then beginning on the second nine.

Austin's Barton Creek Resort Adds Caddie Program

Caddies and forecaddies are now available at Barton Creek Resort in Austin, home to two Tom Fazio designs, a Ben Crenshaw design, and an Arnold Palmer design.

Resort guests can reserve a caddie or forecaddie seven days a week with a 24
hour reservation through the Barton Creek pro shops. Forecaddies are also
available for tournaments and group outings.
More info on Barton Creek is available at the resort's website. The full text of the announcement of the new caddie program can be read here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Masters

What if the Masters was held at the Sinton Municipal Course rather than Augusta. There's no way those pros could compete with those furry tee boxes that somehow seem to have more grass than the entire fairway, the gopher holes that eat up more balls than the water hazards and the 4 inch wide gashes in the middle of the fairway from the drought that always occurs in South Texas. And don't even get me started on the greens. Those things are the size of a Ford Festiva, and about as slippery as them too. If you're lucky your ball will not be lined off course by a passing fire ant. And the South Texas wind that even at 30 miles inland still blows hard off that beautiful green, murkey, red-tide infested waters of the Gulf of Mexico. You might as well take a putter and drive off the tee boxes on 2 and 8 cause if you're ball gets in the air, it has a good chance of landing somewhere behind you.

Yes those pros don't know how unlucky they are to never be able to experience a true golfing experience. Gotta love that dusty old muni.

Marriott Resort Hotel at Horseshoe Bay Ready for Guests and Golfers

The Horseshoe Bay Resort Marriott Hotel is Marriott's first resort hotel in Texas. It had a "soft opening" last October, but in May will celebrate its official grand opening. Guests at the Marriott get access to the three world-class golf courses that are part of the Horseshoe Bay Resort. All three - Ram Rock, Apple Rock and Slick Rock - were designed by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones Sr., and all three have garnered national attention. Ram Rock, in particular, is considered a gem - and perhaps the toughest test of golf in Texas.

If you want to experience the luxury of a Marriott resort hotel - and the thrill of Hill Country golf at Horseshoe Bay - you might want to consider one of several packages the Marriott is offering. Get all the details about the hotel, the golf courses and the packages here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Henry-Griffitts Launches First New Set of Irons in Five Years

For the first time in five years, Henry-Griffitts has a new set of irons on the market. If you've never heard of Henry-Griffitts, then you're not a golf gearhead. And if you're a golf gearhead, then you know all about Henry-Griffitts. The company has a reputation for high-quality, custom-made sticks. They will sell no irons before their time.

The new set is the RDH3 Series. You can read more about them here. For those of you unfamiliar with the Henry-Griffitts business model, you cannot find HG clubs in pro shops or other retail stores. They are only available through the network of "HG-Certified Teachers," company approved golf pros who conduct clubfittings. The specs gleaned from the clubfitting are sent to the company, which builds your irons to spec and ships them out within 48 hours.

So how do you find one of these certified teachers? Here is the list of locations in Texas where you can get fit for a Henry-Griffitts set:

Bryan
Briarcrest Country Club, (979) 776-1490

Bullard
Campbell's Pro Shop, (903) 825-3444

Dickinson
Beacon Lakes, (281) 337-1459

Grapevine
Grapevine Golf Course, (817) 410-3377

Houston
Braeburn Country Club, (713) 774-8788
Inwood Forest Golf Shop, (281) 448-0239

Keller
Keller Practice Tee, (817) 431-9402

Kerrville
Scott Schreiner Golf Course, (830) 257-4982

Livingston
Mill Ridge Golf Club, (936) 327-3535

Lubbock
Lubbock Country Club, (806) 763-1871

McAllen
McAllen Country Club, (956) 686-0923

Midland
Ranchland Hills Country Club, (432) 683-2041

Montgomery
Walden On Lake Conroe, (936) 448-4668

Plano
Chase Oaks Golf Club, (972) 517-7777

Richardson
The Practice Tee, (972) 235-6540

San Antonio
Blossom Golf Course, (210) 867-3021

Tomball
Tee It Up, (832) 326-7012

Donate a Buck on Memorial Day to Help Military Families

The charitable organization Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund, in conjunction with the Texas sections of the PGA of America, has organized a charity drive across the state on Memorial Day (Monday, May 30).

At golf courses and driving ranges across Texas, golfers teeing off will be asked to tack on an addition $1 to the regular fees. That extra dollar will go to Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund in the program that is being called "Driving for Dollars."

More info is available here.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Caddie for the Pros at Houston Open, Colonial

A new charitable organization called Caddy For a Cure gives regular golfers the chance to caddie for tour professionals during practice rounds at PGA Tour events. As a result, some great charities get an influx of cash.

There's a rundown of the program here. But the basics are pretty simple: At five different Tour events during 2005, a certain number of players are, in a manner of speaking, being auctioned off. Or rather, the right to carry that player's bag during a practice round is being auctioned. The auctions take place through eBay and can be followed there or on the Caddy For a Cure website.

At the time of this writing, there are two days remaining in the initial auctions for caddie spots at the MCI Heritage Classic.

Two Texas events are taking part, the Shell Houston Open and the Bank of America Colonial. At the Houston Open, Jeff Maggert, Chad Campbell and Jose Maria Olazabal are up for grabs. Those auctions are under way right now, so if you want to bid, take a look at the auction page.

Auctions for the Colonial players participating - as of this writing, Stephen Ames, Stuart Appleby, Sergio Garcia and Kenny Perry - take place later on.

Check out Caddy For a Cure for more.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Rowell Wins Tight Lies Tour Opener

Nationwide Tour player Brian Rowell outlasted the heat and the wind, and survived a 3-hole playoff to capture his first Tight Lies Tour victory Sunday at the Houston Classic.

Rowell, of Houston, defeated Tight Lies Tour veteran Jeff Burns of San Antonio and Nationwide Tour regular Bubba Watson, of Baghdad, Fla., by making par on the 215-yard par-3 13th hole at Houston's Hearthstone Country Club. The Houston Classic was the season-opener on the Tight Lies Tour schedule.

All three players had good birdie chances on the first playoff hole, but none could convert. Rowell and Burns halved the second hole with birdies before Burns missed his par putt from five feet on the following hole. Rowell tapped in his short par putt clinching the victory and a $20,000 first place check.

Rowell, Burns and Watson had finished regulation tied at 11-under par.

Complete Results

Hal Sutton Building Exclusive Club Near Fredericksburg

An exclusive, expensive equity club called Boot Ranch is being planned near Fredericksburg, and the person planning it is Hal Sutton.

Sutton, a Louisiana native, owns a ranch near Junction, so he'll be on familiar ground, in one sense, in Fredericksburg. The club is planned outside of town, just off FM 965. The plan, according to the San Antonio Express-News, calls for between 60-70 homes on sites starting at 3 acres. The acreage is expected to cost more than $300,000 for three acres, while finished homes are expected to go for $750,000 and up.

The golf club itself will be an equity club, meaning its members will own it. Membership is expected to start at $150,000, with monthly dues expected to start at $1,000. What Sutton is building is a club less for full-time residents than for professional golf club joiners - those filthy rich people who join clubs for the status, but visit rarely. If you've got the money, do with it what you want, I suppose.

The project is behind schedule and has run into some funding issues because of a dispute taking place between the state of Louisiana and one of the project's investors, the Municipal Police Officers Retirement Association.

The full story can be read here (registration required).

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Hidden Creek Re-Opening in Burleson

Hidden Creek Golf Course, Mark Brooks' track in Burleson, just south of Fort Worth, has reopened. The highly regarded layout had been closed since July while its greens were switched from bentgrass to bermudagrass.

Bentgrass is very difficult to grow in hot climates, and many golf courses in Texas that do use bentgrass have some sort of cooling system installed under their greens to keep the roots cool.

Hidden Creek's greens won't roll as true or as smoothly as they would with quality bentgrass, but with bermudagrass now in place there should be fewer times when the greens aren't in top shape.