Golf is not just an exercise; it's an adventure, a romance ... a Shakespeare play in which disaster and comedy are intertwined. -- Harold Segall, author
Golf is like an 18-year-old girl with big boobs. You know it's wrong, but you can't keep away from her. -- Val Doonican, Irish singer
Unlike some famous writers and singers, we can't necessarily describe golf in poetic or even bawdy terms. But this much we know: When we're not playing it, we're daydreaming about it. Or practicing our swing in the elevator. Or working on a new putting stroke in the paint section of Home Depot.
We know golf can be bankrupting and belittling. (We still can't shake the memory of a guy who paid thousands to play in the Colonial Pro-Am and then whiffed on his first three tee shots). But it is also a joyous, five-hour escape from the crushing responsibilities of real life. And it comes fully equipped with friends, sunshine and cold beer!
Living in DFW, it's impossible to keep the images of emerald fairways and beautiful cart girls far from clogging our minds. We have plenty of both. We've also got an impressive Texas two-step of professional tournaments, both of which are direct descendants of the game's legends, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial begins Thursday in Fort Worth, and the HP Byron Nelson Championship at Las Colinas rolls around next Thursday, May 26.
So, you can see why we're always thinking about golf this time of year. In fact, our favorite fantasy is the one where we win the lottery and chuck our day jobs and play 36 holes every day for the rest of our lives.
If and when that dream comes true, here are the places we'd play in DFW, public, private and country clubs because, hey, as long as we're dreaming, we want an all-access pass.
Cowboys Golf Club
The course: Par 72, 7,017 yards from the back tees
The cost: $180, which includes range balls, food and nonalcoholic drinks.
Who should play it? Serious golfers with serious money; fans of the Dallas Cowboys.
Why play it? This is the ultimate golf experience for a golf nut/Cowboys fan. The course, near Lake Grapevine, has won numerous awards, including Golf Digest's "Four Star Rating" and honorable mention in the "Top Ten Courses You Can Play in America" from Golf magazine. The clubhouse wall features a Hall of Honor with a display of the franchise's five Super Bowl trophies and memorabilia of Dallas Cowboys legends past and present.
Local knowledge: While this is the first and only NFL-themed resort-style golf course, it is still all about golf. The practice facilities are top notch, and the par-72 layout is as an oasis of elevation changes and tree-lined fairways. Water comes into play on 13 holes, which makes it challenging.
Details: 1600 Fairway Drive, Grapevine. 817-481-7277; www.cowboysgolfclub.com.
Old American Golf Club
The course:Par 71, 7,200 yards from the back tees
The cost: $150-$175
Who plays it? Those willing to shell out $150 (Sunday-Thursday) to $175 ( Friday-Saturday) at an amazing venue that skirts Lake Lewisville and conjures images of classic courses like Shinnecock Hills. But it offers five sets of tees for all skill levels.
Why play it? The Old American, in its first year, was the only DFW course in the top 10 of Golfweeks 2011 Best Courses You Can Play in Texas list. Designed by Tripp Davis and Justin Leonard, it features natural contours and hazard styles, native grasses and challenging greens.
Local knowledge: No. 18 is a reachable par-5 to so you might end your round with a birdie. Old American is currently open to the public with memberships available.
Details: 1001 Lebanon Road, The Colony. 972-370-4653. www.theoldamericangolfclub.com
Tour 18 Dallas
The course: Par 72, 7,088 from the back tees
The cost: $75-$95
Who plays it? Any golf fan, because Tour 18 features "replicas" of some of the most famous holes in golf, such as 'Amen Corner' from Augusta National and the infamous island green from No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass, home of The PLAYERS Championship. (Be warned: the island green is Tour 18's No. 9, meaning you'll have a gallery in the clubhouse watching to see if your ball clears the water hazard.)
Why play it? Because all the most storied courses are represented here: Pine Valley, Muirfield Village, Doral and Riviera Country Club to name a few. Tour 18 sits among the rolling hills of Flower Mound in Denton County and features some of the biggest mansions you will ever come across on a golf course.
Local knowledge: While Tour 18 is legendary for its slow pace of play and sometimes not so ideal golf course conditions, the last few times I have been out it was smooth sailing.
Details: 8718 Amen Corner, Flower Mound.
The Tribute Golf Club
The course: $99-$129
The cost: Par 72, 7,100.
Who plays it? Anyone who dreams of playing in Scotland or thinks the British Open is the greatest of the four golf majors. It's still cheaper than traveling across the pond to play St. Andrews.
Why play it: Located in The Colony, just 23 miles from DFW Airport, the Tribute Golf Club is a true links course. Designed by renowned golf architect Tripp Davis (Old American Golf Club), The Tributes 18 holes simulate some of the most famous and challenging holes of the Scottish links.
Golf Digest named the Tribute as the No. 1 Public Golf Course in the Dallas area and one of Americas 100 Greatest Public Courses for 2005 - 2006.
Local knowledge: The Tribute was once referred to as "The Old Course," a tribute to St. Andrews, with its neighboring Old American being called "The New Course."
Details: 1000 Lebanon Rd, The Colony. 972-370-5465. www.thetributegc.com
The course: Par 71, 6,936 yards from the back tees
The cost: $57 weekdays; $77 weekends, includes range balls.
Who should play it? Anyone with handicap below 20 and a wallet full of 20s.
Why play it? It is, by far, Euless' best golf course. But it might also be Tarrant County's best public course that you can play for less than $100. Regularly ranked among the top 100 in the Lone Star State, Texas Star is tucked into a sanctuary of wooded bliss a few miles from Airport Freeway. The generous fairways and lush trees give the course a secluded, private feel. Watch out, though, because you'll be Titleist hunting in the woods if you can't drive it straight.
Local knowledge: Texas Star has a terrific practice area and immaculate conditions. It also features several tell-your-friends holes, like No. 13, Coyote Bluff, which demands a 250-yard drive to the crest of a hill, between bunkers, and then a perilous shot downhill to a narrow green guarded by a bunker in front and out of bounds in the back. Make par here, and you'll be ready for the Nationwide Tour.
Details: 1400 Texas Star Parkway, Euless. 817-685-7888; www.texasstargolf.com.
Waterchase Golf Club
The course: Par 72, 7,006 yards from the gold tees
The cost: $54-$69
Who should play it? Aquaman, because there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. But there are also six sets of tees -- which means scratch golfers, seniors and midhandicappers should all feel comfortable here.
Why play it? Waterchase is a test of nerves, with all that darn agua. But it can also yield low rounds because it features five par 5s and five par 3s. Designed by Steven D. Plumer, this course just off Interstate 30 in east Fort Worth also makes you play strategically with two split fairways holes. The cascading waterfall between the ninth and 18th holes is beautiful; just be careful with your approach shots or you'll be fishing.
Local knowledge: If No. 17 is playing into wind, as it almost always does, hitch up your big boy pants if you plan to carry the 210-yard pond.
Details: 8951 Creek Run Road, Fort Worth. 817-861-4653; www.waterchasegc.com.
Tierra Verde Golf Club
The course: Par 72, 7,000 yards from the back tees
The cost: $49-$65
Who should play it? Nature lovers. Tierra Verde was the very first golf course built in Texas, and the first municipal course in the world to be certified as an Audubon Signature Sanctuary. Located just off U.S. 287 on the way to Mansfield, the course is relatively close but still feels miles away from the big city.
Why play it? It will make you feel at one with nature, especially when you hit the ball a few yards out of the fairway and end up in an environmentally sensitive area. Tierra Verde will test your ability to play target golf.
Local knowledge: Owned partially by the city of Arlington, Tierra Verde has a three-hole practice facility and a lighted driving range, so it's a good place to fine-tune your game.
Details: 7005 Golf Club Drive, Arlington, 817-478-8500; www.arlingtongolf.com.
Golf Club at Fossil Creek
The course: Par 72, 6,875 yards
The cost: $45-$60
Who should play it? Business travelers staying in Fort Worth; it's only 15 minutes north of downtown. And locals who enjoy the challenging layout and favorable twilight prices ($29 after 4 p.m.). Just beware the traffic nightmare at Loop 820 and Interstate 35W.
Why play it? Opened in 1987, this course was designed by none other than Arnold Palmer. It winds its way through 1,150 acres of natural Texas terrain -- and also the Fossil Creek subdivision. (Watch out for windows!) The course gives you some wide-open holes and then some unbelievably unnerving shots over water, especially if the wind is blowing, which it always does in Texas. And keep an eye out for creeks cutting through the fairways where you'd least expect them.
Local knowledge: No. 8, the tough 537-yard par 5, is a links-style risk/reward hole, and one of our favorites in the area. The green is shaped like an hourglass and is guarded by the creek. Hit it short, you're in the drink. Hit it long, you've got a lightning-quick putt from the top of the two-tier green.
Details: 3401 Clubgate Drive, Fort Worth. 817-847-1900; www.thegolfclubatfossilcreek.com.
Coyote Ridge Golf Club
The course: Par 72, 7,003 yards
The cost: $49-$69
Who plays it? Golfers who enjoy a wide-open links-style game and appreciate smooth greens. The course is owned by Sam Moon, so this could also be your best bet of tricking your wife or girlfriend into playing.
Why play it? Coyote Ridge is nicer than many of the area's country clubs, with a clubhouse that features a library, a wine room and Grill 19 restaurant. The front nine plays like a links course, with open fairways and water in play on many of the holes. The back nine is tighter, with trees, environmentally sensitive areas and the Trinity River gravel quarry to watch out for.
Local knowledge: The Playboy Golf Scramble has been played here the past two years, and the May 2011 Avid Golfer Cart Girl of the Month, Taylor, is from Coyote Ridge.
Details: 1640 W. Hebron Parkway, Carrollton. 972-395-0786; www.coyoteridgegolf.com.
Hawks Creek Golf Club
The course: Par 72, 6,847 yards from the back tees
The cost: $45-$60
Who plays it? Retired military guys, west Fort Worth players who don't belong to Shady Oaks or Ridglea country clubs, and anyone who appreciates well-kept greens.
Why play it? Known to many as the former Carswell Golf Club, Hawks Creek was renovated in 2000 and reopened in 2002. Unlike so many courses, it doesn't demand you hit the ball long off the tee, but its tight layout requires accurate and well-shaped shots. The back nine is a little more open and provides a genuine eagle opportunity on the short par-5 11th hole.
Local knowledge: Watch out for the deceptively long par-5 ninth and 18th holes, both of which can ruin a good round coming into the lovely Scottish Castle-style clubhouse.
Details: 6520 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth. 817-738-8402; www.hawkscreek.com.
Glen Garden Golf & Country Club
The course: Par 71, 6,166 yards from the back tees
The cost: $25-$32
Who plays it? Anyone who wants to walk the fairways where legends Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan learned the game as caddies back in the 1920s, and who cannot pull off Colonial or Shady Oaks. Glen Garden is semiprivate, so it has members but also allows public play.
Why play it? Glen Garden's length may not challenge you, but Nelson was quoted many times as saying the back nine was the most unique golf layout in the world.
Local knowledge: In the early 1920s, a caddie could earn $1 for a round of golf. This attracted Hogan and Nelson, who, at age 15, played their first head-to-head tournament here. Nelson defeated Hogan on the final hole to win the annual caddie championship.
Details: 2916 Glen Garden Drive S., Fort Worth. 817-535-7582.
Pecan Valley Golf Course
The course(s): The River, Par 70, 6,609 yards; The Hills, Par 72, 6,577 yards
The cost: $30-$40 with cart
Who plays it? Everyone. It's a municipal golfer's playground, with two 18-hole courses in the shadow of Lake Benbrook. It's also the course of choice for members of Shady Oaks, River Crest and Mira Vista when their clubs are closed Mondays.
Why play it? The River Course is a bit longer, but if you can par the 15th and 18th holes, across a huge ravine, consider yourself ready to challenge tougher courses. The Hills Course lives up to its name, with several fun elevation changes. But it is mostly wide open, so you can score here.
Local knowledge: In the Pro Shop, PGA head golf pro David Fowler likes to call people by name and make them feel as if they are at their own country club. The River Course actually borders Mira Vista Country Club's course.
Details: 6400 Pecan Valley Drive, Fort Worth. 817-249-1845; www.fortworthgolf.org.
Colonial Country Club
The course: Par 70, 7,204 yards from back tees
Who plays it? Members and their guests. Or a big-time celebrity who happens to be in DFW. Simple as that. Initiation fee is reportedly $40,000, plus $450 a month.
Why play it? Colonial, established in 1936 by famed Fort Worthian Marvin Leonard, to this day remains a true shotmaker's course, requiring players to shape the ball off the tee and demanding precision on most every shot. In addition to hosting the 65th edition of its annual PGA Tour event this week, Colonial has hosted the U.S. Open in 1941, Tournament Players Championship in 1975 and the 1991 U.S. Women's Open. The treacherous "Horrible Horseshoe," holes 3-5, has often been compared to Amen Corner at Augusta National. Past Colonial champions include Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson.
Local knowledge: Colonial was the first golf course in Texas with bent-grass greens.
Details: 3735 Country Club Circle, Fort Worth. 817-927-4200
Shady Oaks Country Club
The course: Par 71, 6,453 yards
Who plays it? Golfers who can shell out the $60K initiation fee and more than $400 in monthly dues to belong to one of the nicest courses in Texas.
Why play it? Home of the legendary Hogan, and built by Leonard, Shady Oaks is an exclusive club often mentioned in the same breath as nearby Colonial. Robert Trent Jones designed the course for the average golfer, and the signature feature is the large bent-grass greens that can be unbelievably fast. Distance isn't the overwhelming factor here, but two par 3s play around 230 yards from the back tees, and the par-5 eighth hole goes 618 yards! We are partial to the scenic No. 5, the 192-yard par 3.
Local knowledge: Nike golf club manufacturer Tom Stites, a Fort Worth resident and Shady Oaks member, has handcrafted clubs for Tiger Woods and David Duval. Tiger has been spotted on the range trying out some of Stites' creations.
Details: 320 Roaring Springs Road, Fort Worth. 817-732-1271; www.shadyoaksclub.com.
Dallas National Golf Club
The course: Par 72, 7,326 yards from the Texas Tees
Who plays it? The richest of the rich golf hacks, as well as serious golfers who want to be pushed to their wits' end by the difficulty of this beautiful monster of a golf course. Initiation is a whopping $200K, plus $950 per month. Members include Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Mavs point guard Jason Kidd and nationally syndicated DJ Kidd Kraddick.
Why play it? The $30-plus million golf enclave in South Dallas is a Tom Fazio design that was built with hopes of attracting the next major championship to Dallas -- something that hasn't happened since the 1963 PGA at Dallas Athletic Club. The course features elevation changes of more than 170 feet.
Local knowledge: Eight huge wooden bridges connect the deep canyons to their respective plateaus, making you feel as if you are in Austin -- with a view of downtown Dallas in the background.
Details: 1515 Knoxville, Dallas. 214-331-4195; www.dallasnationalgolfclub.com.
The course: Par 71, 7,064 yards from the back tees
Who plays it? More like, who is filthy rich enough to play Vaquero? The initiation is said to be $175,000, plus about $1,000 a month -- and you must own a lot in the ultra-exclusive gated community in Westlake. Lots start at around $1 million. Members include The Players Championship winner K.J. Choi, Tiger Woods' former swing coach Hank Haney, Brant Jobe, Harrison Frazar and Justin Leonard.
Why play it? Tom Fazio's design features narrow fairways lined by thick, high coastal Bermuda rough. The pro-style bent-grass greens can be slick. The Vaquero Club also includes Titleist Pro V1 driving-range balls and caddies. First class, all the way.
Local knowledge: Neighborhood residents include the Jonas Brothers, former Texas Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Details: 2300 Vaquero Club Drive, Westlake. 817-746-6000; vaqueroclub.com.
TPC Four Seasons
The course: Par 70, 7,166 yards
Who plays it? Those who want to play where the PGA players play. Although it is technically private, you can play this course without having to know somebody. For $195, guests at the Four Seasons have access to the same Tournament Players Course on which the Byron Nelson Championship will be played May 26-29.
Why play it? The par-70, 7,166-yard TPC course is one of two 18-hole layouts on the property -- the other is Cottonwood Valley. The TPC was recently redesigned by D.A. Weibring's Golf Resources Group with several dramatic improvements, notably on the par-4 18th.
Local knowledge: Depending on the wind gusts and directions, the 198-yard par-3 17th hole tee shot can range from a 7-iron to a 3-wood.
Details: 4150 N, MacArthur Blvd., Irving. www.fourseasons.com/dallas.
Ridglea Country Club, South course
The course: Par 72, 7,200 yards from the championship tees
Who plays it? Ridglea has two courses. The North course is considered the family course. The South is designated For Men Only. (What are we, living in an episode of Mad Men?) Ridglea has nearly 2,000 members and initiation is $15,000, plus $380 a month.
Why play it? Designed by Ralph Plummer, the South Course is a shotmakers' track. Accuracy off the tee is key on this tree-lined course with small greens.
Local knowledge: Not that you care, but the South Course was the first course on which one of your humble correspondents (Jay) broke 80, so it's playable.
Details: 3901 Ridglea Country Club Drive, Fort Worth. 817-236-3400; www.ridgleacountryclub.com.
Mira Vista Country Club
The course: Par 71, 6,849 yards.
Who plays it? Members of the ritzy Southwest Fort Worth club and their guests have access to this great course near Benbrook Lake. It is the only private, gated golf-course community in Fort Worth.
Why play it? As you make your way around this Tom Weiskopf-Jay Morrish designed masterpiece, you will encounter some of the biggest houses you will ever see. Three lakes enhance the course layout as it meanders through the scenic hills and valleys. The 335-yard par-4 18th hole is our favorite, a picturesque hole with a split fairway and the multilevel clubhouse in the background.
Local knowledge: Mira Vista hosted the 2000 Texas State Mid-Amateur Championship and annually hosts the prestigious Kathy Whitworth Invitational.
Details: 6600 Mira Vista Blvd., Fort Worth. 817-294-6666; miravista.clubhouseonline-e3.com.