Course Rater Confidential: Why golf courses in Texas are underrated
GOLF’s Top 100 course panelists are among the most respected and well-traveled course evaluators in the game. They’re also keen to share their opinions. In this GOLF.com series, we’ll unlock their unvarnished views on all questions course-related. The goal is not only to entertain you but also to give you a better understanding of how to understand and appreciate golf course architecture. You can see GOLF’s latest Top 100 Courses in the World ranking here, and meet all of our Top 100 panelists here.
With the PGA Tour back in action in Fort Worth this week, let’s turn our attention to Texas. While the Lone Star State has produced no shortage of great golfers, it is not home to any course on GOLF’s list of Top 100 Courses in the World. As golf states go, how do you view Texas? Overrated? Under-appreciated? Somewhere in the middle? Why?
Bill Hogan (Panelist since 1998; has played 62 of the World Top 100): Texas overall is underrated. Part of the problem is the excessive heat much of the season, which makes it uncomfortable for many visitors, and part of the issue is the relatively flat topography and lack of seaside courses for eye appeal. But there are a plethora of excellent layouts that in many other locations would be considered top tier.
Thomas Brown (Panelist since 2015; has played 95 of the Top 100): Underrated. The best golf courses in Texas have been built over the past 30 years by selecting sites with the best land. Golden Age golf courses, built prior to 1940, have suffered lost property to urban development. Don’t mess with Texas!
Joe Andriole (Panelist has played 100 of the Top 100) Underrated and probably under-explored. Texas is very large with diverse environs and a wide variety of courses, many quite good. While there are not many nationally renowned designs, there is great depth and variety.
Dana Fry: I would say it is in the middle. Texas has perhaps a few dozen really good courses but to my knowledge it doesn’t have any Top 100 in the World-calibre courses. I believe the main reason for that is the sites themselves. Most courses that dominate the rankings these days have either a great history to them or are built on extremely natural and dramatic sites, many of which have stellar views. Texas has many courses with beautiful views and great strategic courses, but only a few of those have hosted majors and I think the last major in Texas was over 50 years ago.
More specifically, please name three courses for us in Texas – your favorite private, your favorite public and your top sleeper, with just a few words explaining your reasoning for each.
Hogan: My favorite private course in Texas is Austin GC by Coore-Crenshaw. There are harder courses, and there are more prestigious clubs. There are longer layouts, and there are glitzier clubhouses. But the wonderfully flowing holes were designed for walking with the greens and tee boxes just steps away from one another. The green complexes are beautifully conceived, and good putters are rewarded (as the designer would want). You’ll need to hit every club in the bag, and the conditioning is always top notch. Everything is first class, but not pretentious or stuffy. It’s Austin cool. Just right.
My favorite public course is Lions Municipal in Austin, commonly called “Muny.” It’s affordable, accessible and very historic for many reasons, including being the first golf course in the South to be racially desegregated. Unfortunately, the 1924 course sits on land that is now worth a bazillion dollars to developers. The ongoing “Save Muny” campaign is an important endeavor for the community to preserve the open space and historic 18-hole layout. Ben Crenshaw has also floated plans for a slight redesign that would make it even more special. Let’s hope so.
My favorite sleeper course is Boot Ranch near Fredericksburg in the heart of the Hill Country. It’s a sleeper because hardly anyone knows it’s there, yet it’s a top flight club with a terrific layout by Hal Sutton. The rolling hills, streams, ponds and beautiful oak trees frame every hole, and it’s a delight to play. Boot Ranch also boasts perhaps the greatest practice facility in golf, spanning a “everything’s bigger in Texas” 34 acres. It’s first class all the way but dressed country casual, and I bet you didn’t know about it.
Brown: Private: Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas, is a Chet Williams design under Jack Nicklaus. The golf is a spectacular challenge on rolling topography in the woods north of Houston. Whispering Pines’ par-3 course, The Needler, is an important part of enjoying any visit.
Public: Cypresswood, Tradition in Spring, Texas, is a Keith Foster design from the 1990s. Navigating the fairways around the waterways is part of the strategy to get into the right position on the greens. Learning how to read the shiny or dark colors on bermuda grass greens is an important skill to learn at Cypresswood and on many other golf courses in Texas.
Sleeper: Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner are designing the PGA of America Headquarters golf course in Frisco, Texas. Expectations are high, as the course has already been named as host of the PGA Championship in the year 2034. The last major championship in men’s golf was held in 1969 at Champions.
Andriole: My favorite course is Mike Nuzzo’s Wolf Point. It is minimalism at its finest. It’s a blast to play with a plethora of options and nuanced golf features. A very limited number of people have previously been privileged to play it, but this may change with new ownership.
Sleeper: Oak Hills, San Antonio. This is a classic, Tillinghast design set on rolling hills in San Antonio. It’s a very traditional looking design at a traditional club.
Fry: Favorite course in Texas is Dallas National. Course sits on a great piece of land with great elevation change and lots of dramatic movement. The quality of the golf holes is really good and has a fantastic practice facility. Course fits into the surroundings and looks very natural. A great golfing experience. Sleeper: Oak Hills in San Antonio. Played there back in the early 90s. Very classic looking course as I remember it. You virtually never hear about it anymore but from my one trip there it brings back great memories. Understand it has some renovation work since I was last there.