Welcome to our “Where I Played” series, in which a GOLF staffer runs through a recent day at a course you might play in your future. On this occasion, we’re teeing it up at the Rawls Course in Lubbock, Texas.
I grew up in Lubbock, Texas, and every time I make it back to visit my folks, I make it a point to play the course where I fell in love with golf — the Rawls Course. Playing on the high school golf team, every day when the dismissal bell rang, my teammates and I would pile into our cars and make the short drive over to the Rawls. And although I did more goofing off than practicing, my time spent out there dominated my formative golf years. I still can’t help but smile thinking back on those days.
This past holiday season, I trekked down to Lubbock for what I thought would be a quick five-day trip. Southwest Airlines had other ideas. When the budget carrier had a system-wide meltdown that all but ground their operation to a halt, I was stranded in my hometown for two weeks.
With an abundance of free time on my hands, I decided to get back to my roots and play golf like a kid again. Every day that the weather allowed, I’d load up my mom’s car, drive over to the Rawls to play and practice until the sun went down.
If you’re ever in West Texas (not sure why you would be, but I digress), the Rawls is a must-play.
Course: The Rawls Course, Lubbock, Texas
My tee time: Multiple
Course type: Public (Dynamic pricing; $94 peak)
Difficulty: It all depends on the wind. If you catch the Rawls on a calm day (there aren’t many of those on the South Plains), it’s not especially difficult. The fairways are wide and forgiving, and the greens are big enough that even a novice can notch some GIRs. But when the wind blows, the course isn’t so simple.
The prevailing wind in Lubbock comes out of the southwest, and Tom Doak built the course with that in mind. The 8th and 14th — two of the hardest holes on the course — play directly into the fan, making them three-shot par 4s for most recreational players. But even the downwind holes aren’t easy. Trying to hold a green with a 30 mph wind at your back isn’t easy in normal conditions, but trying to do so with dry, baked-out greens borders on impossible.
The course rating from the back tees (7,349 yards) is 75.3, but when the wind is whipping, it might as well be 80.
How to get there: The Rawls Course is located just north of Texas Tech’s campus at the intersection of 4th St. and Indiana Ave. From the airport, you hop on I-27 south for a few miles and then take the Marsha Sharp Freeway over to 4th street. From there, it’s a straight shot down 4th until the course comes up on your right.
Fun facts: Although you may have never heard of it, the Rawls Course is one of the best value courses in America. According to our Top 100 Value Courses ranking, it’s 19th in the country when it comes to bang for your buck. Tom Doak — a minimalist by nature — designed the course, but was forced to go outside his comfort zone to do so. Instead of relying on the land to shape the course, his team moved 1.3 million yards of topsoil to sculpt the course. The result is a links-style course smack dab in the middle of West Texas.
Notable/favorite holes: The par-4 15th has ling been one of my favorite holes, and that remains true to this day. The tee shot is challenged by deep cross bunkers, forcing you to either bail out left and leave a 200-yard approach shot, or try to bomb one over the sand. The approach doesn’t get much easier as the wind at your back forces you to land the ball short to run your ball onto the green. But don’t hit it too short. In the runway to the green, there’s a well-placed sand trap that will gobble up any balls not hit to the correct spot. There’s no cheating this hole. If you don’t step up and hit two solid shots, making anything less than bogey is a tall task.
I loved: The shot-making options afforded to you. I’ve seen high- and low-ball hitters experience success here, and there’s no one correct path to the green. It’s a course that will have you using every club in the bag — on approaches and around the greens — and lets you play a variety of trajectories with every shot. If you like options, the Rawls Course is a great course for you.
I didn’t love: The wind can be tough. There are days at the Rawls when the wind blows so hard that you can barely keep your ball on the green. It’s a rarity when it happens, but far less rare than other parts of the country. If you don’t enjoy battling the elements, the Rawls Course probably isn’t the place for you.