- Steve Habel
Great Golf, Great Food, Great Fellowship
If you are familiar with the Bayou Golf Course here on theTexas Gulf Coast, you know it’s one of the region’s best bangs for the buck, a place where you can enjoy a solid round of golf on a well-conditioned course in a well-paced manner for less than $40. Those attributes check a lot of boxes for most golfers, but add in a challenging routing with a great mix of holes, along with testing greens complexes and de- manding putting surfaces and Bayou Golf Course rises above the norm. “Our players have come to understand that we consider them like part of our family, and that is one of the things that makes a round at our course and the time spent here before and after the round so appealing,” said Mike Skiba, Bayou Golf Course’s head professional and director of golf. “We see some of our players two or three times a week – and that’s a good thing.” Bayou Golf Course is a hybrid links/ parkland-style facility that was carved out of about 200 acres of marshland and origi- nally designed by legendaryTexas golf ar- chitect Joe Finger in 1974. It was restored and enhanced in 2014 by Houstonian Mike Nuzzo and is better now than ever, playing at 6,596 windswept yards from the back tees and to a par of 72. Bayou Golf Course is just 14 miles from the Galveston city limits and is located in Galveston County on the out- skirts ofTexas City. Moses Bayou skirts the property as it flows toward Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, with water com- ing into play on 12 of the holes. There are also 18 sand bunkers strate- gically placed in throughout the routing to form a formidable combination with the course’s slightly elevated tees and greens. From the back tees four of the par 4s are carded at over 400 yards and three of the par 5s play at more than 500 yards. Add in the wind, which is always blowing here, and those seven holes alone clearly indicate the need for prowess with the driver. After two relatively easy holes to start the round, the 414-yard par 4 third ups the ante aplenty, playing into the prevail- ing wind with water along the left on the approach and trees on the right near the primo landing area.The bayou also skirts behind the smallish and undulating putting surface at the back-left. It’s one of the toughest pars on the Gulf Coast. The 414-yard par 4 sixth demands thought and course management.The tee shot must be short of the bayou that begins 225 yards off the tee, after which approach requires another wind-affected long iron to a tiny green. The 481-yard par-5 10 offers the golfer a risk/reward option.There is a lake in play off the tee and on the approach and out of bounds on the left, but birdie or better is within reach with two, or three, well executed shots. Bayou Golf Club is renowned for its four-hole closing stretch.The 573-yard par 5 15th is the longest hole here and has a double dogleg. Next up is the deadly and long 191-yard par 3 16th, which always seem to need one more club than you think to reach the putting surface.
The 17th, at 457 yards, is a dogleg- left with a stout carry across the turn to the fairway and the longest par 4 on the course.Trees stand sentinel on the left side as well, which if taken on with a success- ful drive can shorten the approach, if not you’ll write down bogey or worse. Most of the Bayou Golf Course’s regular players consider a par here to be like a birdie, especially on those days when the wind comes in from the north. The round wraps up with a 393-yard par-4 that’s considered one of the best fin- ishing holes in the Bay Area.There’s water along the left side and a deep bunker that guards the tournament hole placement at the back-left. Time does not stand still and neither do the demands placed on the manage- ment of a golf course. It’s a constant battle with Mother Nature and the wear and tear placed on a course by those who play it to keep conditions at their best and adapt to the occasional curveball thrown into the mix by the weather or other intangibles. This is another aspect in which Bayou Golf Course really shines.The course just completed a renovation of all its cart paths on the back-nine, with plans in the future to redo the front-nine paths, to improve drainage throughout (especially on the front-nine, which is the most affected by the bay’s tidal pools) and re-grass some areas on the edges of the course that have been damaged by the brackish water. There are also plans on the table to construct a new clubhouse for the course. All of those needs are on the to-do list put together by Skiba, who’s been the Bayou Golf Course’s head professional and direc- tor of golf for nearly six years. Skiba, with great help fromTexas City’s city council and community leaders, has produced a steady increase in play at the Bayou GC through the years, with the largest uptick coming after golf’s overall resurgence and growth during and since the pandemic. “The city’s leaders understand that Bayou Golf Course is a community ame- nity, just like a park, but one that makes money to help pay for itself,” Skiba said. “We have had an increase on our rounds, and I think that comes from a combina- tion of the efforts we employ to keep the course in the best shape possible and the friendly attitude we provide to our players. They know they are appreciated.” Bayou Golf Course is famously known as the place where Butch Harmon, one of the game’s most noted and famed instruc- tors, got his first job in the golf business. “There are people who want to play this course just because Butch used to teach here,” Skiba said. “I’m no Butch Harmon, but if you want to improve your golf game, I can get you on the right track.” The facility also offers the community a five-and-a-half acre walking family pitch- and-putt course with holes that play from 60 to 90 yards. It’s a place where you can find both the skilled golfer looking to hone his or her skills around the greens (and who isn’t) as well as beginners just learn- ing about how great golf can be. It’s the home to a First Tee program. “I love to see the kids out there – that’s our future right there, and they are learning just how much fun golf can be,” Skiba said. “Our First Tee program continues to grow each year.”