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Let's Play Nine

Nine hole golf courses have been a backbone of the game and are enjoying a resurgence


With time at a premium in the mod- ern world and the game of golf continuing to grow, we continue to see a renewed interest in the non-traditional round played on courses that are less than 18 holes. New facilities are opening across the country and throughout the state of Texas. The bottom line is that nine-hole courses have been a big part of the golf world since the game was invented. It took until 1974 for there to be more 18- hole courses in America than nine-hole facilities. Many of the nation’s premier golf clubs – with names likeThe Country Club in Boston, Merion in Philadelphia, and East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta – were founded with just nine golf holes originally in play.

That list includes a number of the most ballyhooed courses inTexas, including the eponymous country clubs in the state’s four largest metropolitan areas. Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin all had nine-hole courses first before expanding to 18 holes.The National Golf Foundation lists 167 nine-hole, regulation-length golf courses in the Lone Star State. Sometimes, playing nine holes is enough golf for one day. If you have a hankering to double that amount, well you can play the course twice, often for the same price or just a few dollars more. The Texas Golf Insider has whittled down the state’s extensive list of nine-hole courses to a dozen of the best, with a little variety in the location of the courses to make sure you can find one near you.

Dallas-Fort Worth area Timberlinks Country Club (Denton) This par 35, 3,043-yard course has it all: unique and interesting holes, very good conditions, reasonable rates, and great putting surfaces.The layout, designed by Lyndy Lindsey, is fair but challenging and will test course management and shot-making skills with its tight fairways, doglegs, dramatic elevation changes, several ponds and creeks, sand and grass bunkers, rolling fairways, risk/reward opportunities, and well- protected greens. Starr Hollow Golf Club (Tolar)

Starr Hollow GC is an exclusive, uber-private golf course located on a 3,000-acre working ranch southwest of FortWorth.The course was designed by Joe Finger and founded and owned by Marvin Leonard in 1967, who also built Colonial Country Club and Shady Oaks. Starr Hollow is serene, scenic, loaded with wildlife, and home to a splendid variey of golf holes all kept in flawless condition. Many golf aficionados refer to the club as “Little Augusta.”

Stewart Peninsula Golf Course (Lewisville) Designed by Tripp Davis, this fun and very demanding course was Inspired by both Scotland’s classic links architecture and California’s Monterey Peninsula coastal courses.The course has views of Lake Lewisville from almost every hole, with forced carries, downhill shots, doglegs, water, bunkers, tough approach shots and more demanding your best throughout.Two sets of tee boxes and two pins on each green make each nine a little different. Sand Hills Golf & Country Club opened in 1962 and features 3,045 yards of golf from the back tees for a par of 36, all with pristine Zoysia fairways. Three holes stand out on layout – the 470-yard fourth, a reachable-in-two par 5; the 270-yard, drivable par 4 sixth, and the 220-yard par 3 eighth, the most difficult hole on the course.Two sets of tees allow for an 18-hole round. On the weekends, the course is open only to members in the middle of the day.

Central Texas

Blue Lake Golf Club is set on the south shore of Lake LBJ on a portion of the former Wennmohs Ranch. Finger designed the 2,376- yard, par 32 layout without a sand bunker and with a routing that includes five par 3s, three par 4s and one par 5.The first course record (which might still be the record, according to club management) is 55 for two turns around track as set in 1964 by 1959 Masters champion Jackie Burke.The course features rolling terrain – level lies are a premium – Bermuda greens, doglegs, lots of trees and views of the lake from several tees and fairways. Adjacent toWillie’s re- cording studio and condos, it’s scenic and quiet, and there are few rules – sixsomes, beer, country music, and tee-shirts are common. A fun track to play and a relax- ing and refreshing divergence from the formal country club scene.The pro shop features all kinds of Nelson golf para- phernalia.

East Texas Marshall Lakeside Country Club (Marshall) Lakeside is the oldest course in Mar- shall and one of the oldest in the state, dating back to 1923 when a routing by Gus Carter debuted. This traditional course plays at 3,131 yards and features tight, tree-lined fairways, tiny, raised and swerving greens, and a good amount of water. Celebrities such as Mickey Mantle,Y.A. Tittle, and Roy Clark have graced the fairways here.The course was renovated in the mid- 1950s, with Dallas-based architect Lee Singletary doing some work on the course over the years. West Texas Concho Springs Golf Course (Eden) Designed by Williams, Gill & Associ- ates, this 6,000-plus yard course tests even the best of golfers. Hardin Creek winds its way along and has a say in play on eight of the holes. Elevated tees on three holes add to the challenge, and the course’sTifEagle Bermuda putting surfaces sport an average square footage of 5,500 and are considered by some as the best greens in the region. Though hunting is not allowed, one should not be surprised to see deer, turkey or other wildlife roaming the course.

South Texas Palmilla Beach GC, Port Aransas Palmilla Beach is a fun, fresh, fast play and Texas’ only “true links” course, with three holes right on the water. Originally designed by Arnold Palmer, Palmilla is now a 12-hole facility, including nine holes of regulation play plusThe Loop, a three-hole, family-friendly short course. The routing includes coastal sand dunes, open parkland and Paspalum turf that allows balls to “run” much further.The course is an amenity of the posh Palmilla Beach Resort & Golf Community, but ev- eryone is welcome.There is no member- ship required nor is there a dress code.Beeville Country Club, Beeville Country Club features a private 3,218-yard course with plush Bermuda grass from tee to green, dozens of Coastal Live Oaks, narrow, tree-lined fairways and small putting surfaces. No need to bring your sand wedge as there are no bunkers, and water also protects the front of the greens on holes 5, 7, and 8. Opened in 1944, the course has been voted among the top dozen nine-hole facilities in Texas and is fun to play from start to finish.

Houston area Conroe Country Club, Conroe Conroe CC is a traditional, solid course with tree-lined fairways and tiny greens. Majestic oaks add character to the facility, which originally opened as the San Jacinto Country Club to provide recreation for residents in the oil business. A private facility designed by John Bredemus and opened in 1931, Conroe CC plays at 3,176 yards. It gained fame for its annual invitational golf tournament, which drew the likes of future PGA Tour players Miller Barber, Homero Blancas, Rocky Thompson and Dave Marr over the years.The course was renovated in 2010 with help of architect Jeff Blume but retains its Golden Age flavor. Big Easy Ranch, Columbus

Set on land where the Texas Hill Country makes way for the Coastal Plain, the splendid nine-hole Chet Williams- designed course at Big Easy Ranch features all par 3s ranging from 65 to 251 (!) yards.With dramatic elevation changes and beautiful waterfalls, this isn’t your average par 3 course as whitetail deer and exotics freely roam the prop- erty, creating the perfect backdrop for a unique golf experience. Completing the golf amenities are a driving range, putting green, a short-game practice area and The Golf Academy. Big Easy Ranch has become widely recognized and lauded for its world-class hunting, wing shooting, state-of-the-art sporting clay course and trophy bass fishing as well as its golf, set- ting itself apart from other hunting and sporting clubs.

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