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On the road in Texas: Boom subsides in Dallas - clip a coupon for best rates

By David R. Holland, Senior Writer

Lantana Golf ClubDALLAS, Texas - Driving down Preston Road in North Dallas, a busy stretch of traffic gridlock in the Yuppie Kingdom, one sees SUVs and 4-wheel-drive vehicles everywhere. Doesn't matter if the average Texan needs that extra traction once a year - you gotta look good in this trend-setting city.

Dallas has never had a problem with attractiveness. The Oil Boom brought great wealth here and Yankees by the multitudes continue to move to Texas to escape the cold winters of the north. They don't seem to mind the stifling, 100-degree summer weather complete with 90-percent humidity.

Residents of Big D have the Dallas Cowboys, winners of a record five Super Bowls. They have the Dallas Stars, owners of a Stanley Cup, and shared occupants with the NBA's Mavericks in American Airlines Center, one of the newest, state-of-the-art arenas in the country. They have the Texas Rangers and The Ballpark at Arlington, one of the most beautiful old-style yards in Major League baseball.

Good-looking facilities don't end there. Snowbirds and native Texans have year-around golf temperatures and countless handsome golf courses to select from, too. In the summer just play as early in the morning as you can or as late in the afternoon to avoid the heat.

At ultra-exclusive Preston Trail Golf Club, former host to the Byron Nelson Classic, a member has to die for a spot to open. One of those member deaths was Mickey Mantle. But even it has been moved aside as the most expensive private club by the brand-new Dallas National Golf Club, where Roger Staubach plays, and any open membership in the future might go for $175,000.

No. 18 at Dallas NationalThe Oil Boom was replaced by the Golf Boom, which hit hard here in the 1990s leading into the 2000s with more than 30 new daily-fee, resort or upscale municipals opening to the public. Today, however, there may be more supply than demand and the rack rates of the boom have decreased somewhat.

"All you need to do is check the newspapers for coupons or search for internet coupons," said Arlington-based golf-course architect Jeff Brauer, who designed the award-winning Cowboys Golf Club. "You can get some bargains during the week. I talked to one guy recently who was pleased to get a discount at Cowboys for $90. Take the day off and play on a Thursday."

Here's a look at some must plays in the Dallas area and a few of the most recent daily-fee courses to open. This list just scratches the surface.

Must Play Daily-Fee Gems

Cowboys Golf Club

Cowboys Golf ClubFew were surprised when the Dallas Cowboys unveiled the first NFL-themed golf course back in 2001. Brauer's layout, located just below Grapevine Dam adjacent to the 27-hole Grapevine Municipal Golf Course complex, measures 7,017 yards from the back tees at par 72 and features his unique style of fingered bunkering inspired by Alister MacKenzie.

The hilly layout on 159 acres is ranked by most major publications as one of the best in Texas. Construction crews had to work around a heron rookery located in 100-foot tall cottonwood trees and planted 40,000 pin oaks, pecan trees and other indigenous trees.

"Overall, I think the golfers like the natural setting of this layout and the traditional design. I personally like No. 14," Brauer said.

Fourteen is one of those short, 333-yard par-4s that places a premium on the drive with trees right and left and a creek carry on the tee shot.

The Tribute at The Colony

The Tribute at The ColonyOn the eastern banks of Lake Lewisville in The Colony is The Tribute, a Scottish replica course that, unlike Scotland, has lush conditions. Born in Scotland, built in Texas, as they like to say.

You will face undulating greens on this award-winner and if you play it on a day the wind is 30 mph you will know at least that part of Scottish golf weather. The layout, designed by former Oklahoma Sooner Tripp Davis, is a par-72, 7,002-yard layout developed on 250 acres of ranch and farm land.

Davis' design was inspired by the Scottish links courses of St. Andrews, Muirfield, Troon and Prestwick. You will stroll down The Old Course's No. 1 and finish your round with the Road Hole, No. 17, and the finishing hole at St. Andrews.

Davis is designing another course at The Tribute. "We are thinking about the first course we built at The Tribute as the Old Course and the second design at the New Course," he said. "Its design will not embody specific holes, but the style of early American courses such as Shinnecock, National Golf Links and Prairie Dunes. These courses were very natural in appearance and they tried to mimic their older brothers in Scotland."

Tour 18 Dallas

Tour 18 DallasNot far away from The Tribute is another accolade to great golf holes in the USA. Tour 18 Dallas in Flower Mound recreates Augusta's Amen Corner, the island green at Sawgrass and the famous 12th at Tulsa's Southern Hills. It leads off with Denver's Cherry Hills' No. 1, where Arnold Palmer drove the green on the par-4 and went on to win the 1960 U.S. Open.

Actually, Tour 18 Dallas isn't in Dallas. It's in the rolling hills of Denton County, 35 miles north of downtown Dallas and 30 miles from downtown Fort Worth. Since it opened in 1995, Tour 18 has been a big hit. There's another Tour 18 in Houston that's well worth the trip.

Recent daily-fee openings

Lantana Golf Club

The first thing you will notice as you drive into Lantana Golf Club are the flashy, huge bunkers. You are in the rolling hills near Argyle, just minutes from Denton north of the Metroplex, and the country setting will make the pace of Dallas slow down just a bit.

"Playing Lantana is actually like playing two different courses," designer Jay Morrish said. "There are wide open spaces - almost like meadows - and there are heavily wooded holes with changes in elevation. And the high flashed faces of the bunkers not only add to the beauty of the course, but they improve the playing experience."

Carter Morrish was in charge of the bunkering on this 7,100-yard long par-72 course, the masterpiece of a 1,718-acre master-planned community. Swales and woods create fun experiences along with water and the par-4 ninth, which you can reach with a drive from the upper tees.

The par-3 holes are fun, with No. 15 presenting a 162-yard shot to a peninsula green, but the par-4 No. 12 is where you really must think on your first visit. You see bunkers everywhere from the tee on this 414-yard dogleg left, but there's plenty of landing space out there, you just have to find it. Cut the dogleg just right and you have a wedge home.

Robson Ranch

Robson RanchWhen it's finished Robson Ranch will have 54 holes of golf in this master-planned community in Denton, just north of Dallas on I-35, not far from Lantana.

The Wildhorse and Mustang nines, designed by Texas-based golf architect Gary Stephenson, are rustic and open, and measure 6,892 yards at par 72. Strategic bunkering, water hazards and native grasses are prominent.

Stephenson tutored under David Graham and Gary Panks, joined Phil Mickelson's design team and worked on such courses in the Metroplex as Arlington's Tierra Verde and Rowlett's WaterView.

Heritage Ranch Golf and Country Club

Just outside burgeoning Plano, north of Dallas, and nestled in the rolling hills near Fairview, Heritage Ranch offers an 18-hole Arthur Hills golf course situated among century-old oak and pecan trees.

This par-72 measures 7,040 yards from the back tees, is set on 575 acres and treks through fairways lined by trees, creeks, undulating greens and a natural limestone waterfall.

"No. 2 is one of the most scenic holes in the Dallas area. It's a 406-yard slightly downhill par-4 that is flanked by a bass-filled lake," said Ron Horton, director of golf. "From the fairway, play away from the lake, as the side of the green is sloped toward doom. Actually, we have 18 quite remarkable golf holes here that are just waiting for you to play."

Where to play

Cowboys Golf Club
1600 Fairway Drive
Grapevine, TX 76051
Telephone: (817) 481-7277
Web site: www.cowboysgolf.com

The Tribute
1000 Boyd Road
The Colony, TX 75056
Telephone: (972) 370-5465
Web site: www.thetributegolflinks.com

Tour 18 Dallas
8718 Amen Corner
Flower Mound, TX 75028
Telephone: (800) 946-5310 or (817) 430-2000
Web site: www.tour18golf.com

Lantana Golf Club
800 Golf Club Drive
Lantana, TX 76226
Telephone: (940) 728-GOLF
Web site: www.lantanagolfclub.com

Robson Ranch
Wildhorse & Mustang Nines
9501 Ed Robson Blvd
Denton, Texas 76207
Telephone: (940) 246-1001
Web site: www.robson.com

Heritage Ranch Golf & Country Club
465 Scenic Ranch Circle
Fairview, TX 75069
Telephone: (972) 549-0276 or 540-6633
Web site: www.heritageranchgolf.com

Other choices:

TPC Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas,
Irving, (972) 717-0700
The Golf Club at Castle Hills, Lewisville, (972) 899-7400
Westin Stonebriar Resort, Frisco, (972) 668-8000
Bridlewood Golf Club, Flower Mound, (972) 355-4800

Where to stay

The Tribute offers a unique overnight experience upstairs in the clubhouse. Stay in themed suites named after Prestwick, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Royal Troon and St. Andrews or log on to www.thetributegolflinks.com/guestsuites.cfm for more information or call 972-370-5465 for details. While there dine and have a pint at the Old Tom Morris Pub.

Embassy Suites Hotel DFW International Airport
2401 Bass Pro Drive
Grapevine, Texas
(972) 724-2600

Gaylord Opryland Texas (opening 2004)
Scheduled to open April, 2004, in Grapevine, home of the Grapevine Opry. This 1,508 room hotel and convention center is located adjacent to Cowboys Golf Club.

Texas Vittles

A Kansas City sportswriter came to visit Dallas in March for the NCAA college baskeball first-round games and dissed Texas barbecue - in particular - Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse. Many Texans believe if it isn't slow-cooked in Texas it isn't real barbecue. Sonny Bryan's is just one of many places in the Dallas area to enjoy the mesquite-smoked dead-cow dishes. Try the one at 4030 N MacArthur Blvd, Irving, 972-650-9564. J.R. Ewing once dined here. OK, for you Yankees or if you live in Kansas City, once again, that's Larry Hagman, who was the star of the long-running TV series "Dallas".

For Tex-Mex try Matt's Rancho Martinez in the Lakewood Theater Plaza, 6312 La Vista Drive, Dallas (214) 823-5517.

Try the baked flautas, unusual chile rellenos or Mexican-style chicken-fried steak.

Discounts, coupons

Try these sites: www.e-golfdeals.com,www.Clubcorpgolf.com, www.DFW4golf.com, www.Eaglgolf.com, www.Golfcpons.com, www.GolfinDallas.net.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Senior Writer

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter at @David_R_Holland.


 
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