DALLAS, Texas - Roger Staubach is preparing for his drive on the elevated No. 3 tee box at the new private Dallas National Golf Club. On a clear day he can see Texas Stadium from here - the field of dreams where he once dodged Redskins, thrilled packed houses for America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys, and completed some unbelievable comebacks.
From several spectacular lofty tee-box perches here, Staubach can see the vision and hopes of Dallas National Golf Club, but the dream was John MacDonald's. Staubach is just along for the ride and to enjoy the golf. A $30-million golf dream, no less.
MacDonald's dream is for another Dallas comeback - to return to the city to the national golf map and perhaps to host a major PGA event some time in the future. And he expects Dallas National to be ranked nationally.
Not since Preston Trail was ranked in the Top 100 by Golf Digest back in 1980 has a Dallas layout been honored as one of the elite in the country. MacDonald, who is also a Golf Digest rater, thinks DNGC has the quality to host the next major championship in Dallas - something that hasn't happened since the 1963 PGA at Dallas Athletic Club.
Dallas National, a hefty Tom Fazio design at par-72, and 7,326 yards from the Texas Tees, sold 100 memberships before it even opened last year. Its 250 memberships selling at $125,000 initiation fee are already gone and there's only the possibility that some additional national memberships might be offered.
This Oak Cliff expedition on verdant zoysia fairways crosses two canyons, rolls past a couple of creeks and climbs atop two plateaus on the Dallas-Duncanville-Grand Prairie borders.
Its 388 acres are stunning, dotted by heavy woods of cedar, elm and oak, hillsides planted with wildflowers, and elevation changes of more than 170 feet. Eight expansive wooded bridges traverse the ravines, providing picture-perfect photo ops. Cavernous, huge bunkers cascade from putting surfaces creating dramatic recoveries.
Any golfer who has lived near or traveled past this hilly section of Dallas, only six miles from downtown, probably thought for years it would be excellent land for a golf course - a tract far different from the normal flat land you would expect here in North Texas.
MacDonald was surprised and elated the acreage was available and so were its members.
"I am shocked that this stunning landscape was overlooked for that long," said Staubach, who owns a commercial real estate company. "It took an avid golfer to take on the re-zoning challenge with the city. Now we have, without a doubt, the prettiest piece of land in Dallas."
For 40 years Lone Star Industries owned the land, attempting to get needed permits and zoning for excavation and the making of Lone Star Cement. It never happened.
That's when MacDonald, a former partner at Ernst and Young, snatched the beautiful land, and set his goal to create one of the best golf courses in the world - forget about the best in Dallas. He told Fazio to make it tough with a high slope rating.
And once Fazio had seen the property he echoed praise of the site.
"If Dallas National was the only course I ever designed, I feel I would have had a great career. Many golfers will feel this is the best course I've ever designed," Fazio confidently declared. "This is the best tract of land left in America close to a downtown."
MacDonald says he thinks it is a miracle piece of land, but with all the drama of the site and the undulations of the terrain he says most people don't realize not that much dirt was moved. Also amazing is only one hole plays uphill.
The Dallas elite have certainly noticed. The Major League's richest baseball player, Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers, has joined, along with former Dallas Stars' Brett Hull, now with Detroit. Lee Trevino is on board along with another former Ranger, Kenny Rogers.
"After hockey I plan to reside in Dallas," said Hull. "Two reasons - friends and Dallas National. The course is truly phenomenal - hole No. 15 makes me think of Hawaii. I can't wait to return."
"Dallas National is in the same league with the greatest courses in the country, like Augusta National. Not only the golf course, but the environment. It also has great caddies and no homes," the Rangers' Rodriguez said.
There you have it. The management, the architect and the members love it - think it's worthy of surpassing Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth as Texas' next Top 100 listing. What do you see from the fairways?
The 10th tee vista starts you downhill on a 575-yard par-5 that features bunkers right then left with a stand of trees nudging into the fairway. The second shot must contend with bunkers crossing to the middle of the fairway from the left.
When No. 14 was built, a 376-yard par-4, the design team sheered off a cliff, then used that dirt to fill the fairway, creating a tee shot onto a fairway that slopes left with bunkers on the left.
The par-3 No. 17, a 245-yard monster from the back, resembles a quarry hole, but Fazio created this one. Squared-off limestone walls border both sides and tee shots must clear native grasses to reach the green.
It's a very playable layout from the correct tees, but from the back with rough and more narrow fairways it could test any pro.
Is Dallas National that good? You bet. Stay tuned to see if it is good enough to crack Golf Digest's Top 100 in the USA. It is a remarkable course for Dallas because of the hilly terrain and it's destined to match the best layouts in Texas.
One thing you can be certain of if a major title is held here in the future - the PGA Tour players will voice their opinions about walking it. Shoot, they complain about the hilly La Cantera Resort Course where the Texas Open is held in San Antonio.
No one's going to complain about the experience of playing here, however. Only the privileged will get the opportunity.
Dallas National Golf Club
Dallas, Texas 75211
Telephone: (214) 331-4195
Dallas National Golf Club, initiation fee $125,000, monthly dues, $550, sold out. Preston Trail, $100,000 and $650. Brookhollow, $60,000 and $365. Northwood, $60,000 and $365. Dallas Country Club, $60,000 and $300. Royal Oaks, $40,000 and $310. Gleneagles, $38,000 and $426. Stonebriar, $35,000 and $417. Bent Tree $35,000 and $350. Las Colinas Sports Club, $32,500 and $445.
Dallas National features: There are awesome views of downtown Dallas, Texas Stadium and Las Colinas. Crenshaw L-93 Bentgrass greens. Includes three plateaus with 170-foot elevation changes. Eight bridges cross ravines and 12 holes sit atop or on the edge of plateaus. Holes 9 to 14 cut through limestone canyons with two streams running through the bottoms. Most of the course was been sculpted out of limestone and all of the sandy loam topsoil was hauled in from Arlington. The cart paths are dyed tan to blend with nature and reduce glare in searing Dallas summertime heat. The 155-slope rating is the USGA's highest rating. A golf course of standard playing difficulty has a USGA Slope Rating of 113.
Amenities: Unfortunately, the Hill Country-styled limestone rock clubhouse burned down on April 30. It was about 50-percent complete. Reconstruction will begin immediately and the loss was estimated at $1.5 million. The limestone rock outside work was completed and work was beginning on the inside wood. When finished it will have men's and women's locker rooms.
Other features: Practice area includes 130-yard-wide driving range, including covered areas that will be used for teaching and videotaping. Members have two short-game practice areas and two putting areas. No houses will spoil the course, but 12 cabins will be built for the National out-of-town members. Caddies and forecaddies are available.
May 3, 2003