GRANBURY, Texas - Okay, so the outlaw Jesse James wasn't buried in Granbury as some dreamers tried to convince the world. And maybe it is just another Tall Texas Tale that Billy the Kid lived to and old age in nearby Hico.
Tourists don't need those kind of Texas tales to have a reason to come to this historic area and visit Texas' No. 1 town square and courthouse - especially golf tourists. Something of value was unearthed here recently and it wasn't some old gunslinger's bones - it's called Harbor Lakes Golf Club.
Veteran designer Dick Phelps can discuss "unearthed" in a totally different perspective. "When the contractor started he went down no more than three or four feet and ran into water, so they just took that soil and used it for housing pads." And that was the beginning of some great strategic lakes dotted throughout this new golf course about 30 minutes southwest of Fort Worth.
Simply put, Harbor Lakes is the best new daily-fee golf course in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for 2003.
Harbor Lakes measures 7,239 yards at par 72 - big enough for the long ball, but there are plenty of stretches on this strategic layout where pinpoint accuracy is needed to avoid the water - in particular nine and 18. These hazards are bulkheaded, adding to the beauty and in the distance Comanche Peak rises and Lake Granbury, a fisherman's paradise, is also insight.
No. 9, only 361 yards, has water all down the right side, and it's risk-reward, you can cut off as much as you dare on the man-made lake. No. 18 at 401 yards, has water on all sides of the approach and the fairway narrows down to sliver. Come up wide right or left and short on the second shot and you pay the price.
A corner of Lake Granbury comes into play on holes 13 through 15 with the lake just five steps from the back of tee No. 14, a 600-yard par-5 dogleg right.
But perhaps the thing you will like the best is the condition of the brand-new gem. The Tifsport Bermudagrass fairways are near perfect and the ball sits up cleanly. And the Tifeagle Bermuda greens are rolling true. Management used a full year for grow-in.
"I think most golfers have a love-hate relationship with this much water in a layout," said Phelps, a member of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. "But it adds a lot of beauty and strategy to the golf course."
Harbor Lakes' Director of Golf and General Manager Robert McMillan played on the Asian Tour and the European Tour for six years, including an appearance at the 113th British Open at Royal Birkdale. He was raised in Glasgow, Scotland and worked at Turnberry, living only 11 paces from the first tee box of the Ailsa Course.
One would think golf experiences would be all downhill from there, but McMillan is thrilled about his job in Texas. "People from the Dallas-Fort Worth area used to come to Granbury for the antique shopping, but now travel golfers are coming here to spend the night and play Harbor Lakes.
"This is an amazing Dick Phelps layout. It will never be Turnberry or Medinah, but for Texas this is the best course I've seen. Hole for hole it is outstanding and playable. And when you get on holes 13-15 on the banks of Lake Granbury you must stop and enjoy the view. We won't call it 'Amen Corner' but we need to come up for a name for that stretch of holes," McMillan said.
Tim McNutt, vice president of Prime Golf, which manages the course property, says a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse, now under construction, will add even more to Harbor Lakes.
The bottom line? Harbor Lakes is now one of the must-play golf courses in Texas.
Granbury's historic Courthouse Square is a great day trip from the Metroplex. Jesse James and Granbury? In 1995 there was a exhumation of an assumed Jesse James burial site with nationwide press. The gravediggers thought they would prove through DNA matches of descendants in James' family tree that indeed the outlaw was buried here and not in Missouri. No proof was ever substantiated.
The town, no doubt, loves legends and lore. Another story surrounds the suspicion that former resident John St. Helen was really President Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth. Can Texans dream 'em up or what?
December 15, 2003