Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, TX
Tee Time: April 12, 2015, 8:30, 78 F, Cloudy
Designer: Jeffery Brauer, 2001
Playing Partners: Greg Ryan
Tees: Silver, Par 72 (72.6 rating/135 slope/6,563 yards)
Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)
Stats: 83 (39-44); 38 putts; 10/14 fairways; 11/18 greens; 2 penalty strokes
There’s a lot of expected extravagance at the Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas. Four replica Super Bowl trophies prominently displayed just inside the pro shop. A six-foot wide Cowboy star in the middle one of the fairways. A Cowboys magnetic pin given to all golfers to wear that lets the cart girls know you can eat and drink for free. Markers at every hole detailing various moments in the Cowboys’ rich football history (just ignore those past twenty years or so since their last Super Bowl…) Golf carts without numbers but labeled with names of Dallas Cowboys of the past instead (we got Randy White). There are constant reminders that this is the world’s only NFL themed golf club. Though being the world’s only NFL themed golf club is a lot like being world’s only golf-themed football stadium. What? Exactly. Especially to a non-Cowboys fan like myself, all of this can detract from what is a very good golf course that more than holds up to the Jerry Jones-driven hype. Even that great carnival barker who just happens to own an NFL team can’t oversell this well-constructed track. You probably won’t even hear him, what with the 747’s coming in for landing at the nearby DFW airport all day. Maybe that’s why I played well here, I couldn’t even hear myself think.
Our day started by parking in one of the spots not reserved for Dallas Cowboys Players and Coaching Staff. So there’s something Adrian Peterson and I have in common. For now. From the silver tees, the course measures 6,563 yards, or roughly the same amount of passing yards the great Steve Pelluer had as a Cowboy in the 1980’s. The first hole is a reachable par 5 of 510 yards, with a tee shot to the right of some fairway bunkers and a tough green. The second is an elevated tee shot on a 347-yard par 4 to a fairway that quickly runs out of room on the left. It’s short enough to accurately hit a lower club and still have a wedge left. The third is a beautiful par 3 over water to a very wide green 148 yards away. The green is shallow, and with water short and bunkers long, the right club is key. The par-4 5th is the longest par-4 on the course by a considerable margin. Its length plays about the number of the Cowboys single game passing yards record held by Don Meredith. If you’re a Cowboys fan, you’ll know how long this monster par 4 is. If not, well, at least you’re smart enough not to root for the Cowboys.
The 6th is a par 3 of 140 yards over a front-right bunker to a green that breaks tough front-to-back. the 7th is a 441-yard par 4, the next longest after the Don Meredith hole. It takes a good tee shot and well-placed approach to par this one. The 8th is my favorite hole on the course from a pure golf perspective. At 492 yards it’s not too long, but the shape of the hole dictates everything. It bends sharp to the left about 230 yards away around some trees. You have to get past that to have an open look, but go too far, like say a solid hit with a driver, and you’re in the lake. From there, it’s a tough call to go for it. It will be reachable with a hybrid, but there are so many bunkers and mounds on all sides of the green that a conservative layup may be the best option. Not to mention that lake, which if you really make a bad swing is sitting there for you. The front nine closes with a pretty par 4 of 390 yards. There’s a big tree on the right of the fairway that steers your shot, unless you try to go through it like I may have.
The 10th is a straightaway simple par 4 of 333 yards. There’s not even a bunker (which after yesterday, I won’t complain about). The 11th is also pretty simple, a 401-yard par 4, but they add a bunker to the front right. The par-4 12th is longer than 10 or 11, at 418 yards, and it has two greenside bunkers. Working our way back up to tough golf. I don’t know how I bogeyed two of these first three holes on the back side. The 13th is maybe the prettiest hole on the course. A long par 5 of 555 yards, there is a deep creek about 80 yards from the flag that you have to negotiate your layup around. A tree leaning over the fairway to the left also takes away the best angle to the green, as a large bunker guards the front-right. It’s a great hole, the best on the back side. The 14th is a driveable 327-yard par 4. Well, I guess more driveable in a few months when the fairways firm up. I crushed one about twenty yards short from a tee box that was up for this day. The par-3 15th is 140 yards and has a gnarly back-to-front slope to the green. The par-4 16th is 425 yards with lots of trouble left of the green. A bunker is actually the best result over there. There’s a steep slope that kicks most balls back into the water, so miss right. The 17th is a tough par 3 of 176 yards uphill to a green well-guarded by raised bunkers and a very tough green to read. The 18th, if you can believe it, is an even bigger bunker-fest than the 18th at Old American Golf Club. A reachable, 499-yard par 5 with sand in the way of every shot you’ll take. It’s a tough hole to close on, made easier only by the lack of any real OB and not too long.
I bet Cowboys Golf Club would be a top golf course in Texas even without the branding. It’s a really fun design that used every club in my bag. And it had a lot of great holes to bomb the driver around on. I bet all the NFL players with those 19″ biceps who get out on this course with their extra-stiff flex drivers and 120 miles-per-hour swing speeds enjoy it, too. The course does have a certain Cowboys mystique to it. I felt it when I closed my round +5 on the final 3 holes to lose my chance at breaking 80, much like Dallas’ December collapses to lose their chance at the playoffs most seasons. It was pretty cool playing an NFL course. Previously, the only time I’d seen football and golf mix was the time Oakland Raiders wide receiver Alvis Whitted hit a golf ball over my house and broke my truck’s windshield on the driveway in Blackhawk. Naturally, the Raiders refused to pay for the new one, but at least I got to meet the only player in NFL history named Alvis. Anyways, if you get the chance, it’s definitely worth taking in a round here, even though I personally hate giving the NFL any more of my money to feed Roger Goodell’s inexplicable salary.
#4, Par 4, 352 yards, 11-handicap, My Score: 4
It’s not the best hole on the course, but the par-4 4th is the signature feature at Cowboys Golf Course. It’s actually a nice hole, with the most elevated tee shot of the day to a narrow fairway and a green with a nasty false front. It’s not an easy par. The big feature is the 6-foot-wide Cowboys star in the center of the fairway. It’s actually painted astroturf, so it’s better to aim and come up just shy of the star and have a good lie on the fairway. Good thing it’s a pretty nice logo, and not something hideous like the Titans’ flaming thumbtack or something. Plus, prime picture taking.
Layout: A-; every club in the bag is in play.
Amenities: A; free snacks and drinks (non-alcoholic) is nice, plus a solid practice facility and clubhouse.
Staff: A; I’m giving them the A because they were friendly, helpful, and didn’t boot me off the course for wearing a 49ers hat.
Difficulty: B; from tee to green it’s nothing too hard, but the greens are borderline circus putts.
Scenery: C; the setting is a serene, tree-lined golf course, but the never-ending flow of jumbo jets screaming overhead does get old after about the 20th American Airlines flight.
Value: C-; $185+tax, which is way too much for this golf course. But compared to the nosebleed seats $200 would get you at AT&T Stadium (aka Jerry World), I’d rather spend my $200 here for something Cowboys-themed.
Overall GPA: 3.07 (B); a fun course whether or not you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan. And hey, at least it isn’t a course owned by the Denver Broncos.