Old American Golf Club in The Colony, TX
Tee Time: April 10, 2015, 11:00, 70 F, Windy
Designer: Tripp Davis/Justin Leonard, 2010
Playing Partners: Greg Ryan
Tees: White, Par 71 (71.6 rating/130 slope/6,366 yards)
Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)
Stats: 96 (48-48); 37 putts; 5/13 fairways; 2/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes
Old American Bunker Club, sorry, I mean Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, is a newer, semi-private golf course along the shores of Lake Lewisville. If I said there are 500 bunkers on this course, I’d be low. And they’re all so easy to hit into. They’re not there just for show, to look good on the front of the scorecard. Technically, they’re waste areas and are played as such. The description says the bunkers here are meant to be true hazards, punishing missed shots instead of rewarding them with fluffy lies to make sand saves from. I personally didn’t find the actual bunkers that intimidating; there are just so many that it becomes a nuisance, like mosquitoes on a muggy summer day. Try as hard to avoid them as you want to avoid them, they’ll still get you. The sand isn’t that much different from the typical sand trap. I expected the “waste area” to be a dump of thin lies, scattered twigs and other muni lies. Instead the only difference is you’re allowed to ground your club in the sand. At least they didn’t rule some areas waste and some bunkers, or I could’ve pulled a Dustin Johnson. Now that I’ve described the bunkers, the other half of the course that isn’t sand is actually very nice. I didn’t mind the sand until about the twelfth time in them. The least they could do is not make me rake the waste area.
The course opens with a 393-yard par 4. There isn’t really a signature hole here; they all follow a similar template. It’s pretty nice. The view off the tee is always familiar except for a couple big doglegs that hide the green. It’s a tough tee shot, avoiding sand in the middle of the fairway and carrying the water. The second is a par 4 much like the first. Dogleg-left and 408-yards framed by bunkers. It’s also where Greg hit about a dozen golf balls OB to the left from the tee. If every golf ball had a seed in the center that germinated if you lost it and then grew into a tree, he would be responsible for turning Old American’s second hole into the rain forest. The first par 3 is the 153-yard second. The green on this is large with several breaks. Though fortunately it’s one of the few holes you can’t hit a sand trap on unless you really come up short. The 5th is a par-4 that doglegs hard to the left. At 423 yards, you have to hit pretty far out there to have a shot without the trees in the way. The second of three front-nine par 3’s, the 174-yard 6th, is a straightforward shot with a glimpse of the lake behind it. The par-5 7th is the easiest chance at a birdie. At 476-yards and dogleg to the right, it sets up for a manageable second shot from the fairway, but long and left of the green is a hazard, and the ball can easily run into it. The 192-yard 8th is a beast of a par 3, especially with the wind. There will always be wind. The 325-yard 9th is a 90-degree left turn to an elevated green and a tricky wedge in.
The course heads back by the clubhouse at the 10th hole. The 407-yard par 4 has their signature barn in the background. The legend goes that it was originally located on a farm in Michigan, built in the 1920’s, before being moved down to function as Old American’s cart barn. It is the stereotypical red barn and looks right at home with the rustic look of the golf course. The 11th is a long par 4 of 437 yards with a tee shot to one of the widest fairways on the course. The par-3 12th plays 171 yards and the same direction as the 8th, so whatever the wind did to your ball there it’ll probably do again. Now that’s a pro tip. Except Greg parred it and I doubled, so maybe we should ask him how to play this one. The 13th is a pretty par 4 with lots of trees in view from the tee. At 380 yards and without as many reachable sand traps, it’s one of the easier holes on the course. The 14th is a long, 538-yard par 5 that snakes left-to-right-to-left. I thought it was reachable, but the second shot would have to be no less than a 3-wood over a lot of hazard and some sand traps. So instead I made a 7. The 451-yard 15th has the best view of the lake when you get to the green. You can also see across the lake to the Tribute golf course and its replication of famous holes, like the big candy cane lighthouse from Harbour Town.
The 16th may be driveable with a friendly breeze, at 305-yards. But it’s not worth it because there are nasty sand traps to land in and have awkward 80-yard shots out of. The toughest par 3 is the 17th, at only 139 yards yet with a very wide green which is raised enough to make it hard to read what it will do. Old American’s final hole is the 489-yard, par-5 18th. They must have had a quota on bunkers to place on the course, and didn’t reach it by the final hole because they loaded this one with about 10 of them. Or it just felt like I had seen enough sand for one day. It’s a great closing hole though. Short enough to get aggressive with, but there is trouble with sand (obviously) and some water.
Old American Golf Club is a pretty fun course. I bet the members enjoy it a lot more than a one-time guest, as I was. It is one of the toughest golf courses I’ve played, but I feel that by the tenth try, things might get a little easier. I might even break 90. There’s enough variety here to keep the layout fresh for hundreds of rounds. Greens with multiple viable pin positions, tee shots that will never bounce the same way, different lies from the fairway. And of course, the Texas wind that forged such great ball strikers as designer Justin Leonard. As hard as it was, it was a good challenge. It really points out your weaknesses, like putting. I would say this is one of the top places to go in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and relatively affordable.
#3, Par 5, 531 yards, 14-handicap, My Score: 5
It’s hard to single out one hole here as my favorite. Each hole seems to seamlessly blend into the next. But if there’s one that I may remember best in a few years, it would be the par-5 3rd. It is the highest tee box and has a landing spot that funnels balls an extra twenty yards into go-for-it position. The fairway is wide enough to let you swing a little harder and really set up to go for it. I went left into the greenside bunker and made par from there. The best part of the hole, though, is crossing the bridge from the second green to the third tee. It used to be a railroad bridge that crossed the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma for about a century before being relocated to its current spot, crossing golf carts from one hole to the next. You’d think I might have been nervous crossing a 100-year old bridge, but I wasn’t worried. Greg lightened the load on the second hole by leaving about a dozen golf balls there.
Layout: A; play it 100 times and you’ll never experience the same round. That’s impressive
Amenities: A-; free snacks and drinks included with greens fees, but I did have to pay for a pretty unimpressive bratwurst.
Staff: A; a great staff all around
Difficulty: A; I can only think of a couple courses I’ve played that were as demanding of good golf shots
Scenery: B; pleasant views of Lake Lewisville on some holes, as well as a secluded feel with very few homes visible from the course
Value: B-; at $150+ tax for guests, it’s not the best bargain around, but it is made up for by being a great course, free food and drink, and being less crowded than a public access course
Overall GPA: 3.57 (B+); a pretty fun course with a great, natural atmosphere to enjoy for a few hours