Historic courses in Texas you can play

From Tillinghast to Bredemus, historic golf courses in Texas you can play

Colonial Country Club, host of the Dean & Deluca Invitational, has long been one of the PGA Tour's favorite stops for players and fans alike. One of the reasons is its historical setting. Originally designed by John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell in 1936, the course has been renovated in recent years, restoring much of its past glory. Of course, Colonial is also synonymous with the great Ben Hogan, who won the Colonial Invitational five times and played much of his golf there after he retired.

Unless you know a member who will invite you to Colonial or compete in a tournament, you can't play it. It's exclusive. The good news, though, is that there are plenty of classic golf courses in Texas that everyone can play (although a couple, including Fort Worth's historic Glen Garden Golf & Country Club and San Antonio's Pecan Valley recently closed). These old haunts might not be as manicured or have really nice locker rooms, but they provide historical perspective. Here's a look:

Dallas-Fort Worth

Stevens Park: Originally designed by Jack Burke Sr. (father of 1956 Masters champion Jack Burke Jr.) in 1922, Stevens Park remains one the DFW area's favorite golf courses, public or private, especially after a 2001 renovation by Fort Worth-based Colligan Golf. Headed up by design associate Trey Kemp, the facelift has folks sometimes referring to it as "Little Augusta" with its rolling hills and classic look. The par 71 is just a little more than 6,000 yards, but it's anything but easy.

Tenison Park: Like Stevens Park, Tenison Park is only a 10-minute drive from downtown Dallas. The 36 holes there can trace their history back to 1924. The Tenison Park Highlands Course, which was redesigned by D.A. Weibring in 2001, is a 7,100-yard, par-72 layout that features five lakes, 32 bunkers and Tif-Eagle greens among groves of hardwoods. The facility's original 18 holes, the Glen Course, has some interesting history, too. Designed by Ralph Plummer, some interesting characters, including Lee Trevino, used to find a few games at Dallas' first municipal golf course. In 1968, the Glen Course hosted the USGA Pub Links Championship.

The Golf Club of Dallas: Designed by Perry Maxwell, The Golf Club of Dallas was home to the Dallas Open (now AT&T Byron Nelson) from 1958-1967. The 6,719-yard par 70 features 52 bunkers, a lake and a winding creek that comes into play on seven holes. And while it has an old-time country club feel to it, it's open to the public and not expensive to play.

Rockwood Park Golf Course: Opened for play in 1938, municipal Rockwood Park in Ft. Worth was designed by Bredemus with upgrades by Ralph Plummer decades later. In late 2015, the course underwent a $5 million reconstruction led by the design team of John Colligan and his associate Trey Kemp. The work did include a new routing plan with new greens, tees, fairways, bunkering system, drainage, cart paths and the course was lengthened to play up to 7,053 yards. The course was scheduled to reopen June 30, 2017.


Lions Municipal Course: There may be no more historically significant municipal golf course in the south than Lions, or "Muny," on Austin's old west side. It was the first desegregated golf course in the south, done so in 1951. Today, it's a pleasant 6,000-yard layout full of live oak and heritage trees that demands the ability to shape the ball both ways. It's one of the busiest courses in the state and at times can be little scruffy. Some holes play in a different direction than originally laid out, and could use a facelift. Ben Crenshaw, who lives nearby and grew up playing the course, has proposed just that, if the University of Texas chooses not to develop the property instead.

Hancock Golf Course: The original site of Austin Country Club dating back to 1899, nine holes were lost to development in the 1960s. What remains, Hancock Golf Course (named after the area's original developer, Lewis Hancock) is a pretty short and not entirely memorable 2,600 yards.

Riverside Golf Course: It was the 2nd home of Austin Country Club that opened in 1959 and was designed by Perry Maxwell. Today, it's been a little modified due to encroaching development, but is a value course with some good bones on Austin's east side.

San Antonio

Brackenridge Park: A classic 1915 A.W. Tillinghast design, Brackenridge Park is the jewel of the Alamo Golf Trail, which is made up of seven courses. In 2008, Colligan Golf Design restored the course, all the way down to the original rectangular greens and flat-bottom bunkers. The difference is that the course now sports Mini-Verde greens. Located just minutes from downtown, Old Brack -- which also houses the Texas Golf Hall of Fame and played host to the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open for decades -- is a must-play for visiting golfers.

Willow Springs Golf Course: Emil Loeffler and John McGlynn might not be household names, but the pair had a pretty good resume. In 1921, the two of them designed Latrobe (Pa.) Country Club, where Arnold Palmer learned to play, and two years later, they did Willow Springs Golf Course in San Antonio. While it doesn't get the ink that Old Brack does, visitors should check it out (the locals play it a lot and it's about half the price of Brackenridge). There's some elevation change and plenty of length, playing to more than 7,200 yards from the tips. Located just 10 minutes east of the famed River Walk, the course has been the site of several Texas Opens.

Fort Sam Houston Golf Club: The two 18-hole courses at Fort Sam Houston actually feature holes that were part of an original Tillinghast design that dates back to 1937. In fact, that original design played host to the Texas Open back five times in the 1950s and '60s, (Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer were among the winners) and is the only military course to ever stage a PGA Tour event. In 1976, Kevin Tucker redesigned the original 18 into two courses with La Loma getting most of the old front nine and Salado del Rio including the majority of the old back nine. The good news is that not only are these two championship level courses open to military and retired military, but the public can play them as well. And it's a bargain, just $32, including a cart, or play both in one day for $47, including the cart.


Memorial Park Golf Course: Located in the center of town, Memorial Park Golf Course is a 1936 John Bredemus design and a former home of the PGA Tour's Houston Open (1951-63). It became rundown in the 1970s and '90s, but was redone in 1994 by local architect Baxter Spann. Like Brackenridge Park, it's been ranked among the top municipals in the country by GolfWeek magazine. More than 7,300 yards long, it still plays hosts to the Greater Houston City Amateur championships, and there have been rumblings lately that that the Houston Open might return there someday.

Gus Wortham Park Golf Course: Originally designed by Houston Country Club member A.W. Pollard (Gus Wortham Park started as Houston CC), the course opened in 1908, making the oldest continuously operated 18-hole facility in the state. It was also once the site of a 1931 match between Howard Hughes and professional golfer Walter Hagen. Francis Ouimet, who won the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club at Brookline, and the legendary Bobby Jones have also played the course. In 1973, the course was sold to the city of Houston and renamed. It almost closed a couple of times in recent years, but thanks the Houston Golf Association, this unusually hilly course is currently being renovated by Baxter Spann and scheduled to reopen Nov. 1, 2017.

Brandon Tucker contributed to this report.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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From Tillinghast to Bredemus, historic golf courses in Texas you can play