WinStar Golf Club in Oklahoma: Where fun combines with learning

WinStar Golf Club, located 80 miles north of Dallas in Thackerville, Okla., is known for its excellent D.A. Weibring and Steve Wolfard-designed golf course. But did you know it's also home to one of the best golf academies in the state as well?

With a top-notch instruction staff and the latest state-of-the-art equipment, indoor bays and creative teaching programs, the 4,850-square-foot WinStar Golf Academy is a great place to tune up your game, whether you come in for a one-hour lesson or book a combination of offerings, including on-course lessons.

In fact, golf lesson packages are customizable. You can build a lesson program from any of the technologies or come in for a golf school.

Building the Academy

When Michael Ferguson arrived at WinStar in 2014 from PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., he knew the Academy was underutilized.

"We had all this state-of-the-art technology," said Ferguson, general manager of WinStar Golf Club. "But they just didn't have a lot of programs."

So Ferguson put together a staff and a few programs to promote it. Now, it's an integral part of the golf experience, which is an amenity to the WinStar World Casino and Resort.

The Academy offers world-class instruction, TrackMan swing and club analysis, SAM (Science and Motion) putting analysis as well as the Gears system. Also known as an "MRI for your swing," Gears provides a life-size avatar that allows guests to see themselves in real time on the screen for images of their swing.

The staff at WinStar is also among the best in the business.

With nearly 40 years as a PGA Professional, Gary Nutt is the lead instructor at the WinStar Golf Academy. He came over with Ferguson from PGA West and has an extensive history as a head golf professional and instructor in both the United States and Mexico.

Bill Knodle, who played professionally on the mini tours and has taught at PGA National as well as The Floridian, specializes in full-swing instruction for the Academy. And Mike Maggs, who works at PGA West in the winter, instructs at the WinStar Golf Academy from May through October.

Finally, Jon Stephenson heads up custom club-fitting at WinStar and is also the Gears technician.

"Everything we do is custom fit," said Ferguson, adding that WinStar is just one of two facilities in Oklahoma that fits and sells the new PXG (Parsons Xtreme Golf) clubs.

Guests can also beat the heat at WinStar's indoor About Golf simulator, which allows golfers to play courses from St. Andrews to TPC Sawgrass.

Take it to the course

As for the WinStar golf course, Weibring and Wolfard created a 27-hole layout that is friendly to all levels of golfers, with five sets of tees ranging from 4,900 yards to more than 7,200 yards. It's known for its perfect MiniVerde greens, which are surrounded by green grass to allow recovery options. There are no forced carries for golfers who choose to play the ball on the ground, nor are there any blind shots.

Tee times are 12 minutes apart to ensure good pace of play.

Green fees start at $119 per player Monday through Thursday, $129 on the weekend, but there are special programs where you can get discounts.

For example, juniors under 18 years of age can play for just $35, and seniors and military get $20 off rack rates. There are, however, special programs.

WinStar has been running a promotion for golfers who sign up for a Player's Card at the casino. For $89, they get a round of golf, cart, range balls, bottled water and a dozen Titleist Pro V1 golf balls. Additionally, guests who do a certain amount of gaming at the casino are entitled to free memberships that include unlimited green fees and two visits a month to the Academy.

"We're in the entertainment business," said Ferguson, reiterating that the golf course is an amenity to the resort and not under pressure to turn a profit. "You come here and you're going to see smiling faces. We've got people who are excited about coming to work every day."

For more information, visit

Ginella's Journeys: Winstar Casino & Resort

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor 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. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

Related Links

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WinStar Golf Club in Oklahoma: Where fun combines with learning