Old American

6,760 yards, 139 slope from the Blues

Course:  Just outside of Dallas, TX in the Colony, TX, is Old American, a course co-designed by Justin Leonard and Tripp Davis.  Davis has a nice little portfolio, also designing The Tribute Golf Links, which is literally next door, and has done some pretty nice restoration work at well known courses like Engineers and Whippoorwill in NY and Brook Hollow in TX.  Justin Leonard is a native of Dallas and aside from his well established PGA career, also co-designed The Tribute with Davis.  This was Leonard’s first design.

I had some free time on a recent trip to Dallas, so decided on playing here.  The course photos looked nice, it’s one of the top ranked public courses in Texas and quite honestly, I bought into the design philosophy I read on their site:  “Guided and touched, but not manipulated;”  “a course representative of classic American golf;”  “A course that intrigues the golfer with ever changing elements that create a different experience each time it is played.”  All of this sounded promising.  I figured it was either going to be a big let down because of an overly ambitious website, or would be a course I enjoyed immensely.  Fortunately, it was the latter and lived up to the hype.

I’ll start as my plane was descending into Dallas.  I couldn’t hear the pilot because of my headphones, but everyone looked like they were getting ready to land.  Instead, we started going through some pretty rough turbulence.  It was surprising because there really wasn’t supposed to be any bad weather, but we landed and I made my way to the course, even though the sky was quite ominous and I wasn’t sure if was going to start hailing, tornadoing, or just storm really bad into one of those cyclones.  Like any golf nut though, I drove to the course anyways, hoping for the best.  When I arrived, I asked if I would be able to play or should seek the nearest storm shelter instead.  I was told it was only a cold front and wouldn’t even rain.  I guess that’s Texas weather.  That’s all the weather info I needed to hear to get the sticks out of the car.

The weather, particularly the wind, enhanced a lot of the features I liked about Old American.  Architecturally, the course is very well done.  It reminded me in a few ways of Atlantic City Country Club, heavily involving the natural surroundings, which include a nearby lake, wetlands, native grass and bushes.  Trees are used sparingly but effectively.  Cross bunkers are quite common and you’re presented with a lot of different angles and shots from every where on the course.  These natural surroundings, the contours and the wind made you really consider the elements on a lot of shots, more so than you would typically encounter.  Reading up on the course, it appears OA incorporates design ideas from other courses, such as Pinehurst, Shinnecock and National Golf Links.  I have not had the privilege of playing these courses, but from what I know, I could see that as well.

Old American accomplishes what it sets out to do.  It provides an intriguing design that could play several different ways, yet remains simplistic by allowing you to rely on a variety of shots and creativity  from tee to green.  You can play your game, so long as you think your way around the course.  I found it easy to relax during the round.  The routing flowed very well and the scenery with the lake, streams and native vegetation enhanced the design.  I really didn’t think I would like the course THAT much, but it was pretty good.  I’d put this in the 10 – 15 of my favorite courses, easily.

The First is a 420 yard par 4 (from the Blues).  All of the hole is in front of you, with a carry over some native vegetation and cross bunkers lining the fairways.  The green is set to the left of the fairway and is raised, with a terrace area to the front left and run off back left.  

The First

The fairway

The Second is a 419 yard par 4.  There’s another forced carry over native plants, with the fairway going 10:00 to the green and cross bunkers scattered up to the green, which is fairly generous.

The Second

Approach shot territory
Closer to the green, towards the left side
You get to drive over this cool bridge to the Third.  I think it goes over a dry river bed.  
The Third is a 554 yard par 5.  The fairway gently dog legs left and is rather wide.  There are ripples and contours that make it interesting, with the green protected by cross bunkers on the front.  These first few holes felt like a nice easing into the round.  It’s nothing flashy, but a pleasant series of holes that allow you to take in the scenery and fine tune your swing. 

The Third

View of the Third from the bridge

Second shot territory
Approach shot territory

These have to be some of my favorite flat sticks.  
The Fourth is a 163 yard par 3.  There are bunkers and waste land generally in front of the green, and then to the right of the green, and a run off area on the far left of the green.  You need your distance to be spot on here, then you get to putt on the undulating green.
The Fourth
The Fifth is the 2 handicapped hole, a 452 yard par 4.  The hole just left after the tee shot, but the green and a lot of the fairway is blind due to mounds and bunkers rising up.  Just know there is a lot more room to the right than it appears from the tee, and once you clear the dog leg, you should have a relatively straight forward look at the green.  A nicely designed hole to create a little visuals and make you trust your club selection.
The Fifth
Up to the dog leg
A look at the green
The Sixth is a 185 yard par 3.  You start to close in on the lake, which is behind the green, while some nice houses are situated well back but along the hole, creating  stadium-esque atmosphere if enough people are out on their balconies.  You have an enormous green, so this should be a good scoring hole unless the wind is really blowing.
The Sixth
The Seventh is a 496 yard par 5.  The hole dog legs to the right hard, but allows you an opportunity to get home in two by leaving the turn relatively open.  The fairway is on the narrow side and there is a lot of serious trouble just off the narrow fairway and the green.  The scenery of the lake comes in full force on this hole.  The course opens itself up slowly, but this is where I realized that I found some where special.
The Eighth
Just before the turn, with the green over the center bunkers
The lake, off to the left side of the fairway.  It gives the course a links feel, as wind off the larger lake is similar to what you would get with a sea.  
At the turn, with the green still off to the right.
The Eighth is a 192 yard par 3.  There is a false front and the green gets shallow pretty quick with a run off on the back side, and sloping on the other sides as well, so sticking the green is paramount here.
The Eighth
The Ninth is a 351 yard par 4.  I started to catch up to foursomes at this point and they were gracious enough to waive me through.  I think I passed 3 groups and they all let me through without me having to ask.  I really liked everyone I encountered here, from the staff to the players.  It is a semi private club, but everyone said hello and waived to me.  When  you have that kind of genteel atmosphere, it makes the golf that much better.
Unfortunately, I missed photos of some of the holes so I could hurry past these foursomes and the Ninth was the first victim.  It’s a shame because I really liked this hole.  The tee shot is straight, then the fairway turns left and downhill before coming to the green, which is raised.  You can carry the entire elevation difference if your tee shot and approach are well hit.  There are some deep bunkers in front of the green, so I’d be long if anything.
The front nine does a good job of starting out with some meandering holes before kicking things up at the Fifth.  I really enjoyed stretch of holes near the lake.  The par 5’s were great and diverse, the par 3’s allowed some creativity and there were some very good par 4’s of various distances.  Ranking the front nine, I’d go 7, 8, 9, 3, 5, 1, 2, 4, 6.
The back nine starts with the 429 yard Tenth.  It’s a dog leg right similar to the Seventh, but if you don’t try cutting any of the turn, your second shot is pretty long, with the green uphill and protected by cross bunkers.  Aim over the bunkers on the right near the green and let it rip.

The Tenth

Approach shot

The Eleventh is a 471 yard par 4.  Again, I was caught up with passing another obliging foursome so photos on this one are scarce.  The hole is straight, but the ripples and contours of the fairway provide enough adventure, including the slope down to the green from the tee landing area.  Cross bunkers and contours pinch the fairway into some what of a bottle neck just prior to getting to the green, so anything to the green or just long should work out well.

Going up the fairway of the Eleventh

Second shot territory

The Twelfth is a 189 yard par 3.  With the lake in the background providing for some nice scenery, anything left, or short left, is either OB or in a large bunker complex.  The green is narrow but deep, so straight and even slight right is ok, while the green undulates a good deal.

The Twelfth
A look at the green and lake from the right side

The Thirteenth is a 398 yard par 4.  Didn’t get a photo of the tee area because I was passing yet another nice and pleasant foursome that was more than happy to let me play through.  They even complimented my shot on the Twelfth, then ribbed me on the tee.  “We’ve seen you hit your irons well, now let’s see how you hit your driver.”  No pressure.  Thankfully, the shot was nice enough.  The hole itself is a slight dog leg right where a plethora bunkers wait for you at the turn.  The green is set to the left, making it almost a double dog leg.  The green itself has a ridge running through it and putting is on the tougher side.  A nicely done hole.

Approach shot territory

The Fourteenth is a 566 yard par 5.  It’s a sweeping, long dog leg left, with the lake to the left.  The fairway is wide and has a few ripples, but you’re able to deal with the distance of the hole as you see fit since there isn’t a whole lot of bunkers or other hazards getting in your way.  The green overlooks the lake and is relatively large.

The Fourteenth

Moving down the fairway
Approach shot territory

The green, facing the lake

The Fifteenth is a 475 yard par 4.  You have a forced carry tee shot over native vegetation and cross bunkers to ensure that you stay relatively straight.  The green is raised and is multi tiered.  Another long hole that’s liberal enough to allow some creativity and can be played a few different ways.

The Fifteenth

Approach shot territory

The Sixteenth is a 335 yard par 4.  It’s the shortest par 4 on the course and other than carrying  your tee shot over some native plants, you have a lot of discretion what to hit off the tee to give you your preferred approach shot to the elevated green.  A lot of times, the quality of short par 4’s make or break a course, and this one is very well done.

The Sixteenth

Approach shot territory

The Seventeenth is the last par 3, a 148 yard par 3.  Another great short par 3 to a raised green well defended by bunkers.  The slope from back to front is severe, so anything landing too far to the front of the green will roll off.

The Seventeenth

The Eighteenth is a 517 yard par 5.  A river runs along the left side of the hole while the fairway turns slightly to the left to a green that has an opening on the right side, forcing the better play up that side of the fairway.  It’s a great finishing hole, a little shorter par 5 that emphasizes accuracy.

The Eighteenth
Second shot territory
Approach shot territory

The back nine really clinched it for me, as I thought every hole was distinct, scenic and interesting.  Specifically, the par 5’s and 3’s exemplified this while the par 4’s varied in distances, shot selection and angles.  Maybe a few too many greens were raised, but that’s more nitpicking than anything else.  Ranking them, I’d go 18, 14, 13, 12, 17, 16, 15, 11, 10.

Generally, I have a lot of good things to say about this course.  The weather certainly added to the feel of this place, but you could tell that the design was very thought out so that the course can be played differently every time you step up to the first tee, regardless of the weather.  What works so well is there is a consistent theme during the entire round, utilizing cross bunkers, the undulations of the terrain and the native plants, yet keeping that theme fresh with each distinct hole.  They didn’t try too much, like I recently saw at Royce Brook, but kept it simple, which allows the course to facilitate creativity.  What that meant for me was a relaxed round where I had to think about my shots, not how to actually survive and get to the green (which was more the case at Harbour Town), but how to play each hole to best fit my game.  The scenery was fitting to the course, I found the service and perks top notch, and every player I encountered was beyond friendly.  Old American accomplishes what it set out to do and what it touts on its website.  I found it to be a course that representing classic American golf.  I only wish I lived closer to it.

Two perks I can think of include the free drinks and snacks at stations throughout the course.  These stations are stocked with soft drinks, water and snacks, so you’re able to fuel up as necessary.  After the round, the starter used a compressed air pump to clean my clubs and bag.  That’s top notch service as far as I’m concerned.

Gripes:  I can’t think of any.  I always find it more difficult to find complaints when I’m traveling, but everything was very well done.  I guess the higher green fee is of note, but it is worth it.

Bar/Grill:  A great indoor area with plush couches and ample televisions, as well as a nice outdoor patio area.

Clubhouse:  On the smaller side, but a decent selection of higher end apparel and equipment.  A thumbs up on the hat design and selection too.

Practice area:  Natural grass for the range and short game areas.  And a putting green.  Pro VI’s for range balls.  One of the better facilities I’ve come across.

Getting there:  I know it’s Northwest of downtown Dallas, about 30 minutes from DFW airport.  

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