Review and Rating of Bear Ridge Golf Club in Waco
Bear Ridge Golf Club, the former home of Baylor University's Golf Teams, is nestled along the banks of the South and Middle Bosque River and among the rolling hills just west of Waco. The designers of Bear Ridge, PGA Tour professional Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy, did an excellent job of leveraging the naturally rolling terrain and creating a course with one of the best layouts in North Central Texas. When it opened, Bear Ridge Golf Club was the second-longest course in Texas at 7478 yards from the tips, but don’t fret there are six sets of tee boxes with yardages ranging from 5157 to 7478 yards – pick the right set of tee boxes for your skill level and you'll have a fun and possible opportunity to turn in a very good score.
The previous owner of Bear Ridge neglected the course and the conditions deteriorated from the tee box to the cup including the facilities. In November, 2019, a new owner purchased Bear Ridge and seems very committed to making Bear Ridge a premier course. He stated that the current course conditions are a "1 on a scale of 10 but by late summer there should be a significant improvement." Since purchasing Bear Ridge the owner has made several improvements to the clubhouse, reopened the grill, hired a new superintendent and maintenance staff, purchased new carts with a GPS, made major improvements to the cart paths, and starting work on upgrading the course conditions. Short term plans also include all new greens and bunkers.
When we played in March 2020, the fairways were a mixture of very little grass, lots of weeds, and dirt; the bunkers were not playable; and the greens were very rough and bumpy. Granted, everything was dormant in early March, but we would agree with the owner that the conditions were a 1 or 2 out 10! As such, our current rating doesn't include a rating for the course conditions. We plan to re-rate Bear Ridge in September or so.
The first hole at Bear Ridge gives you a little test of some of what you’ll face on the next 17 – it’s a slightly downhill blind shot to a dogleg right uphill green. The drive has to be accurate to miss the 3 left side bunkers, make the turn, not overrun the fairway, avoid the trees and hidden bunkers, and give you a shot at the uphill green protected by two large oaks and some swales. The first three holes have narrow tree-lined fairways while four through most of 8 are a little more open. #4 for example is a 587-yard par 5 with elevated tee box with a panoramic view of the Waco countryside, two big fairway bunkers where the fairways turns right and gets pinched by a big lake on the right and 2 fairway bunkers – the approach needs to be very accurate to avoid a left and right side bunker and the lake on the right side. And on #5 you may want to add two extra clubs to climb the hill to the green on this 212-yard uphill par 3 and make sure you manage the wind or you'll be in a grassy hollow.
The back nine is similar to front and it has three wide-open links-style holes (three of which have homes on one side) and the rest are tree-lined with several elevation changes. On this nine you’ll find a little bit of everything: dramatic elevation changes like the beautiful #14 which is a downhill 216-yard par 3; forced carries over water (an accurate shot over the lake to the green on #12) or ravines (on #16 you have to carry two ravines), some blind shots, dog legs, and approach shots to well-guarded greens.
We'll reserve comment on the bunkers and greens until we have a chance to play the course again. Even though the conditions are not very good, the course is still very playable – if fact, the bare hard fairways may result in some record drives!
Bottom line – Bear Ridge Golf Club is a fun and interesting track that offers the opportunity to have a memorable and low scoring round at a very reasonable price. We can't wait to play it again when the conditions have improved.
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The pro shop has the basics and the practice facilities are adequate. The Grill a nice array of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options which include a variety of hearty appetizers and customer favorites such as hamburgers, hot dogs, club sandwiches, and more. The staff we meet is excellent and very service-oriented.