Howling Trails Golf Course opened in 1984 and is home to three nine hole courses, appropriately named 1 to 9,10 to 18, and 19 to 27. Common to all of the nines are reasonable rates, traditional and straightforward layouts, fair conditions, bermuda greens, and fairways lined by Live Oak, Mesquite and Palm trees.
We played in January 2012 and the conditions were fair at best but the course, like most other courses in Texas had suffered through a harsh winter, severe drought, and record heat. As such the fairways were a tad dry (good for a lot of extra roll), the roughs were pretty rough with a lot of dirt hardpan (again good for a lot of extra roll), a couple of the lakes were dry, and the greens still had some damage. Regardless, the conditions are still good enough to have a fun and enjoyable round.
Like the other two nines at Martin Valley Ranch Golf Course, holes 1 to 9 are very straight forward and traditional with flat fairways where in most cases you can see the pin and what you're up against. Some of what you'll need to manage on this nine includes: four dog legs, a couple of which take a 90 degree turn and require precise drives to make the turn; water on four holes; a couple tight fairways; trees lining the fairways; one small pot bunker (the score card shows 8 bunkers but we didn't notice them); and sloping greens. Some of the holes are side by side, which means if you really spray it you'll be in the wrong fairway but have an opportunity to recover if you can carry the trees or palms.
This nine is the shortest (2568, 2880, and 3311 yards) of the three nines and you've got a good shot at a birdie or par if you can hit and hold the greens. The greens are slightly raised, a tad small, and most have some severe slope which will carry you off the green.
There are a couple memorable holes like:
#1, the longest par 4 at 419 yards offers a good risk reward shot off the tee box to try and make the dog leg right a little shorter – miss and you're in the hardpan and under the trees
#3 is an intimidating 183 yard par 3 from the back tee box – a lake from tee to green needs to be carried and the lake makes the fairway very narrow
#6 is the #2 handicap (a 519 yard par 5) and requires a long drive if you want to try and risk carrying the lake to the green in two or you can go around the lake for a safer third shot at the green which has little room for error
The fairways are fairly straight and very flat and dry. Most are ample off of the tee box and all the way to the green, but if you spray it you're on dirt hardpan or in a parallel fairway. Some of the holes play close to the freeway and the noise can be distracting, particularly when an 18 wheeler toots his horn in the middle of your backswing.
The greens are cookie cutter ovals of about average to small in size. Most are raised a foot or two and a short hit will most likely stop instead of rolling on the green. The greens on this nine at Martin Valley Ranch Golf Course were much tougher than the greens on 19 to 27 – lots of slope and in some cases very severe. Two and three putts were common for us.
The one bunker we saw was a very small pot bunker with very good soft sand.
Bottom line – a layout that affords an opportunity to have an enjoyable and low scoring round at a very reasonable rate.