Using the majestic Franklin Mountains as a backdrop, Ken Dye and Jeffery Brauer carved three unique nine hole courses out of the Chihuahan Desert. and all 27 holes twist and turn through the desert's native foliage. If you spray the ball and miss the fairway, you'll get to experience native cacti, mesquite, creosote bushes, and Mormon tea plants, which signifies the area was once used as a trail by pioneers. I know from first hand experience that if your ball lands in the cactus or thorny brush, let it rest – the thorns are sharp and reluctant to give up the ball without a number of pricks. My right arm looks like a pin cushion and my white golf towel is now covered with red blood spots. During the season and after a good rain, the desert comes alive with some vibrant colorful fauna.
Since opening, Painted Dunes has received a number of awards and accolades from Golf Digest, USGA, and the Dallas Morning News listed Painted Dunes as one of the preeminent golf facilities in Texas and the Southwest.
Each of the nines is a links style design that puts a premium on putting and shot making, particularly on the approach shots to the greens. Common to all three nines are a great rate, pretty good conditions, friendly service, challenging green complexes, and a native wild coyote who typically sits on the tee box in front of the pro shop. Here is a link to our review of Painted Dunes North Course.
Normally the conditions at Painted Dunes are very good – lush green fairways and near perfect greens. When we played in late March, Painted Dunes was starting to transition from the dormant winter conditions as you can tell from the pictures. The course was also starting to recover from a very harsh January and February with record lows (minus 9) and snow. As such the conditions weren't the best but a couple of locals that we played with verified that normally conditions of the greens and fairways would be between a high 8 to 9.
The North Nine is easier than the West nine thanks to some wide and forgiving fairways and more manageable green complexes. But it's still no walk in the park and requires you to manage the wind, dog legs, water, as well as avoid the 28 bunkers and stay out of the desert.
The West Nine at Painted Dunes Golf Course is a desert-style links layout which opened in 1991 and was designed by Ken Dye who is widely recognized for designing New Mexico's Pinon Hills and Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Course. The West Nine is characterized by plenty of artificial mounding, tighter fairways, and challenging green complexes. Typical of Dye, the bent grass greens are larger than normal but are elevated, undulating, and well guarded by treacherous sand and grass bunkers, mounds, and swales. West demands accuracy on the approach shots and an ability to read the greens if you want to score well.
The West course has the reputation of being the toughest nine and it will require your "A" game, good course management, and excellent club selection to handle the wind, narrow contoured fairways, berms and mounding, forced carries, treacherous bunkers, risk reward opportunities, and challenging greens. But don't let that scare you, there are 4 sets of tee boxes to choose from (don't be too macho) and West is scenic with the stately Franklin Mountains looming in the background and has several very fun and memorable holes.
The fairways are a tad tight on West but the rough is ample and usually very playable, after that you're lost in the desert. Most of the fairways are rolling and contoured and lined with several mounds.
Before you head out for a round on Painted Dunes West Nine, you should practice putting and your sand shots. West puts a premium on approach shots to very tough green complexes. Most of the greens are elevated which prevents a bump and run and if you miss or can't hold them, you're in a sand or grass bunker, swale, or on the side of a mound – any one of which presents a challenge to get back to the cup. The good news is that the greens are good sized but slope, undulation, and tiers can make one putts difficult.
Bottom line – Painted Dunes and any of the nines are fun, challenging, and a blast to play. Service is friendly, the conditions are above average, and you won't find a better value anywhere in Texas!
Slope and rating are based on playing North/West courses.
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Service is very good and Texas friendly, the pro shop is well stocked with all the basics, and the practice facilities are adequate. The clubhouse has a bar area and a grill with some good food - the breakfast Burrito and green chili cheese burger are delicious!