Review of Shady Oaks Golf Course – Baird, Texas
We have played a number of what we call "country courses" (courses away from the hustle and bustle of the major cities) and we never know what we’re going to get. It could be a cow pasture where you can’t tell the greens from the fairways or you can’t even find the fairways or it might be a hidden gem, which is what we found at Shady Oaks Golf Course in Baird, which is about 17 miles east of Abilene.
Shady Oaks is home to very good conditions, interesting holes, friendly folks, and an opportunity to enjoy a relaxing, fun, and low scoring round at an excellent value – what a pleasant surprise. Plus, Shady Oaks has some nice touches like a couple holes where you can stuff your pockets with free peanuts and some holes that have two sets of ball washers and sidewalks marked with the 100, 150, and 200 yards.
West Texas is well known for its flat terrain, arid conditions, wind, and lack of water – all of which we were expecting when we set off to play Shady Oaks Golf Course. We got the wind but we also got some uphill and downhill shots (albeit not major elevation changes, but we are in West Texas) including an elevated tee box with a view for what seems like hundreds of miles, seven lakes that can come into play, very smooth Bent grass greens, and some better than average conditions.
The harsh Texas winter, drought conditions, and record breaking heat had impacted the normally lush fairways and roughs at Shady Oaks, but we were still impressed with the overall conditions. Plus the course is very well maintained and landscaped with a variety of trees and lots of bottle brush or scotch brooms. Ron Hilburn, the Shady Oaks General Manager, told us that the harsh weather coupled with some recent mechanical problems has put the course in the worst condition it has ever been in – wow, we would love to play it again when it’s back in shape! We played a lot of much more expensive courses that were in worse condition thanks to Mother Nature.
With four sets of tee boxes and yardages ranging from 2419 to 6245 yards, Shady Oaks is short for most golfers and there are holes where you might want to leave the driver in the bag or bring out the big boy and try to drive the green. The front nine is really short at 2877 yards from the tips but it’s a par 34 with 3 par 3’s and one par 5 – and it’s a little easier than the back meaning this is your opportunity for several pars and birdies!
Most of the holes are fairly traditional and straightforward with "what you see is what you get" – which in most cases is plenty of trees, water on 8 holes, some minor uphill and downhill shots, some sharp dog legs, 23 bunkers, a few challenging green complexes, and some fun holes. For example:
- #4 is a 509 yard par 5 with an uphill tee shot, then a blind shot downhill toward a big but odd shaped green with a pond on the right and big bunker on the left
- #7 requires an accurate 175 yard shot from the tips to carry a large pond and bunker and stuff it on the green without going long and into a hidden pond in back of the green
- #12 is a fun 385 yard uphill shot to a sharp dog leg right and then down to a challenging green complex with mounding on the left, a sharp drop off along the right and back, and some severe slope on the green – you’ll need to avoid the huge bunker that’s the size of Rhode Island where the fairway turns right and for you risk takers and big hitters, why not try to fly the trees and hit the green
- #17 is a long 504 yard uphill climb to the green with a couple trees in the fairway that can block your shot if you get near them
All of the fairways are tee lined with a variety of different types of trees but the good news is that if you get under the trees you’ll mostly likely find your ball and be able to get back to the fairway. Some of the fairways are side by side and if you really spray the ball and get through the trees you’re in another fairway with an opportunity to recover. The fairways are ample and the rough is wide and very playable. As mentioned earlier, the fairways were in surprisingly good condition, particularly on the front nine.
The Bent grass greens range in size from relatively small to huge and all different shapes from small ovals to long and skinny oblongs. Most of the greens have a huge fringe that is smooth and puttable. The Shady Oak Golf Course greens were in good condition, held the ball well, and ran true and at a good speed of between 9 and 10. But the breaks are very subtle and at times difficult to read – study them from all angles and Ron says the best way to read them is to use a plumb bob technique. The back nine greens seemed a lot tougher with more slope, a couple spines, and more contour.
The bunkers are slowly being redone over the next couple of years and will be filled with soft white fluffy sand – I found a couple that had been redone and they are great. I also found some that hadn’t been redone and they are tough with firm hard dark sand. The bunkers at Shady Oaks range in size from small to huge and treacherous and some are steep and deep with a nasty face that you don’t want to be up against.
Bottom line – Shady Oaks is a must play if you’re in the area – fair, fun, a heck of a deal, and good conditions.
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The clubhouse is dated (the course opened in the 60’s) but the carts are newer and in good shape. The Pro Shop has some of the basics only and the grill serves some good food at very affordable prices. The range and putting green are adequate. Everyone, from the chef to the head pro to the maintenance staff to the members is very friendly and helpful.