Texas National was built shortly after the course owner returned from Agusta National and his goal was to build a Texas model of Agusta on a beautiful tract of land in Willis Texas. From 1976 to 1987 Texas National was the course to play and was host to a number of major tournaments and as well as the home of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. Over the years, the course has changed hands a few times and it’s reputation as well as the conditions suffered.
In early 2009, a new owner and General Manager (Steve Shinn) took over Texas National and they are committed to making major improvements to the course, the level of service, and to ensuring that each golfer has a enjoyable experience. As such, the Texas National is making a comeback and is much better condition and golfers are starting to return. Shortly after Steve and group took over, they discovered over 100 original photos, a number of which are autographed, of some of the legends of golf that played Texas National – Sandra Palmer, Tom Kite, Harvey Penick, Charles Coody, and many more. Steve is working on how and where to display this rare treasure.
Like most of the older courses, Texas National is fairly traditional with straight holes, some dog legs, and nothing tricky. The first three holes of the front nine play through the community and a few moderate houses line the fairway, but after that you head deep into the heavy forest and have to contend with dense tree lined fairways, which at times can be a very tight. But, it you can control your drive and if you pick the right set of tee boxes, you have the opportunity to score well. You’ll also need some expertise to nail your approach shots which on some of the holes can be pretty tight. For example, #5 has a very well protected green that is tucked into the left side of the fairway with a thick forest in back, 3 green-side bunkers, and a small pond in front. Miss this small green and you’ve got a problem. The front nines is a fun and enjoyable nine without a lot of variety or challenges besides the trees, green-side bunkers, and the water that can come into play on 4 holes – as if that isn’t enough. Be prepared to loose a few balls on this scenic nine.
The back nine is a different story and it starts with 3 fantastic holes. This nine is a little more challenging, offers lots more variety, and has some very fun holes. You’ll find some ups and downs with elevated tee boxes and greens, dog legs, narrow fairways, blind shots, and some water to contend with. This is a nine where strategy, club selection, and course management come into play. You’ll want to come back and play this nine again.
15 out of 18 holes play through the dense forest and its very quiet and peaceful. Outside of the birds and squirrels, you won’t hear much except the occasional loud shouts of “get in the hole,” “way to go partner.” “G_d d__m it,” and lots of golf balls ricochetting off the trees. The course has been neglected over the past few years and the new owners are working hard getting it back in shape. The 419 fairways are a little rough but with some weed and feed and some TLC, they could be in excellent condition. The Champion Bermuda greens are in fantastic condition. The greens seemed a little smaller than normal, are all shapes and sizes including a heart shaped green, were easy to read, had minor slope and some undulation, and were a little slow when we played. The slow speed may have been due to the heavy rains that morning and the previous few days.
Of the 53 bunkers, which are not bad but also in need of a little TLC, all but one are protecting the greens, so practice your chipping before you head out. Water can come into play on 9 holes but we found it easy to avoid, unlike the dense forest lining the fairways.
Don’t get me wrong, as is, Texas National is a fantastic value and a very good course well worth playing. And if the new owner and General Manager continue to make improvements, Texas National could once again become one of the top places to play in Texas. We can’t wait to come back in a year to see the improvements.
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The club house, grill, and pro shop are a little dated and can stand some upgrading. Service is excellent - the staff is very friendly and committed to making this a memorable round. The food and pro shop are ok.