The Challenge at Oak Forest is one of the seven excellent east Texas golf courses that is owned and managed by the Challenge Golf Group. Oak Forest golf course is a private course and since we don't play a lot of private courses, we had forgotten what a joy it is to play a member only course because they typically:
- have much better conditions and fantastic greens
- soft, thick white sand bunkers
- are usually very well maintained and manicured
- offer a number of amenities like tennis courts, pool, lounge, locker rooms, bar, restaurant, fitness center, and more
- are seldom crowed and have an excellent pace of play
All of that and more holds true for The Challenge at Oak Forrest – the fairways (despite the severe Texas drought) were in very good condition from tee box to the pin and they weren't covered with divot holes; the greens were close to perfect and held the ball well; there are some fun and demanding holes; and we played a round during prime time in a little over 3 hours with no waiting! Can't get much better than that!
The Challenge at Oak Forest is defined by the meandering Grace and Ray Creeks that play along side of or across almost every hole. This is a course where if you can't keep the ball in the fairway you're not going to be happy with your score and most likely you'll be buying the drinks – spray the ball left you're going to be lost in the creek or slice it and you're OB is someone's back yard. The fairways are ample and most have a very playable wide rough so you need to do whatever it takes to stay in them if you want to turn in a respectable score.
The Challenge at Oak Forest golf course also puts a premium on your approach shots. Some of the greens are raised, most have several portions of the green with severe slope to a collection area, and the majority are guarded by the creek, one or two bunkers, trees, or natural areas. The good news is they are about average size, hold the ball well, run true and smooth, and most of the greens have a two to three foot puttable fringe, which in several cases stopped my ball from rolling off the green and back into the fairway. The bad news is that they also have some severe slope, undulation, and ridges – pin placement can be a killer.
The terrain at Oak Forest golf course is mostly flat with a couple holes that have an elevated green or an elevated tee box. The fairways play through a very nice housing development with some large beautiful homes lining the right side of the fairway. The contrast of the tall east Texas pines, the lush greens and fairways, the white sand bunkers, and some stunning homes make a round at The Challenge at Oak Forest aesthetically very pleasing.
The front nine is a little more scenic, seems a couple strokes harder, and has some of the more interesting holes. But both nines offer good conditions, scenic beauty, and challenging greens, and some fun and demanding holes like:
- #3 – a testy 395 yard par 4 with a sharp dog leg leading to a dramatically elevated oblong green with some severe slope and protected by two treacherous bunkers in front plus OB if your approach is long
- if you can par #9 you can walk into the clubhouse with your head held high – a challenging 587 yard par 5 that demands two accurate shots and an approach across the creek to a green protected by a large bunker on each side of the front of the green
- three of the four par 3s are over 200 yards from the tips and the other is only 150 yards but has a very challenging green complex
- #17 offers a good shot at a birdie or maybe an eagle – a short 269 yard par 4 but it's uphill all the way to the green and has trees on the right, the creek on the left and across the fairway, and bunkers guarding the green
More good news – The Challenge at Oak Forest golf course is private but available for outside play with a member, with reciprocal rights, or as a part of playing the Azalea Trail. The Azalea Trail includes 7 fantastic courses, each with their own unique personality, characteristics, and challenges. Find some time to play all 7, you won't regret it.
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Service is ok, the pro shop is well stocked with a little bit of everything, and the practice facilities are adequate. As a member you can enjoy tennis courts, pool, card room, men's and women's locker rooms, banquet facility, lounge, fitness center, and more.