Review of Tony Butler Golf Course
Tony Butler Golf Course is a 27 hole facility that is owned and operated by the City of Harlingen. What makes Tony Butler a little unique compared to some of the other Valley courses is that the course was designed in the late 20's and redesigned again years late when another nine was added and each it time it was designed to leverage the natural terrain, unlike other courses that move tons of cubic feet of earth to sculpt their courses.
Holes one through eighteen with a par 71 is short by today's standards – the three tee boxes range from 5113 to 6320 yards. The third nine is a par 35 with two tee boxes and yardages of 2467 from the forward tees and 2881 from the tips. A couple of the holes play above the Arroyo Colorado River, some are side by side, and others have some minor ups and downs – no homes, no hecklers sitting on their patios, and no barking dogs!
What makes playing Tony Butler fun is first is very affordable and you'll find a little bit of everything – dog legs left and right, some holes you can try and drive, water and ravines to carry, small challenging greens, trees to contend with, and out of bounds if you really spray the ball.
When we played, as you can tell by the pictures, it had just rained and water was everywhere. Riding on the cart path felt like one of those river rides at an amusement park where you throw your hands up, yell "wheeeee!," and watch the spray go by both sides of you; the bunkers were like the beach complete with a rake and palm trees – I was tempted to go back to the motorhome and get my beach chairs, sun tan lotion, and a pina colada; some of the puddles in the fairway were like small lakes and we needed a ball retriever to get our ball; and if you hit a low worm burner you could watch the ball's rooster tail to tell you where it went, which typically wasn't very far; and when you made it in the cup, your ball and hands got a good wash. For 16 holes it was just to two of us, 5 big jackrabbits, a tarantula taking a bath, some birds, and lots of waterfowl. On one whole we saw a fellow golfer going the other way who said "and I thought I was the only fool out here today." But we had fun – click here to see some of the other pictures.
Tony Butler has some fun and interesting holes, some that we liked included:
- the first hole is the #1 handicap thanks to its length at 504 yards, somewhat tight fairways, and water that crosses the fairway about 220 yards out and then follows the fairway all the way to the green
- #6 is a 190 yard par three with a slightly elevated tee, a deep gully to fly, and a green with two bunkers
- #9 is a fun 405 yard par 4 that turns left and follows a narrow fairway with a lot of slope and contour back up to the green
- #13 is the longest hole on the course at 536 yards but also has a dog leg left and a deep ravine to carry up to the green
- #17 will temp you with a risk reward shot to cut off the dog leg – but you need to fly the trees and miss the lake
When we played the fairways were in pretty rough shape with a mixture of grasses and some bare spots. A new superintendent and head pro are making significant improvements to the conditions and the fairways are much better than they were a year ago. Most of the fairways are generous and you can pull out the big dog and let it rip -but if you spray it and your're under the trees, in a another fairway, or out of bounds.
The greens at Tony Butler Golf Course were in pretty good condition. The greens vary in size and shape with most being close to oval and a tad small. They range from relatively flat to some steep slope and a ridge or tier or two. They held the ball well and ran true. When we played, they were wet so we couldn't judge the speed – we were told that they normally run around a 9.5.
The bunkers were in fantastic condition, but wet. The sand is thick and soft and a joy to hit out of when it's dry. Most of the bunkers are small and the sand runs up and over the lip, which means you might get lucky and roll out of the bunker.
Bottom line – the fairways are not in the best of condition but the greens and bunkers are good, the rate is low, and the course is interesting, fun, and playable with a good opportunity to have a great round.
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The pro shop has some basic gear, the practice facilities are ok, and the grill has hamburgers, dogs, and sandwiches.