It was my great pleasure to join Michael Wharton-Palmer for a round of golf Sunday at Texarkana Country Club. Michael was a wonderful host, and it was fun to play with someone that has that much game.
The course was designed by Langford and Moreau in the 20’s, and retains its original routing. In his book “How I Played the Game” Byron Nelson provides a description of the architectural history that is surprisingly blunt but not unique to this course (although he identifies the original architects as “Langford and Monroe”):
"The original course was cut out of a forest, so there were lots of wonderful pine trees, and that was one of the things that made the course so beautiful. . . . The course itself had a lot of bunkers, and the sand in them was more like fine gravel. The course forced me to learn how to hit the ball straight, get out of deep bunkers, and to play elevated greens. . . Through the years the course gradually got redone and basically ruined until Ron Pritchard redid it in 1985. He restored it to its original design, only better, and he did a wonderful job.”
To me, the most striking impression from one round was what a pleasure the course is to walk. On a beautiful afternoon with a 10-mile per hour breeze, one feels relaxed throughout the round. The trees are beautiful. There is no undergrowth so the chance of a lost ball is remote. The land very gently rolls and provides contours associated with different angles of play but the slopes are so gentle one rarely realizes whether he is climbing uphill or downhill while walking.
Consistent with this theme, one never faces an extremely penal tee shot. Generally, the water on the course can only be reached with an extremely wayward shot.
The entrances to the greens are generally open in front, which makes a run up shot possible, but also extremely difficult given that the greens are elevated and then often contain front to back as well as side slopes running off the green. Add some wind and this is a great training ground indeed for one seeking to develop a solid iron game. For the less accomplished, the penalty for failing to hit a good shot into the greens is an awkward chip or bunker shot, leaving a difficult chance for a one putt, but generally not so severe to prevent possible recovery.
The one exception to this general theme is the twelfth, which was recently remodeled moving the green behind a creek, with a sharp bank in front of the green. Given that the hole is a short par five, the hole is by no means unfair, but a high handicapper (or a northerner who is shaky with the wedge) will find the approach extremely difficult. The lower handicapper will not.
I really enjoyed the routing of the course. The fairway corridors were generally ample in width, but there was a decided advantage to taking the inside corner of a dogleg. One person I played with hits the ball about the same length as I do, but depending on the angle taken off the tee, there was sometimes a difference of 50 yards (or more) in the distance we had into greens.
The only other Langford and Moreau course I have played is Wakonda in Des Moines, Iowa. http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forums2/index.php?board=1;action=display;threadid=2794
While the courses sit on vastly different pieces of land, there were some parallels:
-One interesting thing about both courses is that the tightest tee shot is the first. At Wakonda, the first is extremely tight and the hole extremely difficult, at about 435 yards with a severe upslope to the green. The first at Texarkana is not as severe, but it is straight out into a headwind with trees lining both sides of the fairway. My impression is that the hole plays into a headwind much of the time (Michael will need to confirm or deny whether we played in the prevailing wind). Such opening holes run directly contrary to Ross’ preference for a gentle handshake for an opening hole. Is this a theme for Langford?
-Another feature of both courses is that they have a number of stern holes early in the round, with a chance to make up ground later. At Wakonda, the previously mentioned first hole, is followed up by a relatively gentle par three and then two (approximately) 430 yard holes with relatively wide fairways but fiercely defended greens. Texarkana opens with the difficult tee shot, a short par five that will punish the aggressive and wayward, a 235 yard 3rd that generally plays into the wind and a sweeping dogleg left 440 yard par four into the wind with a difficult green complex.
-After the stern start, both courses progress to provide a wonderful sequence of alternating long and short holes. One never feels beat up, but also one is constantly making interesting decisions with each shot.
-A final tendency I noticed is that both contain more dogleg left holes than dogleg rights.
Texarkana holes that left an impression on me the first time around were as follows:
· 2nd (495 yard par five). This gentle dogleg right is wide enough off the tee, but one wants to shorten the second as much as possible to have a chance at birdie. The second shot leaves three options
· Try and hit the green which is heavily protected, runs off in the rear and has out of bounds nearby;
· Hit it close to the green, which requires a shot to carry a bunker that runs diagonally left to right about 100 yards short of the green; or
· Lay up to a full wedge distance and try and control the shot to a small raised green that will repel a mistake.
· 4th (449 yard par four) – wide fairway, dogleg left where one will see some very large grassed in bunkers along the left side of the hole. The green again is raised in front and slopes from front to back.
· 8th (I’m guessing 380 yard par four) – a hard dogleg left that provides the opportunity to shorten the second to a heavily protected green with an aggressive line off the tee.
· 17th (283 yard par four) – An aggressive play off the tee will need to be placed precisely because a series of large bunkers that litter the fairway. The ideal tee shot hugs bunkers on the left side of the fairway, but the margin for error is thin.
Like a wonderful piece of music, Texarkana Country Club sets a theme from the beginning. Enjoy the walk from tee to green, but make choice on your tee shot. Hit your iron shots precisely or else be able to get it up and down. The course then uses that theme in a variety of ways, making for an enjoyable experience while exposing any weakness in one’s game.
I can find an aerial of the course on TerraServer from 2001 but have no idea how to post it on this site. Perhaps others can provide it.