2017 Best of Private Clubs
It is that time again, DFW, where all of us at AVIDGOLFER Magazine get together for our Best of Private Club rankings. There have been a lot of changes and improvements at the country clubs and golf clubs across the Metroplex in the past year, and it has made the task of ranking them all that much more difficult.
We also had a very strange summer last year, with high temperatures (not so strange) and little wind (very strange), which was the perfect combination of weather to wreak havoc on Bentgrass greens across North Texas, even more so than usual. No level of club was spared, and facilities from the most expensive to the most value-priced had real difficulties with their greens for large chunks of the summer.
As we discussed these rankings, we decided to, for the most part, cut those clubs a bit of slack this year, because we know how hard all the superintendents and club staffs work every day to create wonderful experiences for their members. But we will be watching closely over the next 12 months to see how those clubs adjust their practices to ensure high quality putting surfaces this next year. One year of struggles can be a fluke, but two years can be a trend.
It also raises the question, at least in our minds, of whether this past summer may signal the beginning of the end of Bentgrass greens in North Texas. We already know of four or five clubs that plan on replacing their Bentgrass greens with Bermuda, and clubs like Royal Oaks Country Club and Stonebriar Country Club (the Fazio Course) have already done so in recent years, to much success. It will be interesting to see if other courses follow suit in the next five years or so.
Things are changing rapidly amongst the private clubs in DFW, which is great news, because each improvement and upgrade in the arms race to be the best club only benefits us the golfers. So we say to all the local clubs – keep improving! We can’t wait to see what you all do in the next year.
And to all our readers, we hope you enjoy this year’s Best of Private Club Rankings.
Best Overall Country Club
The Vaquero Club
If you had all an entire day to dream up the perfect, lavish country club, chances are your wildest imagination would still fall short of what the stunning Vaquero Club has to offer. All its exquisite amenities and superb Tom Fazio-designed course are why, once again, The Vaquero Club earns the nod as Best Overall Country Club.
Vaquero’s 15+-year reign at the top of this category starts with the world-class par-71 golf course. Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens, and plush and perfect fairways that ebb and flow beautifully through trees and pockets of lush fescue grass. There are some really special holes at Vaquero, especially when you get into the heart of the back 9, and if you play in the afternoon while the sun is going down, the course is downright beautiful.
Vaquero has all you could ask for, even if you aren’t a golfer. There’s the championship-level tennis courts, and stately (yet comfortable) clubhouse with some of the nicest locker rooms we’ve ever seen. The food and service is out of this world, which is what you would expect from a place like Vaquero.
The Vaquero Club is so outstanding, that even its six-figure initiation fee is almost a bargain. The club continues to improve every year, and we are blown away every time we visit.
Best Overall Golf Club
Dallas National Golf Club
Let’s cut right to the chase here – Dallas National is the best golf course in DFW (in our opinion), and there is really no comparison. The club may not have a pool or spa or tennis courts, but it doesn’t need those things, because it has 18 of the best holes we’ve ever seen. For that reason, Dallas National Golf Club is once again the Best Overall Golf Club in North Texas.
Another world-class Tom Fazio design, Dallas National gives you rolling elevation changes and stunning views that you won’t find anywhere else in DFW, and very few other places in the entire state. Case in point, the beautiful par-5 10th hole, a 550+ yard par 5 that features a tee box set up at least 50 feet above a sprawling fairway, treating you to not only a picturesque hole, but views for miles of the surrounding terrain.
The practice area is as good as any you’d find on the PGA Tour, and the 20,000-square-foot clubhouse welcomes you after your round with sumptuous creature comforts and delicious food (and fresh cookies!). The club also has a pair of two-story cottages located just off the 18th fairway that are fully furnished and can be used for group or couple stays.
As the gold standard and industry leader among local golf courses, it is easy to see why Dallas National has earned the title of Best Overall Golf Club.
Best Country Club
Elite Category ($60,000 and up)
1. Lakewood Country Club
2. Royal Oaks Country Club
3. Shady Oaks Country Club
4. Brook Hollow Country Club
5. Dallas Country Club
The clubs at the very top of our Best of Private List truly are the best North Texas has to offer. They are elite in every sense of the word. They provide their members with the most grandiose amenities, top-of-the-line service and facilities that are as good as any club in the country.
This year, the title of best Elite Club goes to a country club that looks different than it did three years ago – Lakewood Country Club. This time last year, Lakewood had just finished a two-year massive overhaul where almost every area of the facility received attention. A year in, the updates and upgrades (to the golf course, tennis center, pool and a brand new underground parking garage) have established Lakewood as the 800-pound gorilla among the Elite Courses, and all other clubs are on notice.
Another Dallas titan in this category is Royal Oaks Country Club. You may have thought the club would take a break after putting in MiniVerde greens a few years ago (a big risk that has so far paid off), but instead the club completely renovated the halfway house and built a chic, impressive outdoor patio that just begs for late evening gatherings. Combine those upgrades with the greens that are good all year round, and you have quite a formidable club.
Fort Worth’s best country club in the Elite Category is Shady Oaks Country Club. Located in an area that is rich with country clubs, Shady Oaks is the beacon that the others look to for excellence, and it doesn’t take much time at the club to see why. The club is going through a construction phase right now, as U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and his design firm are renovating the nine-hole short course, and we can’t wait until it is done later this year.
Brook Hollow Golf Club in the heart of Dallas has been a mainstay in the Elite Category every since we started these rankings. Brook Hollow is home to some of the most powerful and influential people in DFW, and the A.W. Tillinghast design still maintains its charming, old-school feel, with many of the original features and design elements from when it opened in 1920. The staff at Brook Hollow is extremely dedicated to their members, and are constantly tweaking and improving the club to keep Brook Hollow truly elite.
Rounding out the Top 5 in the Elite Category is Dallas Country Club, and if there is a country club more exclusive than Brook Hollow, it may be DCC. The clubhouse at DCC may be the most stately, impressive clubhouse in all of North Texas, and while the Tom Bendelow design is fairly short (only about 6,300 yards from the back tees), the golf course is still sure to challenge even the best players. Its prime location in Highland Park also makes it one of the most high-demand clubs in our rankings.
Best Country Club
First Class Category ($25,001-$59,999)
1. The Four Seasons Golf & Sports Club
2. Stonebriar Country Club
3. Gleneagles Country Club
4. The Lakes at Castle Hills
5. Bent Tree Country Club
The First Class category may be our most competitive among the private clubs, and the five at the top are constantly changing and upgrading their facilities and experiences to stay the best of the best.
The name may be new, but The Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club (formerly The Sports Club) isn’t new to being at the top of the First Class Category. After completing the $9 million renovation last year, the club was rebranded to the Four Seasons name, further promoting the elite level of excellence at the club (and all Four Seasons properties across the globe). Don’t expect that level of excellence to waver any time soon.
Stonebriar Country Club in Frisco takes the number two spot in this category for the second straight year, but ClubCorp’s best facility isn’t taking their success lying down. Recently, the club completely replaced the greens on the Fazio Course – and they are excellent – and plan to do the same to the Championship side next summer. Combine that with a gigantic clubhouse with great views of the golf course and an expanded driving range, and you’ve got one stellar country club.
Just about 15 minutes south of Stonebriar is ClubCorp’s other gem, Gleneagles Country Club. One of the most time-honored and historic clubs in this category, Gleneagles features two outstanding courses on property, and a slew of amenities that other clubs strive to match. The Queens Course received a sparkling new bunker renovation last year and, like its sister course to the north, will receive all new greens next summer.
In its third year as a fully private club, The Lakes of Castle Hills is starting to make its way up the rankings in this category (and in the overall rankings), moving up one spot from last year. When Castle Hills turned private a few years ago, the club committed to adding the necessary amenities to really compete with the best clubs in the area. Now, three years later, construction on the clubhouse, pool and fitness center is fully finished, and the facilities look shiny and new.
Bent Tree Country Club in Dallas brings a bit of serene calm to the First Class category. The club has a quiet, peaceful feel about it, despite its proximity to the busy Preston Road and Dallas North Tollway. The outdoor seating area features some of the most comfortable rocking chairs around, and a giant fireplace, and we love the fact that the putting green and practice range is just outside the proshop doors.
Best Country Club
Mid-Priced Category ($10,001-$25,000)
1. Mira Vista Country Club
2. Dallas Athletic Club
3. Stonebridge Ranch Country Club
4. Ridglea Country Club
5. Las Colinas Country Club
Due to the ever-changing initiation prices at clubs across the Metroplex, we thought it best to expand the Mid-Price category for a third year. With the expansion, we think it is better than ever.
After an expansive renovation to the practice area, Fort Worth’s Mira Vista Country Club makes the jump up to claim the crown as the best club in the Mid-Priced Category. Located in southwest Fort Worth, Mira Vista has unique elevation changes and great views that you won’t find at most other courses in the Metroplex. The renovated practice range, which features a great new short game area, has the members (and us local range rats) hitting balls until our hands blister.
Located in the far eastern portion of Dallas is Dallas Athletic Club, one of the most family-friendly clubs on this list. With 36 holes, a giant pool and countless activities, DAC is always hustling and bustling, and there is always something going on for members to enjoy. Recently, the club also completed a bunker renovation on the Gold Course, so now all 36 holes are equipped with sparkly new white-sand bunkers.
Continuing to move up in this category is Stonebridge Ranch Country Club in McKinney. Due to the fact that you can choose to join either the Dye Course or the Hill Course, or join both, we consider Stonebridge Ranch one of the best values in DFW as well as one of the best clubs. Both facilities received upgrades two years ago, and ClubCorp has more improvements planned for the Ranch in the next 12 months.
Despite the fact that Ridglea Country Club lies in close proximity to “fancier” clubs (i.e. more expensive) in Shady Oaks and Colonial Country Club, Ridglea strongly holds its own among Fort Worth’s best. Ridglea is the only private club in Fort Worth that features two courses – one of which is a men-only facility – and it offers those excellent amenities at a fraction of the price of its nearby competition. The white quartz bunkers on the Family Course are a nice touch, and provide some of the best playing surfaces in DFW.
Rounding out the Mid-Priced category and located in the heart of Las Colinas is Las Colinas Country Club. After upgrading the bar and lounge area in the men’s locker room in 2015, LCCC completely redid their driving range last year, greatly expanding the square footage of hitting area and installing a row of top-level mats at the back. The LCCC has some of the best views of downtown Dallas from the back patio, and a Sunday brunch that we are obsessed with.
Best Country Club
Value-Priced Category (Under $10,000)
1. The Clubs of Prestonwood
2. Denton Country Club
3. Brookhaven Country Club
4. Trophy Club Country Club
5. Hackberry Creek Country Club
The Value-Priced Category is consistently dominated by ClubCorp facilities, and that is because bringing great value to members and affordable prices is what the private club giant does best. This year is no different.
For the second year in a row, The Clubs of Prestonwood claims the top spot in our Value-Priced Category. It is truly amazing how far this club has come in the few years since ClubCorp took over the Creek Course and combined it with the Hills Course to form the club. After receiving a complete overhaul, you’d barely recognize the clubhouse at the Creek Course, and the Hills facility continues to be an excellent place to play and hang out.
Making a giant leap up to second in the Value-Priced Category is Denton Country Club. DCC jumped up into the Top 5 last year after renovating the clubhouse and improving the practice facility. Well, now after the club unveiled its completed 5,000-square-foot fitness facility with a pool, Denton CC is climbing even higher. With a multitude of improvements and upgrades completed, Denton Country Club will be a force in this category for the foreseeable future.
Coming in at the third spot in this category is Brookhaven Country Club. At times it feels like we criminally underrate Brookhaven, because when it boils right down to it, there might not be another club that better personifies the essence of what a county club should be than Brookhaven. It is the family-first focus and attention, and Brookhaven is the perfect place for families and their kids to grow up learning to love the game of golf.
Next in the Value-Priced Category is Trophy Club Country Club, one of the best pure country clubs in this list. It is the ultimate golfer’s paradise, with 36 holes (18 with Bentgrass greens, 18 with Bermuda) and a gigantic driving range and short game area. The outdoor eating area overlooks the entire range, giving you great views, and at only $5,000 to join, you’d be hard pressed to find many better deals in DFW.
Rounding out the Value-Priced Category is Hackberry Creek Country Club in Las Colinas. Wedged tightly into the neighborhoods near the intersection of the George Bush Turnpike and State Highway 114, Hackberry is a great affordable option for residents of central DFW. And 2017 is going to be a big year for Hackberry, as it will undergo a bunker renovation and receive new greens. We can’t wait to see the results.
1. The Clubs of Prestonwood
2. Stonebriar Country Club
3. Stonebridge Ranch Country Club
4. The Retreat Golf Club
5. Trinity Forest Golf Club
With so many exceptional country clubs and golf clubs in town at great prices, it’s very difficult to narrow down the top five in the Best Value category.
It didn’t take long for The Clubs of Prestonwood to jump to the top of this category, but it isn’t surprising, considering the improvements to the Creek Course and clubhouse in the last few years. With two great courses, and a crazy low initiation of $2,000 to join, there is no doubt that Prestonwood is the best value in DFW.
“Best Value” doesn’t necessarily mean “cheap,” and Stonebriar Country Club represents that fact. A $35,000 price to join may not sound like a “value” on the surface, but considering the fact that Stonebriar has 36 holes and amenities that you find at many of the clubs that are two- or three-times as expensive makes it one heck of a return on your investment.
Two facilities, two very different courses, two great experiences all wrapped up in an affordable bow – that is Stonebridge Ranch Country Club. The Dye and Hills courses may be two of the best pure golf courses on our list, and the fact that you can get access to them both for about $11,000 up front is almost like stealing.
The Retreat Golf Club in Cleburne once again comes in with the least expensive dues on our list, and the fact that those dues get you unlimited golf each month puts them over the top as one of the best values in North Texas. If you play a lot of golf and don’t mind a bit of a drive, this is a no-brainer.
The final club on our list is the brand new Trinity Forest Golf Club. You think we are kidding? Well, we aren’t. Trinity Forest only officially opened late last year (which is why we don’t include them in our big board rankings), and while the initiation fee is well over $100,000, all dues are half priced until the club’s amazing clubhouse is complete, which could take a few years. So, yes, it is expensive, but for half-priced dues for the next few years, Trinity Forest may be the best pure investment on this list.
Best Golf Club
Elite Class Category (Over $20,000)
1. Preston Trail Golf Club
2. TPC Craig Ranch
Leading the way in the Elite Class Golf Club category for the fourth year in a row is Preston Trail Golf Club. This year, Preston Trail was maybe more impressive than it has ever been. The amenities are just as good as always, but this past year, PT may have had the best greens in all of DFW, really stepping up and succeeding while other courses across the Metroplex suffered. That commitment to excellence is why The Trail constantly takes top honors in our Elite Category.
Rounding out the Elite Category is McKinney’s TPC Craig Ranch, the former host of Stage 2 of PGA Tour Qualifying School, and the two-time location of the Web.com’s Tour Championship. Craig Ranch recently finished a complete bunker renovation, and the new sand really makes the course sparkle. The bunkers are good now, and will be even better once they settle in.
Best Golf Club
First Class Category ($20,000 and Under)
1. Timarron Country Club
T2. Lantana Golf Club
T2. Gentle Creek Golf Club
4. Diamond Oaks Country Club
Once again, ClubCorp’s Timarron Country Club in Southlake takes the title in the First Class Category among the golf clubs. There haven’t been many major changes at Timarron in the past year, and that is a testament to the fact that the club already sets the standard in which others try to match. Of course, the club is still as golf-focused as it has always been, and is perfect for the golf nut who cares little for any other club activities.
The warm, friendly confines of Lantana Golf Club in Argyle take second place in the First Class category. The club recently finished a sizeable renovation to the practice area, improving on what was already a great place to work on your game. The rustic clubhouse has a friendly, cozy charm about it, and the golf course is always fun to play.
For the North Dallas crowd looking for a great place to join and play golf, Gentle Creek Golf Club in Prosper is an underrated gem that deserves attention. Recent renovations and upgrades to the eating area and outdoor patio have increased the club’s profile, and made it a place members really want to hang out and relax for a meal or after a round.
Holding steady in this category is Diamond Oaks Country Club. After receiving a complete overhaul toward the end of 2015, Diamond Oaks really proved itself worthy of the attention it got in the past year, maintaining the high level of excellence and service established by the renovation. If you are looking for a strictly golf club in Fort Worth or the Mid Cities, Diamond Oaks is a wonderful option.
Rock Creek Resort
The main outlying country club in our area is the Jack Nicklaus-designed Rock Creek Resort, located on the banks of the Red River, east of Interstate 35. About 90 miles north of DFW International Airport, Rock Creek is like an oasis of thick, lush forest with a golf course that winds its way rather carefully through the trees. Rock Creek itself comes into play on multiple holes, and the Bentgrass greens are second to none.
Members have access to Lake Texoma via the Lake Texoma Texas Marina for boat rentals, and avid outdoorsmen can spend time in the nearby Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.
Trinity Forest Golf Club
The Northwood Club
We are already looking forward to next year’s rankings to see how much shakeup Trinity Forest Golf Club will cause near the top of our rankings. The club officially opened in October, and we were treated to a round right after it opened and came away very impressed. It certainly has the bones and foundation to compete for the top spots in the rankings, and we can’t wait to see how it shakes out. The golf course is unlike any other in North Texas, and will provide a stern test to anyone who tries to take it on.
One of DFW’s oldest and most historic clubs, The Northwood Club shut down last year to begin a massive renovation with architect Tripp Davis at the helm. All the greens, trees and bunkers across the course will be restored during the project, and Davis is going to work on reshaping some of the holes to improve the already timeless classic. The entire practice facility will also be rebuilt, and a four-hole short course will be added for short game work and junior golf programs. The club is eyeing October for the grand reopening, and we cannot wait to see what they unveil.
THE BIG BOARD RANKINGS