I had never been to Aledo before last month, but it proved to be a very unique – and charming –place. There was an abundance of ranches dotted along the idyllic scenery, a llama farm with its residents out for display and a links style golf course tucked into the middle of all of it. Split Rail Links & Golf Club is a fun track that brings a fusion of the east’s Old Course links theme with the west’s cowboys and ranches.
Themed courses can be a gamble, but luckily Split Rail is one of the courses done right. There is an homage to the link style of courses in Scotland in the overall design of the course and touches like the Bagpiper Grill and plaid carpeting in the pro shop. However, the course’s owners did a great job of understanding their location, its history and the local neighbors, so there is nothing gimmicky or overdone about it.
Looking at the course specifically, this club has a fantastic mix of elements that make for fun and challenging rounds. Hole No. 1 is a nice, straightaway par 5 to get the round started. There’s some water running parallel on the left side and features a well-protected green on the front side. At 566 yards, this hole could be a good birdie opportunity for longer hitters or a way to ease into your round with a par for the rest of us.
Sandwiched right in between Nos. 1 and 3 sits hole No. 2. The first three holes really emphasize the “links” in the course’s name as they are wide open, separated only by a few hills on either side. A wayward shot here is not necessarily detrimental as you can play your way back from one of the other fairways.
No. 3, in my opinion, plays much harder than its designation as the No. 13/11 handicap hole (men’s and ladies, respectively). This 437-yard par 4 plays ever so slightly as a dogleg to the right. What makes this hole tricky is the bunkers on either side of the fairway in the landing zone paired with the well-protected green. Accuracy is key here for both your tee shot and approach. The green is narrow yet fairly deep and is squeezed between two bunkers. Behind the green, it drops off at a steep rate into a pond area. Basically, if you veer any direction other than straight, or overpower it with the slightest touch, you’re going to find yourself getting sandy or wet. I think this hole epitomizes the experience at Split Rail: It’s not overly difficult and is playable for all skill levels, but you need to stay alert and wary of the hazards or else your score will skyrocket. It can be deceptively tricky.
After the par-3 fourth comes the toughest three holes on the front nine: No. 5 is 455-yard par 4 that plays as a dogleg to the left and is ranked as the No. 1 handicap hole for both men and women. However, a large pond engulfs the upper “leg” leaving an angled fairway and narrow window of grass for your tee shot. Precision is rewarded as the green is slightly elevated and has two bunkers at the front of the green. There isn’t any water lurking behind as with hole No. 3, but the elevation means a hill behind that will punish any long shots.
If hole No. 5 had your number, then the sixth will give you an opportunity to regroup. Although the water is present for about half of the hole’s length on the left, there is a nice symmetrical tree line bordering on the right with a bail out area. It is listed as one of the tougher holes (No. 9 handicap hole for men, no. 5 handicap hole for ladies), but keeping shots in play and minimizing the spray in any direction will be generously rewarded.
One of the great aspects of this golf course is its playability. Although Split Rail has hosted qualifying events for the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur, and various tournaments for the Texas Golf Association, the five sets of tees give players of all skill levels a chance to score well. For hosting events of that caliber, this course isn’t as intimidating as one would think, which makes it a great place for anyone on the west side of the Metroplex.
Although tree groves tend to separate holes and provide peripheral coverage of some of the neighborhood homes, there aren’t many places on the course where trees or foliage hinder your shots. There is a section of trees on the right side of hole No. 10 that gave us a little bit of trouble (the green is situated back and to the right, so it can be tough to get there from hitting out from under the branches) but other than trees are typically focal points rather than hindrances.
The high number of bunkers (there is at least one on each hole), meandering creeks and moguls of both short grass and waste areas provide a light links feel. I wouldn’t say this is overly links-ish as the first three holes are the only ones with that wide open feel (with the rest hemmed in by parkland features) but the subtle rolling hills and high grass waste areas do feel more Old World than other courses in the Metroplex.
The back nine, in my opinion, has a much deeper parkland feel as the trees are much larger to block out the views of the homes adjacent to the course, but has a nice mix of hole designs. The holes that stood out the most to me were Nos. 12, 14 and 16.
Hole nos. 12 and 14 are two of the toughest on the back nine (designated as the no. 6 and no. 2 handicap holes, respectively). The 12th is a 460-yard par 4 with a fairway that is squeezed in the middle by two ponds. The scorecard makes it look less ominous than it actually is when you’re staring down the hourglass-shaped fairway from the tee. Although typical hitters may not get their tee shot to the thinnest part of the fairway, the looming water may play mind games and send your shot errantly right or left. The nice part is, though, that the two bunkers are situated on the left side of the green only, so the right serves as a safer choice.
The 14th hole is kind of a doozy. This 611-yard hole is a par 5, but has a few bunkers lining the left side of the hole with water along the right. Not only is this hole long, but it has trouble on either side. Aggressive players who get too antsy to use longer clubs they are less consistent with may find themselves in some trouble on this one.
Although we didn’t have as much fun on the tough 14th, the par-3 16th was a gem to play both visually and strategically. The green on No. 16 is tucked into giant green swales with a bunker perched on the front right side. There is a bit of a drop off the back that punishes any wildly long shots, but overall this is a gorgeous way to begin the closing holes of the round.
The friendly staff, new clubhouse and practice facilities all add to Split Rail’s charm. Sure, it can be a hike to get there from Dallas, but the course definitely makes it worth your while in hospitality. Plus, if you’re on the southwestern side of the Metroplex, it’s a great course that’s easy to get to and easier to enjoy. Whether you’re right next door or making the trip out there, you can be sure that Split Rail is a fun course to play every time.
Split Rail Links & Golf Club
Address: 2151 Old Annetta Road
Aledo, TX 76008
Phone: 817-441-GOLF (4653)
Designers: Phil Lumsden
Year Opened: 2002
Par/Yardage: 72/ 7353 (Black), 6966 (Gold), 6613 (Blue), 3032 (White), 2590 (Red)
Fairways: 419 Bermuda
Greens: Champion Dwarf Bermuda
Rates: Tuesday-Friday $45, Saturday-Sunday $59; Both rates are for prime hours and include cart.
Toughest Hole: No. 5, a 455-yard par 4. As said before, this hole is a tricky one. The dogleg to the left hole design replaces the upper “leg” with a pond encroaching from the left side. It can get in your head off the tee if you’re not careful. From there, you’re playing into an elevated green with a duo of bunkers guarding the front, so if you don’t take enough club to get up there, you’ll be sandy for sure.
Favorite Hole: No. 18, a 542-yard par 5. A par 5 is always a fun finishing hole if it has potential to be one last charge for greatness. This hole, a pretty significant dogleg to the right design, is bordered by huge swales of links-style natural grass area on the left to distinguish itself from the range. Although two mammoth bunkers narrow your landing area off the tee, it is fairly open to the right side to provide a safer out.
Most Intriguing Hole: No. 12, a 460-yard par 4. Whenever I think back on the round, this hole always pops up due to the menacing water features on either side of the fairway. OK, they’re not that bad, but they seem to grow larger in size, minimizing the width of the fairway, the longer you stare at them off the tee. If you can keep it in play off the tee and away from the two greenside traps on the left during your approach, you’re in decent position to score well on this one.