The Tribute Golf Club — Back Across the Pond
St. Andrews, Carnoustie, and Royal Troon are golf courses that just about anyone who’s ever held a club should be familiar with. They all have palpable history. From Old Tom Morris, to Bobby Jones, to Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. To cement yourself in the pantheon of golf greats, you need to have an Open Championship at one of these venues on your re´sume´. For amateur golfers, especially on this side of the Atlantic, getting to see, much less play one of these legendary courses is challenging to say the least. Luckily, there is a local alternative, and it just got an upgrade.
The Tribute at The Colony is exactly that. A tribute. A tribute to old world links style golf, complete with the winds off Lake Lewisville to enhance that “across the pond” experience. The Tribute is 18 of the most recognizable holes from Scotland’s historically significant golf landscape. From Royal Troon’s “Postage Stamp,” to the “Road Hole” at St. Andrews, you get the feel of playing in Scotland, without the hours flying coach or exorbitant price tag.
The opening hole is an exact replica of the first at St. Andrews. If you tend to miss fairways, even this one won’t scare you. You can hit it as far left as you want without any worry. You will be forced to carry your approach over a small burn, but as an opener, it’s as straightforward as it gets. After back-to-back holes that mimic Nos. 5 and 6 at Carnoustie, and another hole that pays tribute to Old Tom Morris’ Royal Dornoch, players reach pound-for-pound, one of the most knee buckling par 3s in golf. The notorious, but unique “Postage Stamp.” On its native course, Royal Troon, it’s No. 8, and was given its nickname for its 420-square foot putting surface (for comparison, the average green at Oakmont CC is 8,294 sq. ft.). In an era where major championship par 3s often measure north of 250 yards, this little guy plays at just 127. It doesn’t look like much as you stand on the tee box with a wedge in your hand, however, with the small landing area, fescue covered moguls, and coffin bunkers, this hole can pack a wallop and send your outward nine into a shame spiral faster than you can say “pass the Glenfiddich”.
Holes from Machrihanish, Turnberry, and Moray comprise the sixth, seventh, and eighth holes before you hit the final hole of the front. A thinking man’s par 5 – the ninth at Muirfield. A deep bunker narrows the landing zone, so you need to favor the right side. If you succeed, you will have a reasonable chance at getting home in two. If you choose to play it safe, an undulating fairway and deep bunkers near the optimal lay-up zone could leave you with a nightmarish third.
After a visit to Prestwick at No. 10, you come to another one of The Tribute’s par 3s. This one once again transports you to the birthplace of golf, The Old Course at St. Andrews. In the 1921 Open, this hole frustrated the great Bobby Jones to the point where he scraped up his ball and withdrew from the tournament. For my money, this is the most difficult hole on the course, especially if there’s wind. Playing about 170, it isn’t the length that makes this hole a bear, it’s the awkward intensely sloping green. If the pin is in the back-right portion of the putting surface, and you come up short, expect to have to get creative to charge the ball all the way up the hill to the back of the green (I did just this and chose to use a hybrid and bump my second up the steep slope). You likely haven’t seen many greens like the one on 11 at The Tribute.
If you can manage to navigate the 11th without disaster, you will have a chance to get a couple strokes back with par 5s at 12 and 15, and you’ll likely need a couple with the finish that awaits. The 16th is listed as the No. 6 handicap at The Tribute. The 418-yard par-4 is a replica of the same number hole at the Alisa Course at Royal Turnberry. Bombers can test the burn that crosses the fairway in an attempt to get a wedge in their hand, but the smarter play is to lay back a bit and avoid the downslope. The real issue with the 16th is the mounding to the left of the green. Miss here, and you will have a next to impossible up and down, and likely drop at least one shot before making your way to the 17th.
The 17th hole at the Old Course may be one of, if not the most recognizable hole in all of golf. Amen Corner, the island green and the Church Pew Hole are all a part of every golfer’s vocabulary, but the Road Hole at St. Andrews is arguably more famous (or notorious) than all of them. To begin, you’re forced to hit a blind tee shot. Not because of elevation change, because of a hotel (or in this case, a well-placed wall with the Tribute logo on the side). If you can carry, or carve your ball around the obstacle, you’ll be left with a mid-iron in, which sounds easy enough, but the “road hole” bunker guards the green. Find it, and entering to set up for your third honestly feels like being lowered into your own sand filled grave. I made this mistake, it cost me two shots, and I walked away with a double bogey. Don’t make the same error I did. Miss short right and take the big number (and a lot of raking) out of the equation.
The 18th runs side by side with No. 1, and is a copy of No. 18 at the Old Course. It comes complete with a replica of the Swilcan Bridge, which allows players to navigate over the burn that crosses the fairway. Again, as with No. 1, you can miss as far left as you want, but a good tee ball leaves you a great chance at birdie.
In the 17 years since they opened, not much had changed at The Tribute. That was, until earlier this year when they closed to renovate the course and clubhouse. The course underwent a series of updates, namely the switch from Bentgrass to TifEagle Ultra Dwarf Bermuda greens. New collars were also added. Improved drainage and re-squaring of tee boxes were two more benefits of the renovation. A customer appreciation shack was also built right next to the 18th green, where you are met with some cold water and a lavender scented ice towel to cool off post-round.
The clubhouse upgraded amenities as well. The second floor, which once featured several hotel rooms, has now been converted into a conference area and suites for those who choose to exchange vows on the property. Eighty plus weddings were held at The Tribute last year, and the second floor provides all a bride and groom need to make their day special. A bridal suite comes with couches, a flat screen TV, and all the space the bridal party needs for hair and makeup. The groom’s suite is a bit smaller, but comes equipped with a television and couches to relax and enjoy a few pre-nuptial cocktails. Add that to the rooftop patio, and it’s a great (and affordable) place to tie the knot.
The bar and grill and the pro shop have essentially switched spots in the clubhouse. More area was needed to host local HOA meetings and other gatherings, so it made sense to use the larger space for the restaurant area. Everything indoors has been repainted or refinished, and new flooring was added to the banquet hall and other areas. The whole property has a new fresh feel, and you’ll notice the second you get out of your car and the attendant at the bag drop greets you.
The Tribute isn’t just an homage to the ancient courses that helped mold and craft the game we know and appreciate today, it’s also a tribute to modern day customer service and hospitality. If the experience is worth more to you that the score you write down, then it’s a must-play. Golf is more than just a handicap, it’s palpable history resonates throughout the industry, and The Tribute is a fantastic way to satisfy your links style appetite and your appreciation for history in one fell swoop. Experience all of this, and you don’t even need a passport.
The Tribute Golf Club
Address: 1000 Lebanon Road
The Colony, TX 75056
Phone: (972) 370-5465
Designer: Tripp Davis
Year Opened: 2000
Par/Yardage: 72/7,002 (Gold tees); 6,542 (Black tees); 6,002 (White tees); 5,352 (Green tees).
Greens: TifEagle Ultra Dwarf Bermuda
Rates: Mon – Thurs $89. Fri – Sat – Sun $129
Toughest Hole: No. 11, 172-yard par 3. With no trees anywhere nearby, on a windy day, this hole is a beast. The severe slope on the green makes it hard to commit, and leave a ball in the front bunker and you’re all but deceased. If you do manage to get your tee shot on the putting surface, expect a very difficult and awkward chance at a two-putt.
Favorite Hole: No. 6, 423-yard par 4. With all the great replica holes at The Tribute, I think No. 6 has as much personality as any of them. Right along the waters of Lake Lewisville, this dogleg left requires a right to left tee ball to avoid going through the fairway. For me, what makes this hole interesting is the green complex. It’s surrounded by mounds that are at least head high, and almost closes the green in around you. It’s even a bit claustrophobic as you stand over your putt. I got a very fun and interesting vibe playing this one. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the “Postage Stamp” or “Road Hole.” They’re cool too.
Most Intriguing Hole: No. 5, 127-yard par 3. This is the “Postage Stamp,” arguably one of the most famous (and devilish) par 3s in the world. At just 127 yards, you’d think it is an absolute nothing hole (in fact, it is the shortest hole in British Open history), but think again. The green is absolutely tiny and quite sloped, and everything around the green runs away and down, either into an extremely deep bunker in front, or down off the green to the back and right. Even from the back tees, it should just be a little flip wedge onto the green, 2-putt par and move on, but when you are standing on the tee … it is never that simple. Add in a swirling, 15 mph wind, and suddenly, this treat of a par 3 can become quite the trick.