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|The Bridges Golf Club is a good value for the daily-fee player willing to make the drive north of the Dallas metroplex. (Courtesy The Bridges at Preston Crossings)|
GUNTER, Texas - Professional golfers from the Lone Star State have long enjoyed a reputation for being great wind players. Their ability to keep the ball low and work it against or with the wind to their advantage is a must for many golf courses in Texas, and the new Bridges Golf Club, located about 45 minutes north of Dallas, is no exception.
Designed by Fred Couples and Jeffrey Brauer (primarily by Brauer of GolfScapes), the 7,612-yard Bridges can play like many different golf courses, depending on the wind and, by design, the set of tees you choose. It has a real linksy feel with few trees and - for now - few homes on the golf course. That means your golf shots are exposed to the elements and any missed hits are likely to be swallowed up by the whims of nature.
Of course, the one element that's hard to ignore is that this semi-private golf course plays more than 7,600 yards from the back tees. Head Professional Patrick Chamberlain said that shouldn't scare anyone off, especially with all the different tee options. Plus, for the most part, it really doesn't play scary long - maybe more like 7,300 yards - but it still requires a player to be a good driver of the golf ball.
In its first week, 74 was the best anyone could muster from the "beast," but be rest assured, someone will come along and post a low number - especially on a calm day.
"It's a humbling experience for most good players," said Chamberlain. "But the great thing about this course is that none of the tee boxes are positioned behind each other. For someone who plays out here all the time, they can mix up the tee boxes, and it's like a different course each day."
Indeed, the visuals change from each of the old-school rectangular tee boxes. Some will have forced carries and some will not. From one up on the blue tees, the course is still 7,000 yards, and the member tees, a combination of blue and white, still span nearly 6,700 yards. And since the defense of this course isn't primarily length, there is challenge from every configuration.
For example, on the 626-yard, par-5 14th, it's more than just length, it's a large green that has at least three elephants buried in it. A flagstick positioned either in the back or the front with a putt from the other side isn't just three-putt territory, it brings the four-putt in play as well. The 10th green, which has a large swale in the back third, also brings in a variety of treacherous pin positions.
So, it's not just important to hit greens here; it's important to find the right section. In some cases, chipping to get it up and down is easier than two-putting, because these fast mini-Verde greens have plenty of undulation.
"You've got some putts where when you watch television, you see guys aim way right - we've got that here," Chamberlain said.
The Bridges is part of the Bridges at Preston Crossings, a 1,600-acre community being developed by Bluegreen Communities. The golf course builds interest as you get into the round.
The first hole is plenty challenging - a 446-yard, dogleg right par 4 that plays around a natural area to an elevated green - but it's just a warm-up to things to come. There's a risk-reward drivable par 4 that Couples had a lot of input on, par 3s as long as 245 yards, two par 5s over 600 yards and two par 4s that play over 500 yards from the tips.
The long par 5s are true three-shotters by most good players - especially the 18th that plays into three semi-island landing areas. To make it more interesting, there's a large oak tree right in the middle of the fairway of the second island. When this hole plays into the wind, which is about half the year, it truly is a beast.
The aforementioned par 4s are also game. The ninth, 514 yards from the tips, is still 448 from the white tees, two boxes up. With a creek that protects the green, many players will simply opt to lay up and try to get a wedge close on the third shot.
The 16th is probably the most difficult to reach in regulation. There isn't a single bunker on the hole, but it plays entirely uphill and generally into the prevailing wind. Again, few players can reach it in two from the back tee, but that's who the back tees are reserved for - today's top amateurs and professionals.
As the community of Preston Crossing continues to sell lots, Bridges is a good value for the daily-fee player willing to make the drive north of the metroplex. Open Thursday through Sunday, green fees are just $45 with a cart on Thursday and $65 on the weekends.
The club is also a throwback of sorts. Chamberlain is an old-school sort of golf pro, paying plenty of attention to giving lessons and playing with members and guests. "We want to go back to the days where the golf pro knew you," he said.
The Bridges also features outstanding practice facilities. A practice bunker, chipping greens and two large practice greens flank the expansive range. Throughout, the grass is lush, especially considering the golf course has only been open a couple of weeks.
The Bridges is also a great place to finish a round and relax. The 6,000-square-foot clubhouse features a well-stocked pro shop, locker rooms and a bar and grill. A large back porch, recently adorned with rocking chairs, sits high above the 18th green, providing a perfect view of the trials and tribulations of those trying to conquer the treacherous finishing hole.
October 24, 2008
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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