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The Old American Golf Club at The Tribute near Dallas is a true players' course

Mike BaileyBy Mike Bailey,
Senior Staff Writer
Old American Golf Club at The Tribute - hole 18
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The shortish par-5 18th at The Old American Golf Club at The Tribute offers a chance to go for broke in the end. (Courtesy of Tocrok Productions/Matthews Southwest)

THE COLONY, Texas -- What kind of golf course is The Old American Golf Club at The Tribute, the new layout about a half-hour drive north of Dallas? The yardage book tells you everything you need to know.

There are no fancy, four-color graphics, no glossy cover and no dazzling pictures. In fact, it appears to be hand-drawn with handwritten notes by the architects. It's old school golf for golf purists.

Most important, Tripp Davis and Associates left plenty of white space for players to make their own notes.

"We encourage you to take this yardage book and personalize it," Davis wrote on the opening page. "Use this book to manage your way around The Old American."

It's very good advice.

The Old American Golf Club: Tribute to the early years

The Old American Golf Club, one of two golf facilities to open in Texas this year, is unlike any other golf course in America. Born from the imagination of Davis, a former All-American at the University of Oklahoma, the golf course pays homage to great, early American architects like Seth Raynor, Donald Ross, Alister MacKenzie and A.W. Tillinghast.

Davis also penned the original course at The Tribute, which is a collection of great holes from the Scottish courses that have played host to the British Open. But unlike that course, The Old American is a reflection of style, not replicas of holes.

Davis also enlisted the help of PGA Tour player Justin Leonard, a Dallas native who played his college golf at University of Texas. Once rivals, the pair used their experience to find some of the best features from classic U.S. golf courses, many of which Leonard played over his professional career. Davis, meanwhile, drew from his experience in helping restore many of the great golf courses of the Northeast.

It results in an extremely challenging layout, reminiscent of classics such as Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links, Prairie Dunes Country Club and Crystal Downs. The Old American includes natural contours, hazard styles, native grasses and green shapes influenced by those great courses. In fact, the policy dictates all bunkers are to be played as waste bunkers, so they truly are hazards, although players are allowed to rake when they finish.

The Old American Golf Club is plenty tough

The Old American, a par 71, tips out to nearly 7,200 yards from the "Leonard" tournament tees -- the most difficult of five sets. When the wind whips up, this is one tough golf course. It's also picturesque as it winds around Lake Lewisville.

And The Old American Golf Club features a unique landmark, a railroad bridge, more than 100 years old, that was transported from the Red River about 100 miles north to The Old American and placed between the second and third holes.

And speaking of holes, you'll find plenty of great, natural looks around the lake and away from it. Natural grasses swallow golf balls sprayed from the tees, and different mowing heights around the bunkers already give the golf course a mature look.

The back nine begins with a tough stretch of holes. The 11th, a 471-yard, dogleg-left par 4, borders the lake. The 12th, a long par 3, plays as long as 240 yards. Bumped against the water, its windswept look is reminiscent of old golf courses on the American coastline.

The 15th, at 475 yards, ranks as the most difficult hole on the golf course. This long par 4 often plays into the wind, but it's followed by a short par 4, perhaps driveable for strong players.

The finishing hole presents the consummate match-play opportunity. With water down the left side, the medium-length par 5 is reachable in two for big hitters, but bunkers and water everywhere add plenty of risk.

The Old American Golf Club: The verdict

Green fees might seem a little pricey at $150 on weekdays and $175 on weekends, but it's all part of the plan to offer a premium golf experience and build value into the membership packages at this semi-private facility. Guests who play The Old American G.C. in the first few months after the July 1 opening will be treated to the aforementioned yardage book, a hat and a sleeve of golf balls. Additionally, drinks and snacks are provided at two stocked comfort stations on the golf course.

Beyond the first-class treatment, though, The Old American offers the perfect contrast to the original course at The Tribute.

Consult the yardage book if you expect success at The Old American, and if you plan to play it more than once, heed Davis' advice and take notes.

But while the golf course is challenging, it's also fair. The generally generous fairways include rugged bunkers that penalize golfers.

You must think your way around this golf course. And if your golf swing is suspect, the Old American will make you pay. In short, it's an excellent but enjoyable test.

Stay and Play at Old American

Although different companies operate the two golf courses at The Tribute, those who play The Old American might also want to take on the original course, a terrific layout featuring holes from golf courses like St. Andrews, Royal Troon and Carnoustie.

The Old American course does not share a clubhouse with The Tribute. The new clubhouse, a half-mile away, remains unbuilt. But the castle-like digs at The Tribute include wonderfully luxurious overnight accommodations, perfect for groups and ideal for playing both golf courses. It also includes a traditional Scottish pub in the clubhouse that exudes the spirit of the game.

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Old American Golf Club at The Tribute - yardage bookOld American Golf Club at The Tribute - hole 7Old American Golf Club at The Tribute - hole 2Old American Golf Club at The Tribute - hole 8

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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