This is the view from the first teebox at Stevens Park Golf Course in Dallas. As an avid golfer with a pretty minimal budget, I consider myself extremely lucky to live in a city like Dallas because it offers a variety of quality, close, and affordable public golf courses to choose from. I love them all, but my favorite has to be Stevens Park.
Like many other historical courses around Dallas/Fort Worth, rather than build an entirely new course or start over somewhere else, the city made the decision a few years ago to bring in a team to overhaul and revamp the already-existing layout of Stevens Park. It’s safe to say that the decision was the right one. I never played Stevens before the overhaul, but the new course is absolutely fantastic.
As you can tell from the picture of #1 above, when you play Stevens Park you don’t feel like you are ten minutes from downtown Dallas. From the first teebox to 18 green, the course offers unique shot after unique shot. It only measures around 6200 yards from the tips, which seems almost ridiculously short. But this distance can’t be compared to most courses built in the past 20 years, because Stevens is at its core an old-school course. What I mean by this is that while it only measures 6200 yards, it doesn’t play as a driver-sand wedge on every hole. For example, the third hole, a par four, measures at a whopping 339 yards from the back tees (and, honestly, it’s probably more like 295). On paper, this hole isn’t much to speak of. But when you get on the teebox, you realize that this 300 yard hole actually plays more like a 375 yard par four due to the fact that you can’t hit anything more than a 5- or 6-iron off of the teebox, leaving yourself second shot of around 100 yards. Still, 100 yard second shot? No big deal, right? The problem is that the shot is straight uphill, around 25 yards above the level of the fairway, to a pin that you can barely see on a green that is already tough to hold. Is it the toughest hole in Dallas? Not even close. But it’s much tougher than most 325-yard par fours, and it also makes you hit a shot that you’d have a hard time finding anywhere else in the metroplex. The hardest part of the third hole? The next shot, which is nothing more than an 9-iron or PW from the par-3 No. 4. Of course this one is straight down that 25-yard hill you came up on the last hole, with a ball-swallowing water hazard a few paces over the back of the green.
This type of unique, variegated, and sometimes daunting shot progression is one of the key factors that makes Stevens Park such a great course. When I play Stevens, I hit no more than four drivers all day long. But one of these is a pretty big hit (around a 250-260 carry over the creek and between trees on No. 9), and the other ones all have out-of-bounds not far off. The other tee balls are mostly shape shots, trying to fit a 4-iron between bunkers or cozying a hybrid to a safe distance from the green. It’s a course where you can be aggressive and make a lot of birdies, but it’s also a course that has teeth and can penalize you, especially if the wind is blowing and the greens are playing fast. The greens are only a couple of years old, so they are still pretty tough to hold, but they roll true and they beg for aggressive attempts. It’s one of those courses where you can have 4-5 birdies and not even realize it, which is a fun way to play golf.
^This is a view from 18 fairway, looking up at the green. Stevens is always the one of the greenest courses in the area.
The golf course is great, but its location and the views it offers are maybe even better. Stevens Park is right in the middle of Kessler Park in south Dallas, which is an awesome neighborhood right off of I30. If I could pick any spot to live in Dallas, I would pick Kessler Park. The houses are all fantastic and it’s very close to both Bishop Arts district and the new Trinity Groves areas by the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. And as far as views go, I don’t know if there is a cooler spot to look at downtown during the day than the view from 15 teebox and 16 green at Stevens Park. And the best part: on the day I took the pictures above, I paid $17 for my green free (I was walking; it would have been $32 with a cart).
Of course, I’m not the only person to notice how awesome Stevens Park is. It’s almost impossible to get a weekend tee time out there before 3 or 4 in the afternoon; if you don’t call by Tuesday, you aren’t going to get on the course that weekend. And recently, it was rated as one of the Top 50 municipal courses in the country by GolfWeek Magazine. And on that list, I’d be surprised to find another one that would cost less than $20. It’s a great spot that’s starting to get the recognition it deserves, and I can only imagine how good it will be when the greens age a few more years.
If you’re ever in Dallas and you are looking for a golf course that is far removed from the large-scale, big-production, over-hyped and over-priced golf courses that seem to exist all over the place, I highly recommend taking the Sylvan exit off of westbound I30 (or Hampton from the east) and making your way to Stevens Park. You won’t be disappointed.
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On another note, two weeks ago my friends and I had our 7th annual reunion, which we call Back Porch Formal. This year’s theme: Night at the Movies. Here’s a picture of the roommates and me:
^ Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski, Sodapop Curtis from The Outsiders, and Steve Zissou from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
This year we had 39 adults, 4 small children, one pregnant wife, and a whole lot of good times. Now I just have to come up with a theme for next year.