Monday, June 7, 2010

COURSE REVIEW: Stonebriar/Fazio course; Frisco, TX

If you live in a major metropolitan area, and you have not yet discovered the infinite joys of the "urban escape", then I highly recommend you send me an email and I'll tell you all about it. It's just fantastic. I know it's silly and financially irresponsible to spend over a hundred dollars for a hotel room that's located less than 15 minutes from where you live, but MAN can it be a good time.
For me, one of my new favorite places to escape off to is the Westin in Frisco, TX (less than 30 minutes north of Dallas). The hotel itself is nice, and the pool area is wonderful. The area has a lot of restaurant and bar opportunities, but mostly I like it because I get a chance to play the Fazio course at Stonebriar CC.
This is my second time playing this course. I find that just playing a course once doesn't really give you the opportunity to appreciate it, as you're too busy finding your way around. By the second round I'm a lot more able to make an objective assessment.
Let me start right there. The course is part of the private Stonebriar CC, but guests of the hotel are allowed to play (for a fee, of course). The best deal is the Stay 'n' Play package, which at the time of the writing of this blog was $179 for one golfer, which included one breakfast (best to be left behind for The Missus to hit the buffett around 11:00 AM).
Tom Fazio has over 120 course designs to his name, he has more courses ranked in the Top 100 in the US than any other designer, and he's been awarded Golf Digest's "Best Modern Golf Course Architect" three times. Born in 1945, he's a throwback to the Alister MacKenzie school of thought whereby a golf course should naturally fit into it's surroundings. Having said that, he did manage to move 600,000 yards of dirt to construct this course. He also feels that a good course should be challenging to the good player but still playable for the average player. This assessment is fairly universally agreed on.
Firstly, it's a Par 72 course. Am I the only one who's a stickler about this (on tour or at the local muni)? From the blues it's over 7,000 yards; from the whites it's a bit over 6,600, and from the Reds it's around 5,200 yards. The course stretches over wetlands to the west of the Westin hotel in Frisco, TX. It was ranked as the #6 public course in Dallas/Fort Worth by the Dallas Morning News in 2009, ahead of such notables as the TPC Four Seasons (home of The Byron).
The fairways, as a whole, are fairly forgiving and in good condition. If you miss the fairway by a bit you're likely to get a good bounce back into the short stuff. If you miss it by more than that, you're going to be up among the pine trees, or in the 5-foot deep wild grass, or in the next fairway (should you be so lucky).
I have a feeling that the more I play this course the more I will appreciate the little nuances of the design. The bunkering is very strategic, and visually appealing. The sand is perfect, and very playable.
The greens have a reputation as being very fast, and I guess they are, but they're also very true. I'm not a good putter by any means but I found a very distinct sense of confidence on these greens. If you get hot, you can make a LOT of putts here.
There are a couple of really good, really challenging shortish par four holes on this course.
The first one hits you once you catch your breath after the easy downhill #1 hole. #2 is a dogleg right hole that's uphill on the tee shot and downhill back to the green (378 yards from the white tees). There are good bunkers in the fairway, and the green is protected by a couple of deep bunkers, a clump of trees to the left, and a creek about 30 yards in front of the green to catch any weak approach.
The view towards the green as you get to the crest of the fairway is spectacular. This hole ate my lunch the first time I played it, but I managed a tap-in bogey this time, hitting the green-side bunkers on my second shot.
The most scenic hole on the course is #11 (pictured above, 379 yards from the white tees). A big pond to the right is about all you see off the tee, but the hole is fair as it curves to the right around the water. Big volumes of sand are at hand if you try to cut the corner and don't hit it well enough, or if you bomb it straight and go through the fairway. More sand is located to the right of the green, but at least there is the option of a safe fail to the left of the green, void of either ocean or desert.
A great course for players of all levels. It will challenge the good players, especially from the blues, but it's still playable for a more average player. It's well maintained all around, and the service from the Pro Shop in the hotel to the starter is nothing short of immaculate. If you're visiting the area north of Dallas and have some time on your hands I highly recommend this hotel for your expense report and this course for your golf game.

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