It’s starting to feel like spring, and for us, that means golf – even if you can play it nearly year-round in the South Texas climate. Each spring we ask our readers to vote for their favorite golf courses. The Valley has many courses to choose from, and Winter Texans seem to try to catch them all while visiting the Valley.
This year, we wanted to delve into the history of our Valley golf courses. We hope you enjoy this bit of history and learning about the courses you visit and love. For the next three weeks we will feature a different part of the Valley. This week we will feature the Lower Valley golf courses.
You have until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15, to vote for your favorite golf course in each Valley region, and your overall favorite. If you have any words to share about your favorite, or what you like about the Valley golf courses, be sure to email us at email@example.com. You can find the ballot in this issue, or online at www.wintertexantimes.com.
Ebony Hills Golf Club
Ebony Hills Golf Club is, if anything, a survivor. Because of its ability to remain relevant among the nearby community and its golfers, the course is coming up on its 100th year celebration.
“It was built in the 20s so that’s pretty exciting,” said Josh Brenshols, a sales executive at the course. “We’ve always been a 9-hole course throughout our history.”
Several parks reserve times on a regular basis to play the “friendly to play, friendly to walk” course that is now in its final stages of construction along the canal that has created a temporary layout.
Ebony Hills is located at 300 W. Palm in Edinburg.
Tierra Del Sol
The City of Pharr definitely believes in giving back to the loyal golfers that has made Tierra Del Sol one of the more popular courses in the Rio Grande Valley.
Built in 1982 by architect Dave Bennett, the course shut down for major renovations in 2012 and reopened in 2013 to the delight of the city – and golfers.
“The course is in good shape and the greens are looking better than they have in a long time,” the pro shop attendant said.
The course is in continual motion to make even more improvements following the $1 million they invested to complete golf cart paths, fix irrigation issues, lift the back side of many greens and much more.
The course has several Winter Texan parks that are regulars, from Mission to Brownsville. It plays anywhere from 5,200 to 7,000 yards based on which tees golfers choose. There has also been talk of maybe closing again for another set of major improvements but “we’re not planning on doing that right now.”
Tierra Del Sol is located at 700 E. Hall Acres Road in Pharr.
El Niño Golf Course
El Niño Golf Couse was built by volunteers. In return, the 9-hole executive golf course located at the Mission West RV Park returned the favor with lifetime memberships to those major builders. Three of those builders remain and the course is in full-time go mode year-round.
“It’s easy play and easy walk,” said course manager Rick Racine. “It’s a friendly course in a friendly environment.”
The course’s popularity is growing and there are enough Winter Texans from one park alone – neighboring Bentsen Grove – to rent the entire course every Tuesday morning. The park is open to the public.
“They bring a whole crew,” Racine said. “It’s a very open environment and we have scrambles and Thursday Ladies Day and a lot going on.”
“The course also has one of the best shaped greens in the nearby area,” Racine said.
El Nino’s 9-hole executive course is located inside Mission West RV Park at 511 E Loop 374 in Palmview.
This 27-hole course was once owned by the Martin family and, thus, known as Martin Valley Ranch. Before that, it was a whole lot of orange and citrus trees.
The Martins sold the course to La Joya ISD, becoming one of the first golf courses owned by a school district. The course remains open to the surrounding parks and the public but also gave its three high schools (and middle schools) a place to practice, play and hold tournaments.
It is a fairly wide-open course, but the water and trees that you come across are perfectly placed – based on the point of view -- where you would like your shots to land. With 27 holes, you can enjoy 9, 18 or all of them and see some major layout differences on each one. Go play the 27 now. Plans are to cut out nine and leave 18 holes.
The course also has a planetarium and a water park, which all became part of the improvements once the school district took over.
Howling Trails is located at1910 Hole in One Dr. in Mission.
Monte Cristo Golf and Country Club
John Henderson originally built Monte Cristo in 1976 and used it a little bit like his own playground – sounds fun, right?
Then, just like with most play areas, houses were built on it and the course was redesigned, leaving a par 35 on the back with four par 3s. The city took it over in the 80s before the Palacio family purchased it in the mid-80s.
Now, it’s home for Winter Texans and non-Winter Texans, it has one of the most refreshing layouts and a beautiful par-3 that used to be approached from the opposite side.
“It gives so much more character now,” said course director Adolfo Cubriel. “And we’ve resurfaced a lot of it.”
The course still runs one of its most popular events – the annual Can-Am tournament (Canada vs. American – America won this year) along with several other tournaments and scrambles.
The course plays 6,700 yards from the back and just 6,000 from the closer tees. Monte Cristo Golf and Country Club is located at 2919 N. Kenyon Road in Edinburg.
Champion Lakes (formerly known as Palm View)
Keeping up with the Joneses is a cliché that has been around since the early 1900s. It’s a statement referring to comparing one’s goods to another. Nobody has been able to keep up with the Valley’s golf Joneses –Champion Lakes – in a long time.
The name was changed from Palm View to make it less confusing for those who thought it meant that’s where the course was located. But its championship name is perfect for the course that has continually invested in the community and its golfers like none other – and McAllen Director of Golf Carlos Espinosa is the driving force behind the results.
Espinosa is known for reaching out to especially Winter Texan golfers to see what the course could do to improve it in their eyes. The results have made this course among the nicest in South Texas and they continue to find ways to make it better. Houston Rockets center Willie Cauley-Stein, an NBA veteran of more than 700 career games, said earlier this year that Champion Lakes was one of the “nicest courses I’ve ever played and with, by far, the best greens ever. They were so true and perfect speed. It was a lot of fun.”
The course holds some of the largest tournaments in South Texas including the McAllen City Amatuer and the VAMOS fundraiser.
Champion Lakes is located at 2701 S. Ware Road in McAllen.
Los Lagos Golf Club
The moguls have always been a dastardly part of Los Lagos, a course that can challenge every level of golfer – even when the wind doesn’t blow with gale-type forces (which is….? Never.).
It stands as one of the most unique and prettiest golf courses in South Texas.
Moguls (rolling hills), doglegs and sand traps are strategically placed and H-E-B Park is a beautiful backdrop on many of the holes – just don’t get too enamored with it or you’ll be down even more strokes than you hope.
Many of the holes give the golfer two options – take the straight and narrow and hope for a great approach shot or be faced with the possibility of a three-put, or cut off corners and hope to not land in someone’s yard or in a deep bunker.
This golf course is a must play for your bucket list. It’s long, playing around 7,200 yards (and the wind is never behind you…never, ever, never….).
Los Lagos is located at 1720 South Longoria Road in Edinburg.
Shary Municipal Golf Course
Created in 1929, Shary Municipal Golf course is one of the original courses of the Rio Grande Valley.
A 27-hole golf course, holes 19-27 are the original holes with the original layout.
“Those holes are still playable,” Shary Director of Golf Mario Flores once said. “They are a very flat, walkable and historic nine holes and they are always available.”
The signature hole on the way back nine (as opposed to just the back nine, referring to 10-18) is No. 22, a par-4 hole with a lake guarding the front and bordering an elevated green.
The re-investment into the golf course is something that Shary seems to do on a regular basis. Maybe that’s why the course is flooded with locals and Winter Texans.
Shary Municipal plays its 1-18 at a par-71, manageable 6,025 yards. The course is located at 2201 N. Mayberry St. in Mission.