Marvin Leonard’s doctor recommended he get some fresh air and exercise. The workaholic had never played golf but it seemed like a good match for the doctors orders so he made his way to the local course Glen Garden, just out of Fort Worth.
Here he would strike up a friendship with a short, skinny kid named Bennie. It was the start of a long friendship and in 1959 when Leonard built the new shady oaks country club ‘Bennie’ would join. It was to be Ben (bennies) Hogan’s club for the next 40 years.
We were fortunate to start working with the club in 2015 on a Masterplan for the course. Soon after we rebuilt the Little Nine…the 10 acre space in the middle of the course where Hogan once practised. Formalised into 9 holes it now provides a fun place to play a quick nine or alternatively in quite times where some free form golf can be played anywhere between 80 and 350 yards.
Work commenced on the main course in July 2019 and the course opened for play on the 1st of October 2020. The routing was already very good and despite the fact that Mr Hogan cautioned Mr Leonard that the site was too rugged and too steep, we think it’s terrific land for golf with some lovely natural features we were able to take advantage of: a river which bisected the 14th, 15th and 16th holes, an old barranca which once crossed the par three 5th, and some wonderful elevation changes.
Since starting with the club in 2015 we have slowly been mowing the course out year by year. Even prior to the construction we generally simplified the mowing patterns, reducing the number of step cuts around greens and mowing fairways out to the hazards. We also started introducing the concept of short grass (as opposed to rough) around the greens and in many cases linking them into the oncoming tee complex….a significant aesthetic change and importantly making for more interesting recovery shots around the greens.
Whilst the bulk of the redesign has involved new and subtlety repositioned tees, greens and bunkers there has also been some more significant changes. At the 3rd we shortened a medium length par 4 into a drivable one, with a large bunker defending the line to the green in a similar way to the 10th West at Royal Melbourne or 4th at Barnbougle Dunes. Then at the short par 5, 14th we removed the line of trees from the riverbank to unveil a dramatic looking second shot, with a diagonal carry across water to the green. But perhaps the biggest aesthetic change has come at the two par threes on the front nine – the 5th and 7th – with tree clearing, a restored barranca and bunkers making for two dramatic one-shotters.
When the golfers return to Shady on October 1, they will still recognise their old course, but hopefully they see a more elegant design, with features fitting into the terrain a little more naturally. Golfers will definitely notice the more natural looking, artistically shaped bunkers but it’s their positioning that’s the biggest difference. Hazards have been bought further into play, forcing the golfer into making a decision. Play short, skirt the trouble or try and play over. Almost always will there be a reward for playing closer to the trouble, with a better angle or shorter shot to the green.
This is our first design in the US and we were excited to show what an Australian design firm is capable of in the hills around Fort Worth.
Shady Oaks Country Club
Fort Worth, Texas, USA
18-hole course redesign, development of ‘Little Nine’.
Construction 2019 to 2020
Opened October 2020