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Golfers Can Have it All at Rejuvenated Lakes at Castle Hills

By: Steve Habel


There are plenty of great golf courses for every kind of patron in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. So for a facility to stand out in this crowd it has to be truly memorable and have the chops to bring players back.

A Bird's Eye View of The Lakes at Castle Hills

That was the dilemma facing the Bright family when they took control of the Jay Morrish-designed course in Castle Hills, a 2,500-acre mixed-use community built on a ranch once owned by H.R. "Bum" Bright, the man who sold the Dallas Cowboys to Jerry Jones in 1989.

Located in Lewisville, a suburb of the "Big D," the course is now called The Lakes at Castle Hills as a nod to the property's abundant lakes and creeks. Castle Hills is owned by Chris and Clay Bright (Bum's sons), who together run Bright Cos., which has oil and gas, homebuilding, marketing and banking interests along with real estate.

When Castle Hills opened in 1998, it featured an upscale public-access layout that, through the years, became dated and was not well maintained; it was basically run into the ground by constant discounted green fees and tournament play. The brothers regained control in fall 2010 and conferred with renowned golf instructor Hank Haney (based in North Texas) on a plan to revive the track and return pride to the community.

The course was shut down in summer 2011 and Morrish (who is semi-retired and lives in North Texas), the Brights and Haney oversaw a $2-million renovation. The nines were switched, fairways were reconfigured and upgraded, lakes, fountains and streams were added, and the greens were sodded with premium Mini-Verde turf. The course now features white crushed-quartz bunker sand, used is also used by Colonial Country Club and Dallas Country Club.

As the renovations were completed in August 2011, Haney announced he would move the headquarters for his golf schools to The Lakes at Castle Hills and debut a new Hank Haney Golf Academy on the property's expansive practice area. The academy exceeds the standards of most practice facilities in Texas with its enormous grass tees at either end of the 510-yard-deep range and three full-length practice holes (a par-3, par-4 and par-5).

Reopened in the fall 2011, the 7,256-yard, par-72 layout is a beauty and a beast. From the back set of its five tees it carries a rating of 75.4 and a 133 Slope.

The 11th Hole at The Lakes at Castle Hills

Conditioning & Service Fit for a King at this "Castle"

Bum Bright always had an interest in the legend of King Arthur, so the revived course adopted a medieval theme. Each hole has a King Arthur-influenced name; the opening hole, called "Excalibur," features the sword-in-the-stone landmark by its tees. The tips are called the "Turret" tees; the other markers are miniature versions of the sword in the stone and the course's wooden flagsticks are topped by double pennants.

The significance of the switching of the nines at The Lakes at Castle Hills is apparent at the first hole, a 341-yard par-4 with plenty of room to make a mistake if the player is a little wild off the tee

Several of the native areas on the old course were thinned or eliminated, such as on the right side of the 429-yard second. From the tee at No. 4 (a 551-yard par-5), the player can see where the trees that once swallowed drives have been removed. The native area left of the fairway and cart path at the massive 480-yard sixth is now a lake. Gone also is a punitive grassy area left of the landing and second-shot zones at the 540-yard par-5 eighth.

The Waterfall On No. 12 at The Lakes at Castle Hills

The back nine starts with a par-4 that stretches 479 yards; it's followed by the 11th (a 371-yard par-4 over a huge lake) and the stunning 601-yard par-5 12th, the longest hole at The Lakes at Castle Hills. Along with length, the 12th features four lakes fortified with limestone (there's the Medieval theme again) and a waterfall system that provides beautiful views, especially if you can avoid hitting into them.

The final stretch offers a bit of everything. The 329-yard 15th is a true risk-reward opportunity, but the green is narrowed by a tree on each side of the fairway and another right-front of the putting surface. You can attack the flag at the 141-yard par-3 16th, but then things toughen up. The 472-yard 17th turns left to right and ends at a green guarded on the port side by a massive bunker. The closer, a par-5 of 522 yards, plays harder than it's length because of a creek near the green that gobbles up second shots hit too long or not far enough.

The biggest change here is the greens. The Mini-Verde offers a truer roll and better withstands the North Texas temperature fluctuations.

Play it While You Can

The Brights have created a laid-back country club atmosphere here with amenities like complimentary valet parking and attendants who clean clubs and hand out cold towels. The Lakes at Castle Hills is a place where golfers can get more of an experience rather than simply play the course and leave.

After the remodel The Lakes at Castle Hills was recognized in five categories - most notably "Best Renovation" among DFW golf facilities in AVIDGOLFER Magazine's 2011 survey of courses in North Texas.

The Brights are pulling out all the stops to make sure their re-polished jewel gets seen by the best players in the state. In April 2012, The Lakes at Castle Hills hosted the Adams Golf Pro-Scratch Championship and welcomed the Texas Women's Open in June. In August, the Texas State Open - now named after Bright Realty - was conducted on the rejuvenated track.

Another $7 million to $8 million of future improvements at The Lakes at Castle Hills include a redesigned clubhouse and resort-style swimming and outdoor dining facilities. A fitness facility, tennis courts and upgraded locker and storage facilities are also on tap.

With the recent upgrades, Bright Realty is committed to eventually making The Lakes at Castle Hills one of the better private facilities in the area, so it's best to tee it up while you can.

For more information, see www.thelakesatcastlehills.com.

Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's world correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports, covers the Longhorns for CBS Sports, is regional editor for Texas Golfer magazine and files stories for Golf Oklahoma magazine, Texas Links magazines and Golfers Guide. Habel's main blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com) features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another (www.checkinginandplayingthrough.blogspot.com)chronicles his many travels, on which he has played more than 350 golf courses since 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.