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Rolling Fairways & Surprises Make Diamondback GC a Lone Star State Jewel
Residents of Abilene, the major hub of West Texas, know a thing or two about quality and understated excellence. The two terms virtually define the city and its people. Established by cattlemen as a stock shipping point on the Texas and Pacific Railway in 1881, Abilene has become the commercial, retail, medical and transportation center of a 19-county area commonly known as "The Big Country," but also hailed as the "Texas Midwest."
The 10th Hole at Diamondback
Here, a couple of hours drive west of the hustle and bustle of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the frontier spirit is still applied to discovery, development and creativity. Given those parameters, it's no surprise that Abilene boasts one of Texas's true golfing jewels, Diamondback Golf Club, a course worth driving a while to experience.
Diamondback, which opened in November 1999, was designed, built and is still operated by 1971 Masters champion Charles Coody, who resides in Abilene. With the normal, mostly flat terrain of West Texas, Coody's layout surprises with substantial elevation changes, big movements along the routing, and a variety of interesting tests.
"Many of our customers say they don't feel like they're playing in West Texas - they say it's more like the Texas Hill Country," Coody said. "Maybe that's why we've become so popular. It was my goal to build a public golf facility that is always maintained in excellent condition and one which could be enjoyed by all levels of golfers, and I think we have accomplished those goals."
Situated on 220 acres of rolling terrain with Lytle Creek meandering through, many beautiful, scenic vistas were created by the varied topography. Playing to a par of 71 and stretching 6,977 yards from the tips, Diamondback sports a rating of 73.7 and a slope of 134.
Lytle Creek flows throughout and comes into play on seven holes, while three lakes add to the strategy and need for precision. Rock outcroppings dot the course, and native vegetation in the rough provides a unique character and a template to Coody's craftsmanship.
Diamondback offers elevated tee boxes and greens, doglegs in both directions, wide-open fairways and other routes squeezed by trees, carries over water, dry washes and ravines, and demanding greens complexes and surfaces. The greens are a Dominant Plus strain of bentgrass, while the fairways, tees and rough are Tifway 419 Bermuda.
Front-Nine Trio Sets the Table
Coody tests players with a series of hearty par-4s (four are 444 yards or longer), two par-3s of better than 200 yards, and a trio of demanding three-shot holes, the longest of which is 571 yards. Good golfers will find that the front nine plays easier than the back, thanks mostly to a three-hole stretch where the course is there for the taking if you can keep the ball in play.
The round opens with a 444-yard par-4 that plays into the prevailing South wind. It's followed by a 564-yard par-5 with a lake in play along the right and a green split in the middle by a ridge. The 207-yard third, the toughest par-3 by handicap at Diamondback, plays along the base of a ridge and toward a pot bunker right of the green.
The aforementioned threesome begins with the 359-yard par-4 fourth, continues to the drivable 327-yard par-4 fifth (beware of going long, though, as there's a huge drop-off behind the green) and ends at the 553-yard par-5 sixth. You'll kick yourself if you don't make a birdie or two on these holes.
The 445-yard par-4 seventh, Diamondback's No. 1 handicap hole, is long and bending, involving a drive down the right-center to leave a long to mid-iron into a green guarded by a deep grass bunker short and right. No. 8 (a 177-yard par-3) also can produce a birdie if you can avoid the water that encroaches everywhere except the front entry.
Diamondback's 15th Hole
The back side at Diamondback plays at least three stokes tougher than the front. This inward nine's real calling cards are the 431-yard par-4 13th (from the top of a ridge here looking back down over the 12th green and a lake you'll wonder if this is really West Texas), and the 571-yard par-5 17th.
The latter asks for a drive through a narrow, tree-framed chute toward a tree in mid-fairway, then a second shot across Lytle Creek to the landing area before an approach over the stream again to a two-tiered green guarded by a bunker on the right-hand side.
The creek reappears on the approach to the closer, a 450-yard par-4 with trees and a native area both left and right grabbing errant tee shots.
Diamondback has perhaps the smallest permanent clubhouse you'll ever see, with scarcely enough room inside for a foursome. Get a great burger at the grill but don't linger, as there are few spots to sit and eat at the three-quarter-sized bar and there will be plenty of folks waiting for your spot. All this adds to Diamondback's quaintness and focus on golf, which is what you get here in spades.
The course also features 12 acres of practice facilities, including approximately 75,000 square feet of teeing area, a 10,000-square-foot practice putting green and a 2,500-square-foot pitching green with two bunkers.
Diamondback Golf Club was given a four-star rating by Golf Digest in 2002, '04 and '07, and ranks No. 19 on the Dallas Morning News' 2010 listing of Best Courses You Can Play in Texas.
From this writer's viewpoint, however, Diamondback Golf Club is one of the best courses I've played, anywhere at any time.
For more information, visit http://www.diamondbackgolfclub.biz/golf/proto/diamondbackgolfclub.
Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Texas CEO Magazine and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com), which features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another (www.checkinginandplayingthrough.blogspot.com) on his many travels, which took him across the nation and to 105 different golf course in 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.
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