The Retreat Review
The Retreat Review
Every once in a while a have a dream that I've died and gone to golfers heaven where I'm playing a fantastic course that 's lush and plush, scenic, very challenging but fair, every hole is different and fun, course management and club selection are critical, and for once I'm close to a scratch round! Yesterday, I woke up and discovered that all of the preceding was true (except for the scratch golf part) and that I was actually playing The Retreat Golf Course in Cleburne. Wow what a fantastic track! Here's what we liked about it:
- beautiful setting among rolling hills that make you think you're golfing in the Hill Country
- lots of live oaks, ravines, limestone cliffs, and picturesque vistas of the country side
- Tiff Eagle fairways that are in near perfect condition (I felt really guilty when I made a divot)
- roughs, even under the trees, that are well manicured and maintained
- bent grass greens that are big, undulating, true, and typically in excellent condition
- no two holes that are the same, each is unique and different and a blast to try and conquer
- a challenging but fair layout that will throw a little bit of everything at you to test your game
- perfectly groomed bunkers with white soft and fluffy Kosse sand
- a very friendly and helpful staff
- an upscale and very well done clubhouse
- serene and peaceful, except for the birds and waterfall
- one of the prettiest, if not the prettiest holes in Texas as well as three of the best finishing holes in Texas
It just doesn't get much better. Everything at The Retreat is meticiously maintained and manicured and first class from the ball washers, to the rest rooms, to the 25,000 square foot club house with magnificent views of the course and valley. The Retreat was as close to a perfect 10 as we have experienced in 20 years of golfing in Texas.
Once you get past the scenery, good conditions, and stunning holes, you better start to focus on your golf game. The Retreat is no walk in the park and with a slope of 145 it is considered one of the toughest in Texas. You'll need your "A" game to score well here because you'll need good course management and club selection skills to handle the dog legs, blind shots, sloping fairways, ravines, elevated tee boxes, water, strategically placed bunkers, risk reward opportunities, and challenging approach shots to complex greens.
The Retreat is fair but demanding so don't bite off more than you can chew - pick a yardage that fits your game from one of the five tee boxes (maybe move up one tee box), focus on accuracy rather than distance (leave the big dog in the bag on some holes), and study the greens carefully.
The greens and fairways were not quite as lush and plush as they were when we first played, which is understandable since all of Texas had suffered through a very harsh winter, a severe drought, and record setting temperatures. Mother Nature has taken a horrible toll on every course in Texas including The Retreat. The fairways were in very good condition but showing some brown and bare spots thanks to the lack of rain or no sprinkler coverage.
The greens were hit the hardest from the harsh weather conditions - some had several damaged spots and there were a couple temporary greens when we played in November 2011. The previous time we played The Retreat the conditions were a near perfect 10. As such, in this review, I've downgraded the conditions a little to reflect the damage which I know The Retreat is working hard to correct to get everything back to their standards of lush and plush.
The front nine is fantastic - with fun, scenic, interesting, and challenging holes you'll never get tired of playing - and home to some "Wow" holes. For example:
- the first "Wow" is #3 requires a carry over an intimidating deep ravine to a wide sweeping fairway followed by an uphill shot to a dog leg right green
- #4 is a beautiful "Wow" par 3 with a pond along the left and across the front of the two tier green guarded by 3 bunkers and a steep slope down to the water
- #6 is a downhill shot along a narrow fairway with a drop off on the right and a hill and bunker on the left leading to a dog leg right downhill green (a good risk reward opportunity to try and fly the trees) - the challenging approach requires a downhill shot over water to an oblong well guarded green (mounding, bunkers, and a lake) a little easier
As good as the front nine is, the back is even better and every hole is outstanding. Some of the "Wows" on this nine include:
- #10 with an elevated tee shot to a scenic fairway
- #13 is 386 yard slight uphill dog left with an excellent risk reward shot and then down a two tier fairway, across a deep ravine, to a challenging two tier green
- #18, a 219 yard par three with an elevated tee box to a green (a two club drop) with a large bunker and meandering creek in front - but what makes it extra special is the cascading creek beside the tee boxes that drops off the limestone bluff creating a stunning waterfall
The fairways range from wide open and "let er rip" to tight and turning requiring a precise drive. There are no homes on the fairways to cause heckling or broken windows, but there are plenty of trees, strategically placed bunkers, deep ravines, natural areas, mounding, swales, and more. All of the fairways are rolling and contoured and you can expect some uneven lies.
The greens are all shapes and sizes but most are fairly large. All of The Retreat greens are guarded with something (steep slope, water, bunkers, raised fronts, swales, ravines) which puts a premium on your approach shots. Once you're on the greens, the speed is good, they are true, and roll smooth but you need to putt through slope, undulation, tiers, and ridges.
The white sand bunkers are also all shapes and sizes and most are big and treacherous with some steep faces. When we played they were in near perfect condition with soft, thick, fluffy sand.
The Retreat is a private club in what is quickly becoming one of the best gated golf communities in Texas. If you want to play this beautiful course than you need to be a property owner at The Retreat or at a sister Double Diamond golf community, Rock Creek on Lake Texoma - which is another fantastic golf community and excellent golf course. As a Double Diamond property owner you can also play another one of our favorite courses, The Cliffs at Possum Kingdom, and the two courses at White Bluff. So what are you waiting for, buy some property or see if you can find a friend who is a property owner and go play this course - you'll love it!
Head Pro's Corner
Course Slope & Ratings
- Course Architect:
- Harrison Frazier
- Greens Type:
- Bent Grass
- Greens Condition
- Greens Difficulty
- Fairway Condition
- Bunker Condition
- Beware of water on 5 holes and the 53 sand traps.
Texas Outside Rating
- Overall Rating:
- 9.7 out of 10
- Fun to Play:
- Front Nine Rating:
- Back Nine Rating:
FEES & AMENITIES
Initiation Fees: Under $10,000
Monthly Dues: $1 to $200
The 25,000 foot clubhouse is spectacular - very well done with stone and wood and landscaping and upscale appointments. The clubhouse is home to a well stocked pro shop, bar and grill with a million dollar view, meeting rooms, and locker rooms. Service is excellent and country friendly.
Here's How Texas Outside Determines the Scorecard Rating
The Texas Outside rating scale ranges from 1 to 10 – a perfect 10 course would be something like this: links along a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean and bordered by tall trees; lush fairways on rolling hills with lots of natural hazards; water (which is crystal clear) on most of the holes; immaculate greens (but they are undulating and tough); lots of variety and character (each hole is completely different and includes blind shots, elevation changes, doglegs, and significant challenges); perfectly manicured traps with the whitest and prettiest sand you’ve ever seen; a nice club house with great food and a 19th hole; a GPS; plenty of beverage carts or your own cooler and ice; and it only costs $40 bucks! What this means is that you probably won’t find any 10s in Texas – try Cabo San Lucas, Pebble Beach, or some of the Hawaii courses!
All of the above determines the overall score for the golf course. In other words, we like courses that are pretty, fun, very challenging with a lot of variety, and fairways and greens in excellent condition – all for $40. We also tend to play the courses that are affordable for the masses, which means in the $30 to $80 range. We rate hard and we haven’t found a 10 in Texas yet – don’t worry we haven’t given up and we’re still looking.