The Challenge at Gladewater is a course that is loaded with history and plenty of ups and downs. The original nine at Gladewater opened in 1933 with sand greens and $3 monthly dues. In 2008,James Dobson along with Burt Langley designed a new nine which is now the front nine and they revamped and upgraded some of the original nine. Over the years the course has changed hands a number of times and conditions have varied from good to cow pasture - one of the nines was used for grazing a herd of cattle!
When The Challenge Golf Group took over in mid 2009 the course and facilities were in very bad condition and the front nine had been shut down. Since The Challenge Golf Group has taken over they have reopened the front nine, added new cart paths to the back nine, and are making significant progress in bringing the conditions up to their high standards.
When we played in June 2011 the fairways were very dry (lots of extra roll that you need to manage) and pretty rough with a mixture of grasses, brown spots, and some bare spots. A large part of the poor conditions was due to the drought that all of Texas was suffering, which has impacted conditions at the vast majority of Texas golf courses. The majority of the greens were in good condition (7.5 out of 10) with the exception of a couple greens that had some minor damage - again thanks to Mother Nature with ice, snow, and freezing conditions followed by no rain. Portions of the course could also use some maintenance and TLC.
But don't let that discourage you from playing The Challenge at Gladewater - the conditions are very playable and it's a fun track to play. Each nine is very different from the other and both are enjoyable to play - it's scenic, peaceful and quiet (except for the balls ricocheting off the trees), challenging, fun, and the rates are very reasonable.
The front nine is the newest nine and can be very challenging if you can't keep the ball in the narrow tree lined fairways. In fact, you might consider leaving the big dog in the bag and play some of your more accurate clubs off the tee box - this nine is short at 2805 so you don't need boomer drives to be on in regulation. The front nine plays through the trees (with the exception of three homes on one hole) and If you miss the fairway, you'll be ricocheting off the trees or find yourself through the trees and into the next fairway with a tough recovery shot!
The fairways on the front nine at The Challenge at Gladewater are gently rolling and some are like a mini roller coaster. This nine will throw at little bit of everything at you that makes golf fun, challenging, expensive, and frustrating - here you'll encounter elevated tee boxes, dog legs, uphill as well as downhill shots, forced carries, ponds and creeks, and challenging small greens with slope, tiers, and ridges. Shott par (35 thanks to just one par 5) on this nine and you're doing well.
If you scored well on the fornt, you'll find the back to be a walk in the park. This nine plays through a housing development with a scattering of homes lining one side of the fairway and the other side is lined by trees. A meandering creek can come into play on six holes as it crossing in front of the tee box or greens or runs along the side of the fairways. The fairways are flatter, straighter, and much wider and more forgiving - bring the big dog out and let-er-rip. The greens on this nine also seem much easier - a little bigger and flatter and easier to read. The back nine at The Challenge at Gladewater is longer by 300 to 400 yards thanks to a couple long par 4s over 400 yards and two par 5s.
Both nines have some fun and interesting holes, for example:
The greens at Gladewater are all smaller much smaller that average and some are tiny, demanding precision on the approach shots. Considering the problems with Mother Nature, the greens were in pretty good shape. When we played they were running true but a little bumpy and were about average speed, around 9 or so.
If you become a member at The Challenge at Gladewater, you can play all seven of The Challenge Golf Group courses at a significantly reduced rate. If you don't want to become a member, then sign up to play some or better yet all seven of the courses on the Azalea Trail.
Rates: $27.00 to $34.00
Service is country friendly and everyone seems to know each other - it's feels like being a part of a big golfing family. The clubhouse is dated, the pro shop has a few limited golf supplies (shirts, balls, golves, etc.), and the grill has burgers, sandwiches, and more - the 8 ounce Angus burger was bigger than the bun and delicious! There is no range or putting green or cart service.
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.