Moody Gardens Golf Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 8.7

Golf - Public Course · 18 Holes · Par 72
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Moody Gardens Golf Course Review

Review of Moody Gardens Golf Course

Moody Gardens took over the management of what was previously called Galveston Island Municipal Golf Course and the course was renamed Moody Gardens Golf Course, which is still owned by the City of Galveston.  Shortly after Moody Gardens took over in 2008, Hurricane Ike hit in September and the course suffered significant damage - the entire golf course was under 5 feet of water plus littered with tons of debris including a 30' shrimp boat, a swing set, a back porch, and lots of other interesting debris.

Moody Gardens put $16 million into redesigning the course which included adding some undulation and slope to the greens and fairways, changing the layout of a number of holes, adding and redoing bunkers, renovation of the clubhouse, plus a new irrigation system for the new sea spray paspalum grass on the greens and fairways. When we played in March 2017, the course was in good condition from tee box to cup, was very well maintained and manicured, and landscaped with a wide variety of colorful plants and shrubs.  

Moody Gardens Golf Course plays around Sydnor Bayou and as such you'll find upland and lowland native areas, shorebird habitat, and water coming into play on 17 holes. The terrain is flat but the course takes advantage of the natural landscape of water, brush, and sand.  The colorful landscaping, the bay views, and over 500 palm trees swaying in the gentle Gulf breeze make for a very scenic and peaceful round. 

The layout has a links look and feel and with 5 sets of tee boxes and yardages from 6816 to 4549 yards, Moody Gardens is both challenging and playable for all skill levels.  The front nine seems more traditional and straightforward with 3 par 3s and 3 par 5s.  The back is more demanding and is home to some very fun and unique holes. It's not surprising that Moody Gardens has won several awards and accolades some of which include:

  • "Top Ten Newly Remodeled Courses in the Nation with Green Fees Under $65" by Golf Digest
  • #6 "Best Outlying Course" and #1 "Most Scenic Course" by the Houston Chronicle

Here's why we really love this course:

  • the fairways were ample, in good condition, gently rolling and contoured
  • the greens were great, ran at a good speed, and demanding but fair
  • the bunkers are filled with soft thick sand that is a pleasure to hit out of
  • some of the fairways are wide and forgiving where you can pull out the big dog and let-er-rip - just don't miss and on some others, you best leave the driver in the bag
  • yardage markers are everywhere and easy to find
  • there are some outstanding par 5s and some challenging par 3s with intimidating carries over water
  • the cart lady was friendly and showed up just in time
  • the rates are reasonable and a value for such a good quality course
  • the layout is demanding but fair and requires some good course management and club selection
  • it will test you game, strategy, and risk reward tolerance and demand some accurate shots to score well
  • you'll need to manage forced carries, some risk reward opportunities, dog legs, tough approaches, hidden bunkers, natural areas, and lots of water

Moody Gardens Golf Course is home to some fun and unique holes, some of which include: 

  • #5 is a 570 yard slight dog leg left with a good risk reward shot to try and hug the left side and miss the bunker and natural area
  • #8 has a very demanding approach shot to a green with water around the right and back plus a huge bunker
  • after #9 you may need a drink or another sleeve of balls - a 162 yard carry over water to an oblong green with a huge bunker across the front and a smaller one in back of the green
  • #12 is a short 346 yard par 4 where long hitters with lots of guts might try to go for the green but you'll need to carry the water, natural area, two bunkers, and palm trees to stuff it on the green
  • #18 is outstanding and requires a precise drive to position your approach shot over the water to the green and avoid the fairway bunker, water, and natural area

When we played in March, the fairways were in good condition as they transitioned from winter to summer,   Most of the Moody Gardens Golf Course fairways are gently rolling and contoured which can mean some uneven lies.  They are ample but if you spray the ball you're in a bunker, natural area, or wet. 

The Moody Garden Golf Course bunkers were in very good condition with soft thick sand.  They ranged from huge to small pot bunkers and most had some tough lips.  Some are hidden and will surprise you.

The greens are all shapes and sizes and were in great condition when we played.  All have some slope and a few have minor contour.  They were running a little slow, around an 8, but very true.  The fringe is wide and puttable.

This is the only public course on the island and it is well worth playing.

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 6,816 73.3 133
Blue 5,972 69.3 123
White 5,529 67.4 113
Gold 6,380 71.4 127
Red 4,549 66.6 108

Course Information

Course Architect:
Jacobsen Hardy Golf Course Design
Greens Type:
Sea Spray Paspalum
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Fairway Condition
Bunker Condition
Course Map
Beware of water on 17 holes and the 62 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
8.7 out of 10
Fun to Play:
Front Nine Rating:
Back Nine Rating:


Approximate Weekend
$43.00 to $79.00

Service is very good and friendly. The pro shop is well stocked and the practice facilities are adequate. The restaurant serves a variety of food.



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! 
Texas Outside rates courses on the following:

  • Beauty – tall trees, rolling hills, beautiful houses, waterfalls, and similar stuff would score high; a 1 would be flat, bushes or cactus instead of trees, and some grass but mostly weeds
  • Difficulty – a straight, 300 yard par 4 with no traps or hazards, no out of bounds or water would probably get a 1; if it is a 460 yard par 4 over two ravines, with water along one side, natural hazards on the other, strategically placed traps or that dreaded tree right in the middle of the fairway, we are talking a 10. 
  • Variety – what would you give a course where all the holes looked and played exactly the same (“I thought we just played that hole!”); were side-by-side, which is good for finding or dodging other people’s balls, but not much fun; and you can see the flag from every tee box?  That’s right, it gets a 1.
  • Fun Scale – a 10 is where you walk off the course and say “now that was fun” and you can’t wait to get back, or you immediately turn around and play another 18 holes
  • Value – a 5 is $50 to $60, a 10 is $20 to $30, and 1 is $200 or so – of course all of this is dependent upon how you liked the course.  For example, if a run down, boring municipal course, with six players on each hole was only $10; it would still get a value rating of 1.
  • Condition – this one’s pretty easy – what condition are the fairways. A 10 commands very lush perfectly manicured fairways, compared to a 1, which has fire ants, weeds, and more dirt than grass!
  • Condition of Greens and Difficulty – very hard to read greens with lots of undulation and tough pin placement, rate very high on the difficulty scale.  Condition is self-explanatory.  

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.