Shady Oaks Golf Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 8.3

Golf - Public Course · 18 Holes · Par 72
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Shady Oaks Golf Course Review

Review of Shady Oaks Golf Course - Baird, Texas

We have played a number of what we call "country courses" (courses away from the hustle and bustle of the major cities) and we never know what we’re going to get.  It could be a cow pasture where you can’t tell the greens from the fairways or you can’t even find the fairways or it might be a hidden gem, which is what we found at Shady Oaks Golf Course in Baird, which is about 17 miles east of Abilene. 

Shady Oaks is home to very good conditions, interesting holes, friendly folks, and an opportunity to enjoy a relaxing, fun, and low scoring round at an excellent value – what a pleasant surprise.  Plus, Shady Oaks has some nice touches like a couple holes where you can stuff your pockets with free peanuts and some holes that have two sets of ball washers and sidewalks marked with the 100, 150, and 200 yards.

West Texas is well known for its flat terrain, arid conditions, wind, and lack of water – all of which we were expecting when we set off to play Shady Oaks Golf Course.  We got the wind but we also got some uphill and downhill shots (albeit not major elevation changes, but we are in West Texas) including an elevated tee box with a view for what seems like hundreds of miles, seven lakes that can come into play, very smooth Bent grass greens, and some better than average conditions. 

The harsh Texas winter, drought conditions, and record breaking heat had impacted the normally lush fairways and roughs at Shady Oaks, but we were still impressed with the overall conditions.  Plus the course is very well maintained and landscaped with a variety of trees and lots of bottle brush or scotch brooms.  Ron Hilburn, the Shady Oaks General Manager, told us that the harsh weather coupled with some recent mechanical problems has put the course in the worst condition it has ever been in – wow, we would love to play it again when it’s back in shape!  We played a lot of much more expensive courses that were in worse condition thanks to Mother Nature. 

With four sets of tee boxes and yardages ranging from 2419 to 6245 yards, Shady Oaks is short for most golfers and there are holes where you might want to leave the driver in the bag or bring out the big boy and try to drive the green.  The front nine is really short at 2877 yards from the tips but it’s a par 34 with 3 par 3’s and one par 5 – and it’s a little easier than the back meaning this is your opportunity for several pars and birdies! 

Most of the holes are fairly traditional and straightforward with "what you see is what you get" – which in most cases is plenty of trees, water on 8 holes, some minor uphill and downhill shots, some sharp dog legs, 23 bunkers, a few challenging green complexes, and some fun holes.  For example:

  • #4 is a 509 yard par 5 with an uphill tee shot, then a blind shot downhill toward a big but odd shaped green with a pond on the right and big bunker on the left
  • #7 requires an accurate 175 yard shot from the tips to carry a large pond and bunker and stuff it on the green without going long and into a hidden pond in back of the green
  • #12 is a fun 385 yard uphill shot to a sharp dog leg right and then down to a challenging green complex with mounding on the left, a sharp drop off along the right and back, and some severe slope on the green – you’ll need to avoid the huge bunker that’s the size of Rhode Island where the fairway turns right and for you risk takers and big hitters, why not try to fly the trees and hit the green
  • #17 is a long 504 yard uphill climb to the green with a couple trees in the fairway that can block your shot if you get near them

All of the fairways are tee lined with a variety of different types of trees but the good news is that if you get under the trees you’ll mostly likely find your ball and be able to get back to the fairway.  Some of the fairways are side by side and if you really spray the ball and get through the trees you’re in another fairway with an opportunity to recover.  The fairways are ample and the rough is wide and very playable.  As mentioned earlier, the fairways were in surprisingly good condition, particularly on the front nine.

The Bent grass greens range in size from relatively small to huge and all different shapes from small ovals to long and skinny oblongs.  Most of the greens have a huge fringe that is smooth and puttable. The Shady Oak Golf Course greens were in good condition, held the ball well, and ran true and at a good speed of between 9 and 10.  But the breaks are very subtle and at times difficult to read – study them from all angles and Ron says the best way to read them is to use a plumb bob technique.  The back nine greens seemed a lot tougher with more slope, a couple spines, and more contour.

The bunkers are slowly being redone over the next couple of years and will be filled with soft white fluffy sand – I found a couple that had been redone and they are great.  I also found some that hadn’t been redone and they are tough with firm hard dark sand.  The bunkers at Shady Oaks range in size from small to huge and treacherous and some are steep and deep with a nasty face that you don’t want to be up against.

Bottom line – Shady Oaks is a must play if you’re in the area – fair, fun, a heck of a deal, and good conditions.

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Blue 6,245 70.4 120
White 5,791 68.3 117
Red 5,337 663.0 108

Course Information

Greens Type:
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Fairway Condition
Bunker Condition
Beware of water on 8 holes and the 23 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

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


Approximate Weekend
$20.00 to $38.00

The clubhouse is dated (the course opened in the 60’s) but the carts are newer and in good shape. The Pro Shop has some of the basics only and the grill serves some good food at very affordable prices. The range and putting green are adequate. Everyone, from the chef to the head pro to the maintenance staff to the members is very friendly and helpful.



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.