The Challenge at the Woods Review

Texas Outside Rating: 8.3

Golf - Public Course · 18 Holes · Par 71
Jacksonville
Website · Locate This Course
Online Specials · Discounted Tee Times
Date Last Played: June 07, 2011

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The Challenge at the Woods Review

The Challenge at the Woods, formally Cherokee Country Club was built in 1936, making it one of the oldest courses in Texas. Over the years it has gone through several owners and in October 2009 The Challenge Golf Group purchased the course and added it to a stable of 6 other excellent courses (Pinnacle, Garden Valley, Eagles Bluff, Cypress Hills, Oak Forest, and Gladewater)  that they own and manage.  We first played The Challenge at the Woods just prior to it being acquired by The Challenge Golf Group and it's wasn't in the best of shape, the club house and all the amenities were closed, and the greens and bunkers needed a lot of work - we rated the course a 6.5 at that time.

Wow, what a dramatic improvement since The Challenge Golf Group took over the course - the greens have been replaced and are fantastic, the fairways were in very good shape, the clubhouse is open and serving some very tasty food, and the tennis courts and swimming pool are now open.  The grounds are well maintained and manicured and it seems that the Challenge Golf Group is committed to a continuous improvement program.  Our rating of The Challenge at the Woods is now a strong 8.25.  Our congrats on a job well done! 

At 6239 yards, The Challenge at the Woods is a tad short but plays a little longer thanks to elevation changes and is somewhat challenging with a slope of 119 to 125.  Matt Dye redesigned the course in 2008 and made it a little more challenging and fun by adding bunkers and redoing some of the greens. Typical of most older courses, The Challenge at the Woods is pretty traditional with straight and forgiving fairways, small greens, and no tricks or hidden hazards - typically, what you see is what you get.  Which means, keep it straight and putt well and you should have a fun, relaxing, and good scoring round - at a good value. 

The front nine will keep you on your game by throwing a little bit of everything at you including elevated tee boxes and greens, rolling fairways, minor doglegs, creek or water carries, and some tight approaches. On this nine, the fairways are generous and the rough is playable if you miss the fairway - miss both and you've got tree trouble. 

A meandering creek cuts across the fairways and protects the greens on 5 of the holes - make sure you check the score card to see how to play it and stay dry.  On a lot of holes on the front,  the approach shots can be challenging thanks to some relatively small well guarded greens.  The front nine has 3 par 3s and 3 par 5s and some fun holes like:

  • #1 is an impressive down hill shot from an elevated tee box to a wide open fairway, but then you'll need to carry the creek and hold on a narrow oblong green guarded by two bunkers in front and trouble in back 
  • #4 is a short 377 yard  sharp dog left par 4 that requires an accurate drive from an elevated tee box to a landing zone that is easy to overshoot (best to leave the big dog in the bag) into the trees or land in the bunker or pond and the approach shot needs to carry the pond to a small green with water, a bunker, and tree trouble
  •  on #9, a 544 yard par 5, you can let-er-rip to a wide open downhill fairway but you'll need some accuracy to carry the creek and stuff it on an uphill 24 yard oval green 

We really liked the back nine and specifically the last five holes which are scenic, more challenging, and exciting and fun to play.  For example:

  •  #14 is a fun 404 yard (#1 handicap and a par 4 or 5 depending on which tee box you pick) dog leg left requiring a precise drive, then a couple shots down a contoured and mounded downhill fairway and across a creek to a very small oval green with a big bunker on the left
  • the 186 par 3 #15 gives you a good risk reward shot - can you carry the lake all the way to the green or should you be conservative and play up the left side of the lake and try to stay dry
  •  #18 is a great finishing hole which ends a fun round of golf

The fairways at The Challenge at the Woods were in very good condition when we played.  Like most Texas fairways they are a little firm which means some extra roll that you need to manage.  Unlike most public courses, the fairways weren't chewed up with divots.  They are tree lined, except for holes 11 to 16 which play through a housing development, and most are generous with a wide playable rough - after that you're under the trees or out of bounds.   

The greens were also in very good shape.  They had been punched and sanded just prior to our playing and were a tab bumpy and slow (9 or so).  Normally they are smooth and fast (11 or more) and hold the ball well.  Most seem like they are very small - they range from 13 yards to 35 yards wide - and challenging to hit.  The greens have slope, typically from back to front so try and keep the ball below the pin, and some minor contour creating subtle breaks.

The bunkers currently have sand that ranges from thin and firm to gritty and thick.  The lips are manageable and in some cases you may get lucky and bounce out of the bunker.  Management has acknowledged that they need some work and there are plans to make the bunkers much better.   

Bottom line - a good solid track with a straightforward layout, some fun holes, good service, and a good value.  A must play if you're anywhere near Jacksonville. 

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Gold 6,239 69.2 125
Blue 5,760 67.3 119
White 5,115 70.6 125
Red 4,780 68.0 120

Course Information

Course Architect:
Matt Dye Redesigned
Greens Type:
Champion Bermuda
Greens Condition
8.8
Greens Difficulty
8.3
GPS:
No
Walkable:
Yes
Course Map
Beware of water on 11 holes and the 34 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
8.3 out of 10
Beauty:
8.8
Difficulty:
8.0
Variety:
7.5
Fun to Play:
8.5
Value:
8.5
Condition:
8.5
Front Nine Rating:
8.3
Back Nine Rating:
8.3
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FEES & AMENITIES

Approximate Weekend
Rates:
$35.00 to $55.00

Service is small town friendly. The clubhouse has a small pro shop with the basics, a bar, fantastic outside patio with a great view, and some very good food - the hamburger and chicken wrap were excellent. The range and putting green are adequate. For members there is a cart barn, swimming pool, and tennis courts.

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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. 

 

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