Tony Butler Golf Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 7.5

Golf - Public Course · 27 Holes · Par 71
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Tony Butler Golf Course Review

Review of Tony Butler Golf Course

Tony Butler Golf Course is a 27 hole facility that is owned and operated by the City of Harlingen.  What makes Tony Butler a little unique compared to some of the other Valley courses is that the course was designed in the late 20's and redesigned again years late when another nine was added and each it time it was designed to leverage the natural terrain, unlike other courses that move tons of cubic feet of earth to sculpt their courses. 

Holes one through eighteen with a par 71 is short by today's standards - the three tee boxes range from 5113 to 6320 yards.  The third nine is a par 35 with two tee boxes and yardages of 2467 from the forward tees and 2881 from the tips.  A couple of the holes play above the Arroyo Colorado River, some are side by side, and others have some minor ups and downs - no homes, no hecklers sitting on their patios, and no barking dogs!  

What makes playing Tony Butler fun is first is very affordable and you'll find a little bit of everything - dog legs left and right, some holes you can try and drive, water and ravines to carry, small challenging greens, trees to contend with, and out of bounds if you really spray the ball. 

When we played, as you can tell by the pictures, it had just rained and water was everywhere.  Riding on the cart path felt like one of those river rides at an amusement park where you throw your hands up, yell "wheeeee!," and watch the spray go by both sides of you; the bunkers were like the beach complete with a rake and palm trees - I was tempted to go back to the motorhome and get my beach chairs, sun tan lotion, and a pina colada; some of the puddles in the fairway were like small lakes and we needed a ball retriever to get our ball; and if you hit a low worm burner you could watch the ball's rooster tail to tell you where it went, which typically wasn't very far; and when you made it in the cup, your ball and hands got a good wash.  For 16 holes it was just to two of us, 5 big jackrabbits, a tarantula taking a bath, some birds, and lots of waterfowl.  On one whole we saw a fellow golfer going the other way who said "and I thought I was the only fool out here today."  But we had fun - click here to see some of the other pictures. 

Tony Butler has some fun and interesting holes, some that we liked included: 

  • the first hole is the #1 handicap thanks to its length at 504 yards, somewhat tight fairways, and water that crosses the fairway about 220 yards out and then follows the fairway all the way to the green
  • #6 is a 190 yard par three with a slightly elevated tee, a deep gully to fly, and a green with two bunkers
  • #9 is a fun 405 yard par 4 that turns left and follows a narrow fairway with a lot of slope and contour back up to the green
  • #13 is the longest hole on the course at 536 yards but also has a dog leg left and a deep ravine to carry up to the green
  • #17 will temp you with a risk reward shot to cut off the dog leg - but you need to fly the trees and miss the lake

When we played the fairways were in pretty rough shape with a mixture of grasses and some bare spots.  A new superintendent and head pro are making significant improvements to the conditions and the fairways are much better than they were a year ago.  Most of the fairways are generous and you can pull out the big dog and let it rip -but if you spray it and your're under the trees, in a another fairway, or out of bounds. 

The greens at Tony Butler Golf Course were in pretty good condition.  The greens vary in size and shape with most being close to oval and a tad small.  They range from relatively flat to some steep slope and a ridge or tier or two.  They held the ball well and ran true.  When we played, they were wet so we couldn't judge the speed - we were told that they normally run around a 9.5. 

The bunkers were in fantastic condition, but wet.  The sand is thick and soft and a joy to hit out of when it's dry.  Most of the bunkers are small and the sand runs up and over the lip, which means you might get lucky and roll out of the bunker. 

Bottom line - the fairways are not in the best of condition but the greens and bunkers are good, the rate is low, and the course is interesting, fun, and playable with a good opportunity to have a great round. 

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Blue 6,320 69.1 113
White 5,837 66.7 106
Red 5,113 69.1 112

Course Information

Greens Type:
Champion Bermuda
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Fairway Condition
Bunker Condition
Course Map
Beware of water on 7 holes and the 26 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

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


Approximate Weekend
$20.00 to $25.00

The pro shop has some basic gear, the practice facilities are ok, and the grill has hamburgers, dogs, and sandwiches.



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.