Just east of Dallas and 15 miles west of Tyler is a hidden gem of a golf course and one of the premier golf courses in Texas with a great Stay & Play package - Garden Valley Golf Club. Known as "the Augusta National of Texas", this 6840 yard par 72 is an outstanding golf course offering golfers scenic beauty, memorable holes, great service, and a variety of accommodations as a part of Garden Valley's Stay & Play package.
Garden Valley was developed in 1962 by a group of Japanese businessmen who had a vision of opening a number of resort type courses throughout the United States. They started with the 9 hole par 35 Hummingbird course at Garden Valley and in 1992 had John Sanford design the Dogwood course. The Hummingbird 9 was eventually closed and focus became on making Dogwood, renamed Garden Valley Golf Club, a premier east Texas course. In 2010, The Challenge Golf Group purchased this fantastic course and immediately began making some needed improvements, adding a number of new amenities, and enhancing the playability of the existing 18 holes.
Garden Valley's Dogwood Course cuts through the rolling hills and 100 foot stately pine trees of East Texas and around Lake Butler and Lake Jackson, which was a National Water Skiing tournament lake. In addition to elevation changes and small roller coaster ups and downs, you'll find several ponds, plenty of dog legs, a few blind shots, and natural beauty with stunning azaleas and flowering dogwoods throughout the course. After your round, it's easy to forget about your score and just remember the scenic beauty and how much fun you had playing this course and how you can't wait to come back and play it again.
Garden Valley has three sets of tee boxes with ranges from 5532 yards to 6840 yards. Although the course is short from the tips, it is still challenging with a rating of 72.4 and a slope of 132. This course demands that you play smart and on a number of holes you'll want to leave the driver in the bag. Course management and iron accuracy are also keys to scoring well - the trees, water, hills, bunkers, and narrow approaches to the green all require you to think your way around this course.
The front nine is a little more forgiving and not quite as scenic or fun as the back. On the front, you'll find water on five holes, lots of mounds, a couple well protected greens, and one of the toughest holes on the course - the par 5 ninth hole. You may need a cold beer or a shot after this hole because it will test all of your skills. Off the tee box you need to avoid the bunker on the right, the trees on the left, and make sure you stop short of the water in the middle of the fairway. If you get safely past your drive, your second shot is no walk in the park with water, bunkers, and trees to contend with. And finally, you have a very narrow approach to the green with water on the left and bunkers all along one side. After all that, you'll need to stop at the club house for lunch, a cold beer, or a shot to get you ready for one of the best nine holes in Texas. If you double click on the image of the 9th hole to the left, you can view a fly over of his fantastic hole.
The front nine is very good (fun, scenic, and in very good condition) and we rated it a solid 8.5 out of 10 stars, but you are in for a real treat on the back nine which we rated a 9.5 - read our review of Garden Valley Golf Club to learn more about our rating and review. The scenic beauty is unlike most other courses in Texas - lots of color from blossoming azaleas and dogwoods, the blue sparkling waters of the lake along a number of the holes, and the natural beauty of the lush rolling fairways lined with towering pines. And this nine offers lots of variety and some challenging and very fun holes. For example, the downhill eleventh hole which has trees and rough lining both sides of a fairly narrow fairway and if your drive is off, then you'll find bunkers, rough, trees, and the lake waiting to add a stroke or two to your score. Plus the 11th is a dog left and if your drive is short, you can't make the turn and will have to lay up - and then you have a short iron to the green protected by a bunker on the right and the lake on the left. Click on the picture to the right and it will provide you with a fly over of the hole. On the back nine you'll find a little bit of everything - elevated greens and tee boxes, rolling fairways, dogs left and right, water on seven holes, and blind shots. You'll remember this nine and the second time you play it, you'll do much better.
Every time we have played Garden Valley, it has been in very good condition. The fairways and the Champion Bermuda greens have been in above average condition. The course is well maintained and the landscaping adds color to what is already a beautiful setting. The greens are about average size with some roll and slope. The last time we played (July 2010) the greens were a little fast and very smooth. On some of the holes, based on pin placement and slope, if you can't get the ball to hold or you're putting downhill, you may get to watch your ball roll off the green and back down the fairway. Practice putting before you head out to play.
If the above isn't enough to make you want to play this fabulous course, then here is an added bonus - the pace of play is fantastic. The majority of the times we have played, there wasn't anyone in front or back of us. Play fast and you can make a round in three hours - leaving you plenty of time for another round!
Not only is this a fantastic and beautiful course, it's a real bargain. Be sure to visit Garden Valley's course tour to see photos and flyovers of each hole. Below is another example of a hole - check out the flyover. You are going to enjoy this course and it will most likely make your top 20 list - it made our list of the Top Public Golf Courses in Texas. Garden Valley has also gotten rave reviews from the Dallas Morning News (Top 15 High Priced), Avid Golfer, and Golf Digest. You can read our review by .
In addition to eighteen holes of fantastic golf, you'll find a variety of lodging to fit your fancy, your group size, and your budget. The accommodations range from very rustic to nicely appointed cabins facing the lake and 18th green and the 17 units will sleep between 3 to 18 people. Check the Garden Valley website for current information and prices and to make a reservation. The majority of the accommodations have been upgraded and renovated by the new owners. All are comfortable and clean with the basics you'll need for a fun weekend - they are functional and affordable but far from upscale, except for the Dockside Cabins which are outstanding. .
Cottages of Garden Valley
Just down the road from the Clubhouse are five rustic A-Frames nested under some towering pines. The one bedroom A-Frames have a small living area with a fireplace, TV, couch, chair, and a dinning table. The bedroom has a queen bed and the loft has three single beds. The kitchenette is small but fine for cooking the basics. Under the pines you'll find a grill and picnic table with a view of what was the Hummingbird course. The A-Frames are rustic but comfortable and you stay here for the price and excellent golf, not for luxury accommodations. This would be a fun place to stay for a large group that wants multiple cabins or a family with kids - they'll love the loft.
Jones Cabins at Garden Valley
A little farther down the road from the clubhouse are the Jones Cabins. These are one-story apartment type units with two bedrooms each of which has a private bath. The living room has a convertible sofa to sleep a couple more golfers. The living and dining room area has a full kitchen. Each of the Jones Cabins were renovated in 2010.
Adjoining the Jones Cabins is the Butler Cabin which is perfect for a large group or a big family with friends - there a number of rooms with a combo of bunk and twin beds to sleep 18. There are two fully equipped kitchens, two dining rooms, and 3 flat screen TVs. And best of all there is a full bar, poker table, ping pong table, and dart board. So gather some golfing buddies or family and relatives and book this cabin.
Lake House at Garden Valley
If you've got a group of golfing and fishing buddies, a big fishing or golfing family, or want to spend some time with friends, then try the Lake House. The Lake House is a very rustic two bedroom cabin sitting right on Lake Butler behind the 12th green. The Lake House was built in the 70's and the furniture and furnishings are very dated - but who cares, you're here to enjoy the golf, the beautiful setting, the fishing, and the poker and partying with your golfing buddies!
The Lake House has two bedrooms with full size beds and six twin beds on a sleeping porch. If you like fishing, you can fish from the bank or from the fishing pier in front of the house. The lake is stocked and the big ones are waiting for your hook. You can cook your catch on the outdoor grill or in the fully equipped kitchen. Eat outside on the picnic table by the lake, on the large dining room table, or in the enclosed, wrap-around wood paneled porch. There are plans to renovate and upgrade the Lake House but no firm dates.
Garden Valley's Dockside Cabins
On our first visit to Garden Valley, we stayed in the Dockside cabins and really enjoyed them. They are clean, appear new, and are very comfortable and well appointed. Plus they are a chip shot from the clubhouse and pro shop. From the living room and outside patio, you have a fantastic view of Lake Jackson and the 18th green. The rocking chair and other chairs on the porch are perfect for relaxing with a cup or coffee or a cocktail after an enjoyable round of golf.
Each cabin has a master bedroom with huge bathroom, shower, and Jacuzzi tub. The living room has a game/dining table, Murphy bed, flat screen TV, fireplace, and a comfortable couch and two chairs. Upstairs are two twin beds and another bathroom. The full kitchen has a dishwasher, ice maker, stove, coffee pot, setting for 4, mini refrig, toaster, and blender - all you need for a fun weekend. The Dockside cabins also have maid service. The Dockside Cabins are the only accommodations within walking distance of the pro shop and club house. The Dockside Cabins are the most upscale and well appointed accommodations at Garden Valley.
Hogan Cabins at Garden Valley
On our most recent visit with another golfing couple, we stayed in one of the Hogan Cabins which are within a couple minutes drive of the clubhouse. All of the two story Hogan Cabins have been recently redone and they include: a king size bed and one single bed upstairs with a Jacuzzi tub and shower combination; a downstairs bedroom with two single beds and a private bath; a living dining room combo with vaulted ceiling, dining table, couch and chairs, and a TV; fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher plus a washer and dryer.
Accommodations Summary - The Dockside Cabins are outstanding - new, well furnished, comfortable, convenient to the Club House, and have a fantastic view of the 18th green and lake. The other accommodations were built in the 70's are very rustic and somewhat dated, although all but the Lake House have been renovated and upgraded under the new management. If you want more luxurious accommodations, then book a Dockside Cabin which is a little pricier per head. Remember you're here for the camaraderie and the outstanding golf. Prices are reasonable for what you're getting.
The Challenge Group has added or improved on the amenities at Garden Valley. Some of what you can enjoy during a Garden Valley Stay and Play include:
We found the service to be first class. Everyone was friendly and outgoing and anxious to make sure your stay was enjoyable.
Garden Valley is an excellent place for a wedding, corporate or executive retreat, or any type of reunion. They can sleep up to 82 people and will cater to your needs for food and other services. There is a small conference room that is excellent for meetings and planning sessions. The banquet room can accommodate up to 200 people for awards ceremonies or special events.
What a fantastic place to get married. There are multiple ceremony sites with views of the lush golf course, towering pines, blossoming azaleas and dogwoods, and sparkling blue waters of the lakes. The banquet room has full windows with a 180 degree view of the woods, lake and golf house and it is perfect for the reception and an evening of food and fun. Garden Valley has extensive experience in catering and attention to detail and will ensure that your event is perfect and memorable. Plus your friends and family can spend the weekend with you, enjoy the golf and other attractions in the area.
Other Fun Things To Do
Play Some More Golf - Check out Texas Outsides East Texas Golf Map to find courses in the area and read reviews.
Go Fishing - Plan a golf and fishing Stay & Play. Before or after your round, head to nearby Lake Fork (one of the best fishing lakes in Texas), Tawakoni, and Cedar Creek to catch a trophy bass or just to get out on the water and enjoy the lakes. You'll find more information on these and other Texas lakes (fishing reports, lake maps, fishing guides, boat rentals, marinas, and more) inOr you can fish, catch and release only, in any of the three lakes on Garden Valley's property.
Shop Till You Drop - Just down the road in Canton for the World Famous First Monday Trade Days - "it's not just shopping...it's an experience!" First Monday holds the record as the World's Largest Flea Market - if you can't find it here, it may not exist. The First Monday grounds have blossomed into over 400 acres, 7000 vendors from across the country, and 4 days of shopping frenzy. You'll find everything from Afghans and antiques to zippers and zinnias.
Explore the Area - Tyler has lots to see and do including some excellent biking and hiking trails in Tyler State Park, a great zoo, and some good restaurants and nightlife. See Texas Outside's Tyler page to learn more about Tyler and what there is to see and do. The kids and young at heart will enjoy Splash Kingdom Water Park in Canton.
Texas Rose Horse Park - this is the largest horse park in Texas and has equestrian events year round - check them out.
Restaurants & Nightlife - You don't have a lot of choices for nightlife (nearby Canton is dry) unless you go to Tyler. We did hear that there was a barn dance at D's Stardust between Grand Saline and Fruitvale. And Tyler has some fun bars and a number of restaurants to choose from. In Canton, you have a few choices for some ok food - Mexican (Ochoa's, Two Sisters, or Jaunita's), Italian (Val's), BBQ (Bakers Ribs), or burgers at the World Famous Dairy Palace. In nearby Van you'll find the Farmhouse.
Garden Valley Golf Club is one of the top courses in Texas and you need to add it to your list of must play courses. Their Stay & Play offers a variety of accommodations from inexpensive and rustic to first class cabins next to the Clubhouse. So you need to round up some friends, gather the corporate execs or your project team, or pack up the family and head to Garden Valley for a fun weekend (or more!) of golf.