Culled from the noggin of course-crafter John Sanford, the Dogwood course at Garden Valley merges Champion bermuda greens with Lake Butler's lapping shores to forge an unforgettable 6,840 yards of play. Towering pine trees blanket golf carts in shadows, cooling players as they ponder the best methods to evade the course's many water hazards and rolling hills, where distracted golfers often sacrifice games, stopping to paint the picturesque East Texas landscape.
Guests may also admire the scenery from the onsite restaurant, which serves house-made omelets and crisp salads. The eatery resides below the clubhouse’s vaulted ceilings, in addition to a fully equipped pro shop and an outdoor terrace overlooking the 18th green. Across the street lies the Garden Valley Sports Complex, a 24-hour facility filled with fitness machines and free weights that help patrons to burn fat beside an indoor basketball court and a refreshing pool relatively free of feral manatees.
Oil Bowl Lanes opens its 32 lanes of rolling glory to pin pushers every day of the week. A one-hour lane rental pits quartets of players against one another to see who can garner the highest score based on pins felled and the secret 11th frame, which is judged on the overall style of post-strike moonwalks. Eight rental shoes lend their aid to earthbound extremities, and a full pitcher of soda bubbles with between-frame refreshment or postgame head-dunk opportunities. Spheres rumble down Oil Bowl’s alleys between retro-futuristic murals and cheery checkered floors.
The ridges and swales of Outlaw Golf Club’s recently renovated bentgrass greens get balls spinning and players cursing. These difficult patches of grass await golfers at the end of the nine-hole course’s bluegrass fairways, which undulate through the craggy terrain overlooking Jordanelle Lake. The course's bite doesn’t just come from elevation changes, though: three lakes and two streams tempt balls to take a dip, and the par 3 and 4 fairways demand frequent club changes by vacillating in length from 65 to 465 yards. Despite these challenges, novices can enjoy the course by choosing a more forgiving tee from the six that cluster in front of each fairway, including all-weather surface tees.
The club’s outdoor short-game-refining center invites players to practice their putting and chipping as they aim their balls up to 100 yards away. The center also serves as PGA Professional Dave DeSantis’s classroom, where he teaches players how to break free from sand traps without digging a hole they will eventually fall in.
Though their 27 holes share rolling fairways and the shade of oaks, magnolias, dogwoods, and azaleas, River Plantation Country Club’s three courses all boast their own challenges, which lie ready to shape well-rounded golfers. The nine-hole courses, named Augusta, Biloxi, and Charleston, all feature their fair share of tricky shots and holes flanked by streams, dotted with trees, or blocked by sample-size manhole covers. Players can further hone their skills on a 50-slot driving range, a putting green, and a short-game playing field complete with a faux sand bunker and chipping green. After practice or gameplay, golfers can stop into the River Plantation Grille to top off human or lifelike-android energy reserves with burgers, wraps, quesadillas, and deli sandwiches.
Nestled at the southern point of Lake Conroe, Nauti-Dayz Boat Rentals facilitates fun with a fleet of nautical vessels. Outfitted with 90-horsepower Honda motors, pontoon boats welcome passengers for low-speed floats around the lake’s placid waters. MerCruiser motors send ski boats ripping across the waves, towing skiers, tubers, and wakeboarders in their frothy wakes. The shop also rents waverunners that seat up to two passengers and reproduce the high-speed thrill of riding a motorcycle across a full swimming pool. All rentals include complimentary fuel and life jackets.