SHADY OAKS COUNTRY CLUB
Course Name: Shady Oaks Country Club
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Year of Design: 1956
Major Redesigns: Lawrence M. Hughes and Ralph M. Plummer with Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (1959)
Owner/Developer: Shady Oaks Country Club was built in 1955 by community benefactor, John Marvin Leonard (1895-1970), who provided 1,200 acres of rolling hills on the west side of Fort Worth for the country club that he had earlier founded. Leonard, who Trent Jones came to know well as “Marvin,” was one of Fort Worth’s best known businessmen, known as the “Texas Merchant.” Having taken up the game in the late 1920s upon the advice of his doctor to get out of the office and enjoy the outdoors and fresh air, Leonard played his first golf at Glen Garden Country Club in Dallas where he crossed paths with a young caddy named Ben Hogan, with whom he became a lifelong friend. In 1934 Leonard purchased 157 acres on the southwest side of Fort Worth and began to build what became The Colonial Golf Club, which officially opened in January 1936. (John Bredemus, who had also laid out Glen Garden CC, was Colonial’s designer.) It was Leonard who persuaded the USGA to hold the 1941 U.S. Open at Colonial. From this event grew the Colonial National Invitational, with which Leonard would be long associated. Late in 1942 Leonard sold Colonial to its members but before long determined to build a new country club—his goal being to build one of the finest courses in the world. Finding 1,220 acres of farm land in 1955 near the Westover residential area, just seven miles from downtown Fort Worth, Leonard considered no one but Robert Trent Jones, Jr., to build him his new golf club.
Membership: Small private club with resident and non-resident memberships.
Number of Holes: Today Shady Oaks encompasses 27 holes. The championship 18-hole course that Robert Trent Jones, Sr., designed in 1956 surrounds the other nine holes, known affectionately to club members as the “Little Nine.”
Par: 35-36=71 (men), 35-37=73 (women)
Length—Back Tees: 3,368 front nine, 3,486 back nine, 6,854 totalLength—Middle Tees: 3,157 front nine, 3,296 back nine, 6,453 total
Length—Forward Tees: 2,913 front, 3,114 back, 6,027 total
Hardest Holes: No. 6—425 yard par-4No. 11—423 yard par-4
Par 3 Lengths: 210 (5th), 174 (7th), 235 (12th), 149 (16th)
Par 5 Lengths: 604 (8th), 534 (14th), 519 yard (15th)
Longest Par 4: 435 yards (18th)
Shortest Par 4: 361 yards (1st)
Average Par 4 Length: 402 yards (back tee)
Major Championshps and Title Winners:
Course Ranking: 152nd Best “Classic” Course (Golfweek)
Anecdote: Before the contract for Trent Jones to build the golf course was finalized, Marvin Leonard (“Mr. Marvin”) had Ben Hogan walk the proposed routing with him and wanted Ben to listen to his plans. As Leonard told the story, Hogan begged Leonard not to go on. Ben thought the site was much too hilly and rugged to make a playable course. As much as Leonard liked Hogan, he did not agree with his assessment of the property and he signed the papers nonetheless. Allegedly, Leonard commandeered half the bulldozers in West Texas and set them to work on what even Jones recognized to be “one of the greatest earth-moving and leveling-off projects any golf course had ever known.” Working with Leonard was a challenge for Jones. Some holes Trent had to lay out two or three times before the course owner was satisfied. For example, on the third hole, Jones ultimately had to shift the green some 175 yards from its place in his original design. Although Leonard’s perfectionism tested Jones’s patience, he was accustomed to dealing with rich and influential men who wanted things done their way. At any rate, the cost of such meticulousness ran high—as much as three times that of an average course at that time—which just added to the bill that Jones (and his construction company) issued to the owner. When the golf course was finished, most everyone felt that the extra pains and investment were worth it; even Ben Hogan did.
Expert Comment: “Anyone who is building a golf course anywhere in the world and doesn’t come down to see what had been done at Shady Oaks will be making a mistake. You won’t find anything like this—course, clubhouse, everything—any place else in the world.” Ben Hogan, ca.1956