THE COLONY, Texas - How do you give a golf club designed to pay homage to the great courses of Scotland a true Scottish feel?
You hire a Scotsman, of course.
Which is exactly what The Tribute Golf Club did when they brought Keith Erskine over from Royal Troon Golf Club. It's Erskine's voice, not Ewan McGregor's, on The Tribute's voicemail, and if you're real lucky, Erskine is the guy who checks you in for your round in the golf shop.
'I love it here,' he said. 'And it is a bit warmer.'
Erskine's Scottish brogue is the finishing touch on a club that paid attention to most every detail of recreating the feel of golf's birthplace. From the clubhouse pub to the first and 18th holes, which pay tribute to St. Andrews, to the old-world style rooms above the clubhouse overlooking Lake Lewisville, you feel somewhere other than Texas.
Inside the clubhouse Scottish décor abounds, including plenty of photos and artwork from British Opens, Scottish colors and displays of antique golf clubs. Just in case you're not convinced, bagpipe music plays regularly on the outside speakers.
On the 7,002-yard, par-72 golf course, it gets even better.
Beginning with golf's roots
The first and 18th holes, like on the Old Course in St. Andrews, share the same fairway, which means there's little excuse for getting the opening tee shot in play. Keep it low, even into the wind, and your ball will run on these firm fairways, setting up a short approach across the burn into a tricky undulating and sometimes quick bentgrass green.
Don't get used to wide-open tee shots. By the second and third hole, you're into Carnoustie, and we all know how difficult those holes can be. High grass starts appearing off the fairway, and you'll be hard-pressed to find your ball in it.
Fortunately, for pace of play - and to help keep your score down - the local rule at The Tribute Golf Club defines the native areas as lateral hazards, which can turn potential triple bogeys into mere bogeys if you take advantage.
Plenty of other great courses inspired Davis. The fifth is modeled after the famous Postage Stamp hole of Turnberry, one of the shortest holes in major championship history. True to form, it's easy to chip or putt off the green if you're not careful.
You'll also find holes from Prestwick, Muirfield, Western Gailes and Royal Dornoch, to name a few. And no Scotland tribute course would be complete without the Road Hole of St. Andrews and the Valley of Sin found on the Old Course's 18th.
I've played several golf courses that either replicate or are 'inspired' by holes on great courses, and The Tribute tops the list.
Conditioning was outstanding, and getting a links feel wasn't a stretch, as wind is fairly common in the Dallas area. Of course, it's a little warmer here most of the year, which does little to take away from the experience.
The Tribute Golf Club also did a great job of creating a 33,000-square-foot Scottish-style clubhouse that exudes warmth with grand fireplaces, inlaid wood and the Old Tom Morris Pub, which serves a few traditional Scottish dishes and single malts.
The golf shop is also well stocked and includes memorabilia from the great courses of Scotland. Behind the clubhouse is a large practice green, and there's also an expansive range. Lessons are available from Erskine and other staff members.
The real treat here, though, is the eight guest suites on the floor above the clubhouse, overlooking the course and Lake Lewisville. Each features old world furnishings, including an old-style wardrobe, but also offer mini-fridges and high-def satellite TV.
It's perfect for a group of guys who want to take a quick golf vacation without having to fly across the pond.