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Iron Horse Golf Club northeast of Fort Worth is a stiff but enjoyable ride

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NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas -- From the back tees, Iron Horse Golf Club is just 6,679 yards from the tips. So as you get through the first three holes -- par 4s that are 420, 430 and 465 yards respectively -- you're probably thinking to yourself that there must be a bunch of short holes coming up.

Not exactly.

Iron Horse is only a par 70, which is like playing a 7,000-yard, par-72 course. And beyond that, most of the holes at Iron Horse require placement over length. The ability to work the ball is an asset, too, but a little length on some of the holes definitely comes in handy.

It's no wonder the slope/rating is 72.6/127. (That's 2.6 strokes over par since it's a par 70.)

But before we scare you off, here's a solution for anyone who's not a 6-handicap or less: Don't play the back tees. You'll have a lot more fun, the forced carries aren't as difficult and you can hit shorter clubs into these well-guarded greens.

'I think what sets us apart is the overall playability of the course,' said Head Golf Professional Chris Miles of the Gary Stephenson-designed municipal course that remains a favorite in the Fort Worth area.

'And from a staff aspect, you'll find that most of the people who come in say this is one of the friendliest places they come into,' Miles said. 'Most of our staff knows the majority of players by name. So it's not the typical public course where you just check in and play. There are relationships here between our staff and the players.'

Iron Horse Golf Club's friendly atmosphere

What else would you expect from a club that has a model train in the clubhouse? That's right, as the name implies, the 23-year-old facility is built around a railroad theme.

In fact, a railroad trestle runs right though the course, and there are old train cars set around it, including one that serves as the halfway house. And a train actually still operates through the area. The historic Tarantula runs from Grapevine to the Fort Worth Stockyards, carrying tourists.

For golfers, the experience even carries to the tee boxes, where pieces of rail mark the tees. And a locomotive is the course logo.

The locomotive might be a good model for golfers, too. Because like an old steam engine, it's best to be patient. Take it slow and gather momentum.

'Most of the golf course doesn't require driver off the tee, but it does require placement right around the 150 yard marker,' Miles said.

But there are times, such as on those first three holes from the tips, where a well-placed driver is probably the club of choice.

And there are times where a hybrid or iron off the tee is the way to go.

Favorite holes at Iron Horse

'No. 2 and No. 3 are great holes,' Miles said. 'Both require very accurate tee shots.'

The third is the longest par 4 on the golf course. It requires a shot over Fossil Creek, which runs throughout the course. It has a very tight landing area and even a good tee shot sets up a long approach.

The par 3s are pretty strong, too. The eighth is 190 yards with ponds left and right. And the 17th can play more than 200 yards with water in front of the green.

The 15th might be the signature hole on the course. There's a creek off the tee and another crossing before the green. It requires a workable-type tee shot as well.

And, according to Miles, No. 18 might be one of the best finishing holes in the Metroplex. When the tee is all the way back, it's 250 yards in the air to clear the creek, albeit downhill. The approach isn't much easier with trees and bunkers surrounding the green.

'When there's a strong prevailing south wind, we move the tee up,' Miles said.

Iron Horse Golf Club: The verdict

Iron Horse Golf Club really is a challenging course that plays much more difficult than its yardage. The shorter holes -- such as No. 7 (335 yards) and No. 10 (382) -- can be among the most difficult because of the tight windows off the tee. But the key is to play them conservatively.

The best part about Iron Horse really is the overall atmosphere. It has a nice clubhouse with friendly staff and good food; rangers are very polite but manage to keep play moving along, and the professional staff makes you feel like family.

Practice facilities include a range, short-game area and practice green. And lessons are available from the staff. Considering the relatively low price and the overall condition of the course, including its outstanding greens, Iron Horse is a great choice for the local golfer as well as the traveler.