"What sense does it make for us to feature a golf course that is one man's private paradise, and few of our readers will ever play? Well it's that very mission statement that makes Wolf Point special. Its unique program invited designer Mike Nuzzo and construction superintendent Don Mahaffey to do things other architects would never consider on a busy 18-hole public course ... and to make us wonder why we don't.
Private golf courses like this are notoriously short-lived, because it's one thing to spend the money to build a course, and another thing to maintain it year after year as the only dues-paying member. To address this, the entire course is mowed at the same height apart from the greens, and most of the 61 bunkers are quite small and easy to take care of. The designer' one extravagance was to build a set of large, undulating greens to provide a lot of day-to-day variety in the setup for a client who plays nearly every day ... but they were also ready to convert some portions of those greens back to fairway if Al didn't value that variety. Fortunately, he has, as there is some responsibility in being the owner of the best set of greens in Texas."
- Tom Doak / Confidential Guide
Wolf Point is listed as the #1 course in Texas, #87 in the US, by Golf.
The first green under construction.
"America’s widest first fairway, and one of its smartest, resides at Wolf Point, a course originally built for one man on his East Texas ranch that has developed a cult following among design aficionados since its 2007 opening." Golf Magazine
Don Mahaffey and Joe Hancock during construction.
"Dream 18: The best 18 holes built in the last 44 years. Hole No. 1: Wolf Point, Port Lavaca, Texas — Par 4, 320 Yards" Golf Magazine
Golf writers always found at least one bunker during their visit.
Our friends the McBrides have a great visit, David is about to eagle #2.
From his house, Al could see almost all the greens.
Don Mahaffey spent a lot of time shaping the 2nd green.
The ripples in the 2nd fairway make the play more interesting and make the drainage work better.
Don Mahaffey planned on using a gang mower from the beginning.
The sharp tilt of the 3rd green, offset behind flanking bunkers on the right, illustrates what makes Wolf Point so special. – Tom Doak
Al's favorite pets were the camels because they were so friendly.
The bunker on 1 looks like it is in play on the 4th.
Playing away from the creek on the tee shot makes for a very difficult approach to a right pin.
The swales protecting the 5th green were always there.
Infierno is directly on the "line of charm".
The 5th from above.
The 5th from satellite, the tee is next to the 4th green.
The back of the 5th green is protected by Keller Creek.
Rob Young under the tutelage and watchful eye of Clayton.
This old live oak used to scare the players away.
The kicker slope behind Infierno propels a daring tee shot.
Construction equipment for scale.
The 6th hole is one of Don Mahaffey's favorite holes anywhere.
We had some incredibly fun outings.
Ian Andrew told me the 7th green is one of the best things in all of golf.
The 7th green slopes away from the player and Keller Creek.
Don Mahaffey and the construction crew were a family.
Flagstick Films brought some talent to film a pilot episode for a golf travel show.
The 9th green feeds shots towards the water.
The ninth was Al's nemesis for the first season.
Don Mahaffey, Mike Nuzzo + Bobby O during lake construction.
The 10th hole is the shortest two shot hole, and it has one of the toughest pins.
Mahaffey once holed out for an eagle to this nearly impossible pin.
The stingray green, 11th, was helped by 30 inches of rain during finishing.
Rob Young plays a casual round 10 years later.
The 12th green runs almost entirely away from the tee.
The 13th green is one of the hardest to hold with a long club, and it is also one of the longest holes.
Wolf Point was lucky to have Jacob Cope as its shaper.
The 14th green is the most severe.
The 14th greenside bunker is deeper than it looks.
Looking back on the 14th hole, the large live oak splits the fairway.
The Live Oaks dot the property and impact the strategy.
The 15th green was the northern anchor point for the routing.
The 15th green looks benign from the tee.
Renaldo and Don during grow-in.
One of the few green side bunkers at the 16th.
Jacob Cope and Don Mahaffey during construction.
The green is more receptive when playing from near Keller Creek.
The 16th is a shorter hole, and do not go long.
"The 16th is probably my favorite green on the entire course, which by the way is like trying to pick out your favorite Victoria's Secret model!" – Wyatt H.
The 17th green with the residence in the distance.
14 green lower right then 15-17 from above.
The split fairway tee shot on 18 depends mostly on the wind.
Deep swale between the 8th and 18th green.
Looking up towards the 18th green.
Mahaffey, Doak and myself after a very fun round.
Planting in 2007.
The following images are the iterations of the routing, first published in Paul Daley's great volumes.
Routing 1b took advantage of the existing clearings and specimen trees.
Revision #5 shifted to Al's preferred property and had LOTS of cross hazards.
Routing #6 started to tighten up and got 5 + 6 pretty close, minus all the bunkers.
Routing #9 finalized the ditch that acts as the lake outfall, among other refinements.
Routing #9b started to explore some of the land Al asked us to shy away from. Holes 15-17 orient clockwise.
Routing #10. #2 + #11 connect fairways and 15-17 are now counterclockwise. Finally hit 100 hundred bunkers on this plan, Al was pleased.
Routing #11. This is about where we started building. More changes to come!
As built course. Biggest change is #7 and eliminating a lot of bunkers from the last plan.
Here is what it looks like under the hood.
Our handy GPS unit.
Our Proving Grounds
The best course in Texas - Golf Magazine
“Every time anyone asks me about Wolf Point - and they do quite a lot - I have to remember my reactions to the course and try to reanalyze them. A year on, I have concluded it's really one of the very greatest courses I've seen. I wrote at the time that it might be the best first course by a modern architect I had seen, but that I'd not seen Bandon Dunes, as an obvious comparator. I've since been to Bandon, and, whisper it; I’d rather go back to Wolf Point.”
“The par five third is another clever piece of design. A row of diagonal bunkers that could have been placed by Harry Colt creates a speed slot down the left side.”
"I never imagined a course this bold could be built on such land. One visit shows what attention to detail, courage (on the part of the designers and the owner) and sheer grit can produce. It should be the de facto model of course design, construction, and maintenance."
Our client wanted his own golf course, just for himself, in the middle of his ranch near the Gulf coast of Texas.
He played almost every day for 10 years.
The very few who got to visit loved it too.
#1 Course in Texas – Golf Magazine
On-site lead associate for Renaissance Golf Design of historic Memorial Park in Houston, Texas with Tom Doak and Brooks Koepka for the City of Houston and the Astros Golf Foundation in support of the PGA Tour's 2020 (and beyond) Houston Open