You could easily spend a weekend in Fort Worth, Texas — known locally as Cowtown — ambling from blues bar to improv nightclub to modern-art opening without once spying a Stetson. This relaxed city of half a million people is a progressive cultural center. But for folks in search of an authentic Lone-Star feel, the Stockyards District, National Cowgirl Museum and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame can fill the bill. And it gets no better than Billy Bob’s Texas, “The World’s Largest Honky-tonk,” where on November 15 Merle Haggard will growl tunes from his upcoming record, Haggard Like Never Before.
Golf disciples think of Fort Worth as the home of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and the courses that nurtured them, Colonial and Glen Garden. And while you won’t be playing at Colonial or Hogan’s last home, Shady Oaks, unless you are well connected, there is an impressive bunch of quality daily-fees in and around Fort Worth.
After making your way through the maze of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, take the 20-minute drive to suburban Flower Mound and the highly publicized Tour 18 Dallas (800-946-5310; www.tour18.golf.comwww.tour18.golf.com; greens fees $65-$95). You might expect this popular (and utterly unwalkable) collection of golf hole replicas, including Augusta’s Amen Corner and the island green at TPC at Sawgrass, to feel like a goofy theme park, but at 7,033 yards, the golf is strong and truly fun. If you’re game for 36 holes, drive five minutes to either of two subdivision tracks. Bridlewood Golf Club (972-355-4800; www.bridlewoodgolf.com; greens fees $69-$79) is an enjoyable D.A. Weibring course with smooth bentgrass greens. Lantana Golf Club (940-728-4653; www.lantanatx.com; greens fees $59-$79) is a demanding Jay and Carter Morrish course whose natural beauty is so marred by McMansions you may liken playing to listening to Brahms on a kazoo.
South of Lantana on Highway 1171, stop at Christina’s for Mexican food (the flaming parrillada is enormous and superb) then continue to The Ashton, a luxurious, 39-room boutique hotel in the heart of Fort Worth. Next door is 20-block Sundance Square, where you’ll find outdoor bars, theaters, shopping and fine restaurants. Angeluna offers live jazz and fusion cuisine and Reata is furnished with saddles and leather couches. In the Reata building, catch Fort Worth’s improv comedy troupe, Four Day Weekend.
Another lodging option is the restored Stockyards Hotel surrounded by Western-themed saloons and stores. The neighboring H3 Ranch serves fine steaks and rainbow trout, and — no, you’re not seeing things — is home to a live Texas Longhorn at the corner saloon. Now rest up, tomorrow is why you came.
You are about to experience two of America’s finest munis. Texas Star in Euless (888-839-7827; www.texasstargolf.com; greens fees $40-$60) is a walkable natural treasure. Keith Foster’s best design, it’s hidden from the surrounding sprawl by gnarly century-old oaks and rust-colored bulrushes. Thanks to a meandering creek and ample bunkering, you won’t get by on luck at this 6,936-yard refuge.
Rest your spikes, eat lunch and head over the Fort Worth line to Arlington’s Tierra Verde (817-572-1300; www.arlingtongolf.com; greens fees $47-$60). Designed by Gary Panks and David Graham and claiming USGA-funded Audubon International Signature status for environmental stewardship, Tierra Verde is not just walkable, it was designed for walkers, complete with shortcuts through the prairie brush. Look out for bobcats and coyotes and a working cattle ranch along several holes.
After golf, take in a minor-league baseball game featuring the revived Fort Worth Cats or check out the Texas Wild exhibit at the Fort Worth Zoo. Head indoors to the Amon Carter Museum, which houses 27,000 square feet of works dated from 1925 to 1950, including those by Remington, Russell and O’Keeffe. Within walking distance is the $60 million Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which opened in 2002 and is the second-largest of its kind in the U.S.
Yes, there is a course or two right smack dab in Fort Worth — perfect for your last day in town. Arnold Palmer designed the Golf Club at Fossil Creek (817-847-1900; www.fossil-creek.com; greens fees $39-$59), which opened in 1987. Fine Bermudagrass greens, limestone cliffs and demanding approaches make it a worthy stop. The Links at Waterchase (817-861-4653; www.waterchasegolf.net; greens fees $49-$59), on the east side of town, sits on the banks of the Trinity River. Hearty oaks, elms and pecans create a serenity you may need on this track, which carries a staggering Slope of 145.
Before you saddle up for home, savor the best of Texas barbecue at Angelo’s or the zuppa di pesce at Sardine’s, a local institution. That ought to fill you up for the ride ahead.