The combination of prime course conditions, challenging hole routings and seeing the best golfers in the world play on a yearly basis are an enticing combination for Collin County golfers at TPC (Tournament Players Course) Craig Ranch.
The course, in operation since 2004 in McKinney, Texas, is entering its third year as host of the PGA Tour’s AT&T Byron Nelson Classic.
While members and guests should not expect to shoot the low 60s score regularly produced by the PGA Tour, there is plenty of challenge and fun on the par-72 Tom Weiskopf-designed course (par 70 for the PGA Tour in 2023).
“We have a great Tom Weiskopf course, great conditions and a great layout which is so fun to play for Tour players along with members and guests,” said course namesake, local developer David Craig.
Having seen the pros at two events at his course, Craig knows they can go low at any time, even from the back professional tees.
“We can stretch it to 7,450 yards, but that’s not long for the pros,” Craig said. “We do have some nice rough we can grow, I hope we see a lot of it.”
But like most courses, where you tee off greatly influences how you will do on the course and that certainly is the case at TPC Craig Ranch.
The par-4 first hole is the opening case in point. From the back tees that the pros use, it is a daunting tee shot over the limestone-walled creek to a tight fairway with a smaller creek cutting around the fairways. Then it’s an approach shot with deep bunkers on both sides of the green and a steep run-off on the right side. (Rowlett Creek comes into play on several holes, especially on the front nine along with a few on the back and water in front of the 18th hole.)
The par-4 third hole features more creek challenges as your tee shot forces you to aim right to the fairway to set up your shot over water to a long and narrow line. You can aim over the water off the tee box, but that sets up a long and risky drive. The tee shot will set up how much you have to go on your approach and what kind of risk you will encounter.
The par-5 ninth hole has plenty of length and water to finish out the front nine. You face water off the tee box and then again with your shot from the fairway. There are thick rough and trees and brush all along the right side, meaning plenty of places to end your front side on a sour note.
The back nine is filled with danger and challenge, but also offers the best three-hole stretch on the layout. The par-4 14th hole plays sharply downhill with a large lake on the left side. The big hitters, pros or amateurs will try to drive the green or get it as close as possible with a favorable bounce and roll after hitting the hill and a favorable wind direction. A birdie is possible for all with a good tee shot and an eagle is not out of the question.
The par-3 15th features a large lake almost running tee to green, meaning your tee shot can be a spectacular success or watery disaster with another birdie or much worse a possibility.
The par-4 16th hole is one of the toughest on the course as a long par-4 with uphill fairway traps in front, more brush to the right and a greatly undulated green.
“With the uphill fairway and the small undulated green, we probably have more discussion about this hole than any other,” said new Director of Golf Steve Bendt.
If you survived, or thrive at this three-hole stretch, then you are ready for the par-3 17th, which plays as a totally enclosed stadium feel during the Byron Nelson, and the par-5 18th with, yes, more water in front of the green.
As befitting a PGA Tour site, the practice facilities here are outstanding with a long double-sided range by the first tee box along with two putting greens near the first hole and 18th green, plus a chipping area with practice bunkers as well. There is also a large locker room with tall wood-paneled lockers.
You may not pick up the paychecks the PGA Tour players get for doing well at Craig Ranch, but you certainly gain the satisfaction of playing well at one of the finest and best-maintained courses in Collin County.
Ball Count Needed: Two-three sleeves should be fine here depending on what tees you play from for most golfers with lots of water and trees.
Toughest Hole: The par-4 16th hole. The long par 4 features an uphill fairway which makes the hole seem even longer. There are trees and brush to the right, large bunkers in front of the green and a greatly undulated green when you finally arrive with your putter. Take your par and run, don’t walk, to the next hole.
Best Non-Golf Option: When you walk the large Craig Ranch clubhouse, just to the right there is a large map showing all the TPC Club locations and where you can play on your next round in the extensive network. If you get rained out one day, there are plenty of chances to view your next destination in warmer and drier conditions.
Yardage 7,438 to 5,145 yards