A COURSE OF TRADITION
The Royal Oaks story began in 1967 at nearby Glen Lakes Country Club. The W. W. Caruth Trust owned the property on which Glen Lakes was situated. Irby Mann and Graham Ross owned and operated the golf course.
Ross was a well-known Dallas area PGA Professional. Mann and Ross knew that the Glen Lakes Property was about to be sold for development. As a result, they began to explore alternatives for a new course in the same general area. After considering several potential sites, they focused their attention on some nearby property along Greenville Avenue, which, as it turned out, was also owned by the Caruth Trust.
About a year later, Mann’s son, Dale, became interested in pursuing the project. He contacted the Trustee to follow up on his father’s earlier discussions about developing a new golf course on Greenville Avenue. The Trustee agreed to consider a proposal. Dale Mann then shared the idea with an old friend, Don January. He suggested that they discuss it with another local tour professional named Billy Martindale.
After securing an agreement with the Trust and obtaining the blessing of Mr. Caruth, Martindale and January acquired the interest of Dale Mann. Their goal was to start a new country club by securing membership commitments from a number of business and civic leaders, many of which were former members of Glen Lakes. This goal was quickly achieved. Ultimately, January and Martindale assigned the lease and the options for the golf course property to the Royal Oaks members. Royal Oaks was born.
The history behind the golf course layout and design is also impressive. For one thing, Royal Oaks has an outstanding pedigree. The original layout for the course was actually provided by a man named J. Press Maxwell. Maxwell had designed and built a number of courses throughout the country. And, in addition to being a golf course designer, Maxwell was well known for building golf courses. You might say that golf course construction was a Maxwell family tradition. Maxwell’s father designed and built Southern Hills in Tulsa and participated in the construction of Augusta National. Because of Maxwell’s design and construction heritage, Martindale and January awarded him the contract to layout and construct Royal Oaks golf course. Working from Maxwell’s original layout, Martindale and January completed the golf course design and supervised the construction.
Maxwell’s layout, as well as the evolving designs created by Martindale and January, was primarily based on the topographical maps that existed at the time. Unfortunately, these maps were based on aerial photography and due to the heavy density of trees, there were a number of mistakes. It might surprise some that Number 13, with all of its legend and acclaim, is the result of a mistake! The route of the creek through the property was somewhat different than the maps reflected. Therefore, the layout of the hole was changed during the construction process to fit the actual location of the Creek. The original layout would have placed the fairway immediately adjacent to the Creek and the approach shot to the green would not have been nearly as perilous. Inaccuracies on the maps also caused significant design changes in holes 12 and 14. In addition, the combination of erroneous maps and the loss of a parcel of land to the City on the eastern side of the golf course resulted in a significant adjustment in the final layout of the 9th hole. The 9th tee was to have been about 15 yards east of its originally constructed location. This would have resulted in a longer hole with a gentler dogleg. However, January and Martindale were unsure of the exact location of the future expansion of Greenville Avenue and decided to make the change. Years later when Greenville was expanded, it was discovered that the original idea would have worked after all. Operating under the premise that it is never too late, our 2002 golf course renovations incorporated January’s and Martindale’s original design for Number 9.
Throughout the decade of the 90s, the Royal Oaks membership continued to improve its golf course. In 1993, Holes 15 and 16 were modified to accommodate a by-pass channel under the Royal Lane bridge, which was constructed by the City of Dallas to assist in flood and ground water run-off. In 1994, the firm of Golf Resources, Inc., owned by P.G.A. Tour Pro and Royal Oaks member D. A. Weibring, was hired to provide ongoing design and consulting services as well as a long-term Master Plan for the golf course. From 1994 through 2000, D. A. and his team implemented a number of the modifications and improvements called for in the Master Plan. Among them were retaining walls along White Rock Creek at Holes 12 and 13, as well as a new bridge across the Creek on the 9th fairway. Holes 15 and 16 were redesigned and the fairways on Holes 10, 12 and 13 were modified to facilitate aesthetics, better drainage and playability.
Clearly, a new chapter in the storied history and rich tradition of Royal Oaks has now begun. Even with all of the changes and improvements, the club has remained true to the original layout and designs of J. Press Maxwell, Don January and Billy Martindale. Royal Oaks continues to receive acclaim as one of the classic traditional layouts in the Southwest. Moreover, its renovated and enlarged practice facility is among the best in the country. Our challenging golf course, expanded practice facilities, clubhouse and membership continue to have attracted top amateur players and professional golfers.
Royal Oaks truly is a course of tradition with a membership and staff poised for a great future.