1 Helpful / 4 Not
Pros: Private Course with no Riff Raff. The DuFranes are always great hosts. Good mix of shots that will definitely test your focus. A good short game with good shot shaping is a must. You can't beat the atmosphere at Shawshank. It's a great release from the city. I'm lucky to be within 45 minutes.
Cons: Not a great course for the guys that only like to let it rip on open courses. This one has some long drive opportunities, but you still have to shape your shot.
Other Thoughts: It's good to bring deet in warmer months.
Always make sure to say hi to Warden the DuFranes black lab and give him a good belly rub. If you haven't played before he is usually happy to walk you through at least the first 9 holes until you come back by the house. Then it is his nap time on the porch.
1 of 5 people found this review helpful.
so thats what jail is like.....
13 Helpful / 4 Not
Pros: First time in Texas. Had to get to this one. Great theme based course. Tee pads were big and grippy. Interesting construction. Nice signs, with a name for every hole. Good use of elevation. Challenging lines throughout this gem. The water holes, and the fountain put it over the top. This course is way off the beaten path. Kinda reminds me of Flip. Peaceful, and secluded.
Cons: A couple holes were overly tight. Unnatural flite path. In fact, I told my son I wish I had my whip, it would be a quick fix. After talking to Steve, the owner, I understand the par 4 part of being in jail. And yes, part of the theme. Don't change a thing.
Other Thoughts: Being a course owner, I'm biased on private courses. Thanks Steve, for putting this together. My family, and I enjoyed ourselves.
13 of 17 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 11 Not
Pros: This is a beautiful property and is very well maintained.
The course has 2 of my favorite holes (the green mile and hole 10) in all of disc golf and I've traveled all over the country playing events on a professional level. Great tees and the best hospitality I've ever had.
Cons: This course has several of my least favorite holes in disc golf. Impossible lines. The luck factor is huge here. Lots of Random trees and obs. A few holes are simply not disc golf holes, rather trails of paths with baskets at the end. This course was designed for a different style of play which may be fun for some , but captures little of my own interest.
Other Thoughts: This course is beautiful and is a must play at least once. Its a great fun or casual course, but not designed for tournament play on a pro level. Actual course design quality is lacking here.
I'll also add, my review is based on a hole by hole comparison of good to bad holes with added sway for much better or much worse deviation from a 2.5 typical standard. I am a 5th year pro and 90% of the golf in play is in tournament or minis. This is from my own personal standpoint and extra amenities (which this course is well above any other I've played) have only a small bearing on my rating. My rating is of mostly the course.
5 of 16 people found this review helpful.
Number Fun in my Book
20 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: Shawshank offers a one-of-a-kind round, playing literally in Steve Dufrane's backyard. First off, I think that it is awesome how hospitable Steve and his family are. It is evident that he is extremely passionate about the sport and I applaud him for sharing his passion with others with this awesome course. I feel that the term "fun-factor" is an overused description for a course, but Shawshank is the definition of this. It is clear that Dufrane has put in a ton of time and effort to make this course as technically and aesthetically perfect as he possible can on the land given. Pulling into the Dufrane's driveway, you can get a sense of the vibe that surrounds the property. During mine and my brother's 13 course road trip through Texas and Louisiana, no other course had nearly as many people playing it as Shawshank did. People clearly love this course and - like we did - travel a long way to play it.
The course is so well taken care of and Steve even has a work crew that maintains the course. The jail theme is constantly present and creative on the tee signs, hole names, and even on some of the punishing holes. Another unique part of the course is the solar-powered lights on top of the front 9 baskets that give players the option of nightly glow rounds. It seems that the course continues to evolve and improve, with new holes and landscaping added within the past few years. The hand-drawn tee signs with chalk further show Steve's never-ending improvement mindset: he can redraw the holes as he redesigns them.
All the basic amenities are met here, with a bathroom, water coolers near holes 10 and 17, very nice rubber tees, and quality baskets. Multiple signs point you in the direction to the next tee as well, so navigation is a breeze here. Also, the course loops back to the parking lot and bathroom twice during your round.
Technically, this course is designed for players who have accurate - but not necessarily huge - arms. The front 9 are located in the front yard and initially start out kind of casually but as you hit hole 4, you realize that you are in jail. This is a very challenging and seemingly poke-and-pray hole, but a tree or two have been cut in the appropriate spots to make the line to the basket somewhat possible to hit. Holes 5, 7, and 8 also play within these extensive rows of enormous trees, but each utilize the trees very differently. My favorite stretch of the course is from 10-15. Two of my favorite holes on the course are 10's downhill bomb with the pond behind the basket and 12's uphill left to right shot with multiple lanes to the basket. The other holes offer some of the hardest shots on the course with tight lines and sharp turns. "Tin Cup" is one of the most fun finishing holes that I have played and is a great way to end the round! A fountain-basket to close out your round?! Come on, where else are you going to find that?
Pretty much every type of hole design is incorporated throughout the course, whether it be holes 6, 18, or 21's different looks on pond shots, 10 and 17's downhill bombs, 5, 11, 14, and 15's tight lanes, 12, 16 and 22's steep uphill shots, hole 7 and 9's long and open shots, etc., etc. The course has a tremendous variety and offers some pretty unique holes. I have never played a hole remotely similar to 21 and I appreciated the many different aspects of its design including a mando under the board and blind uphill shot over the pond.
Cons: -I am someone who enjoys having multiple options off the tee and for my approaches to the basket. I like to have the option to be creative and play a hole differently each time. This course has many holes that, while being very technical, require you to hit the line very accurately or you will be punished. There are many holes that are tight and have only one lane to throw through. Even Steve said, "You're in jail on some of these holes, you have to follow the rules." I do appreciate the specific shots that are required on many of these holes and they are very well designed. However, the best of the best course (for me) needs to allow more chances to be creative. This may not be a detractor from your round, but is just what keeps this course from being a perfect 5 for me.
-I would have liked more opportunities to play some longer, multi-stage par 4's that change terrain in some fashion throughout the hole.
-There aren't many holes on this course that I wanted to unload my bag on (other than trying to land on the green on "Tin Cup".) There are many fun and unique holes, but none that I would consider to be in my favorites.
Other Thoughts: I can't say many bad things about the course. It is in immaculate condition, it offers a tremendous variety of hole types, it is a great balance of fun and challenge, and is as creative and unique of a course that I have played. I strongly believe that the course design uses the property to its maximum potential. Some cons that keep this course from being the best of the best in my eyes, however, were the lack of opportunities to be creative in how you approach the hole and the lack of challenging multi-stage par 4's. They're there, but not as many as I would like in a perfect course.
Either way, I strongly encourage you to go out of your way to play this course. I really can't imagine someone not enjoying their round at Shawshank.
20 of 21 people found this review helpful.
Funnest Time You'll Ever Do
12 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: Shawshank disc golf course is a truly unique animal: a jail-themed private course that plays in the extensive yard of Steve Dufrane, a forehand and roller wizard who will call you out for carrying too many discs ("I'll kick your a-- with just a Roc and an Aviar"), then promptly spend 15 minutes breaking down your form and giving you insightful advice on how to advance your game. He likes to speak in zen master-esque riddles, and his course reflects this propensity for brief, memorable, hard to solve gems.
Shawshank plays across an array of terrain: thick woods, rows of pines (the "jail"), a prominent hill, broken patches of trees, and three lakes are only some of the obstacles you'll face, all harnessed by Steve to challenge and bewilder your game. There's a lot to like in the land, and it's expertly used. The course leans towards the shorter end of the spectrum, with a few long bombers scattered throughout. It throws a dizzying array of holes at you, such as hole 4's pine thicket "jail," with only the barest of lanes to the basket, hole 21's short uphill shot with a hidden pond (which we discovered the hard way), the winding 282' par 4 "Death Row" in the woods, 18's over-the-lake shot, or the closing hole 23's "Tin Cup" island green, where any shot outside the circle is OB. Cumulatively, these holes stress precision, placement, and shot variety with your midranges and fairways: there are a lot of forehand-friendly holes, and a few spots where a strong roller gives you the best chance for a birdie. I appreciated how much variety Shawshank offered within its predilection for sub-300' holes.
Then there's the atmosphere. Shawshank has a free-wheeling vibe, encouraged by its owner and embodied in its jailhouse theme, unique tee signs, comical hole names, and memorable decor. On site camping is available, and between those passing through and dedicated locals, Shawshank seems to have a passionate and active following relative to its being a private course in an out-of-the-way location. Friendly golfers are on hand to provide some tips for first-time visitors or play a pick-up doubles round. A sense of community and "we're all out here to enjoy the game we love" mentality pervades Shawshank. It's a unique place that'll put a smile on your face. I've never played a course like this before.
Grooming is immaculate by any standard, let alone a private course. The tees are excellent.
Memorable stretches: holes 4-8, which with the exception of 6 all interact with the pine tree "jail" in a variety of creative ways, from 4's scary pinball potential to 5's tunnel shot to 8's big hyzer around the outer edges, and holes 11-15, a tight, intense jaunt through the woods that can make or break your round.
Cons: I loved my day at Shawshank. It's a special course. But it's not without its shortcomings.
I really missed shot shaping at a longer range. I don't have a big arm (~375' max), but still felt constrained by the lack of opportunities to shape lines on this scale. The few longer holes at Shawshank all emphasize straight throws, and don't have a technical challenge proportionate to their distance. If anything, the longer holes tend to be the easier ones, without the nuance or quirks that distinguish many of the shorter ones. Shawshank's prevalent technicality largely focuses on your mid-range game, which is great, but limiting.
Similarly, I missed having some longer par 4s. The holes here are almost exclusively par 3s, and often zero in on a single line or problem that, though often engaging, doesn't allow for the rich possibility that longer, more multiplicitous holes provide. The two par 4s that are on site either force you to throw consecutive straight shots (hole 7) or lay up in tight confines (hole 15), and are lacking this multiplicity. This frequent constraint is actually by design: as Steve puts it, you're in jail at Shawshank, meaning you have to do what you're told or pay the price. While I appreciate the challenges Shawshank obstinately throws at you - they're one of the things that make it unique - I would have liked to have a few more opportunities to exercise autonomy during my round. I guess that's what happens when you pay a visit to jail. As it is, the course squeezes a lot of variety and challenge out of its par 3 format, but lacks the par 4s and 5s that would allow it to top other top tier courses I've played.
Other Thoughts: I had a hard time rating Shawshank. It's one of the funnest courses I've played: the vibe, the people, and the one-of-a-kind challenges here combine to make for a very memorable round. Getting to interact with someone as knowledgeable and enthusiastic as Steve was a unique, unexpected plus. The course is well-designed and immaculately maintained, and at this point in its life bears the fruits of all the hard work that's been put into it. On the flip side, the focus on par 3 golf felt a bit constraining for a top tier course over the course of 23 holes. Shawshank does what it does very well; I just wish it would step outside its comfort zone a bit.
Of course, all this is splitting hairs: no matter how you slice it, Shawshank is well worth a visit!
12 of 13 people found this review helpful.
You WILL Grin
22 Helpful / 2 Not
Pros: If you appreciate disc golf at all, come to play Shawshank, and you will find your smile somewhere along the way. I purposefully played this, my first Texas course, in order to make it my 100th review. I'm glad I did! It's my second '5'. I don't necessarily hold out a 5 rating for 'perfection', but for when a course does just about everything right, and adds enough extra touches to raise it above a 4.5. The DuFrane family has clearly done that at Shawshank.
Every one of the 23+ tees is large, boxed, and level, with grippy pads, a beautiful, prison-themed sign with distances noted, bench(es), trash buckets, and even a stand to enter your scores (first time I've seen that in 139 courses). You'll note that many of the trees in the 'jail' on 4 & 5 have been wrapped to keep them there for years. When you get to the fifth basket, you'll note they've got it set up with a pole extension for night lighting (! …then you'll note that a number of times), and when you get to the first pond on hole 6, you'll see they've left out a hooked pole and towels to help you retrieve your disc (I knew I wasn't sure to clear the far edge at about 290' from the tee, so turned one over to the right…it still clipped a tree & rolled in…fished it out quickly and shot from the drop zone pier for my circle four).
The front nine are fun enough to be a glorious course for anyone's front yard, with holes ranging from the dead straight 208' hole five to the 598' Green Mile, to the dogleg uphill 'Alice' hole that comes back to the end of the driveway. But you've got 14 even better holes to go, on the much more sloping back yard. You get to bomb a couple of 500 footers downhill, work your way through the curving woods lanes (they're realistic on the physics-defying hole 15 being a par four), then clear the big pond to the landscaped basket on 18 (watch out: it's ALL wet if you go short, rollaway if you go long, and has trees everywhere but the perfect pond crosser you'll need). The 21st hole is a third, blind pond with a mando to keep you low and straight (I clipped a branch and soaked my dragon, but the DuFranes can keep it as a tribute to the excellence of this course. Imagine: I lost a disc and was still grinning!). You finish on the island in the middle of the driveway in the unique fountain basket.
I can't say enough about the little things they've done here to make this some of the most fun I've had playing disc golf. Thank you!
Cons: There isn't a whole lot to complain about here. The Flow of the course is very simple with the map and abundance of signs, so the only awkward spot I found was crossing the 23rd & 17th tee to get to the 10th. Some folks might whine a little that hole 15 isn't a natural flight path, but declaring it a par four admits that.
Other Thoughts: The course is private, on family property, so they appreciate a call ahead if you're coming. Sign the guest book, and leave $5 (I recommend more!) to play, and pick up a pencil, and scorecard, say hello to the friendly family dog, or any family members who might greet you, then warm up on the practice basket & head out to enjoy one of your most memorable disc golf experiences EVER.
22 of 24 people found this review helpful.
Shawshank...Deep in the Heart of Texas!
16 Helpful / 2 Not
Located in Huntsville, Texas, Shawshank is a beautiful 23 hole layout located on over twenty acres filled with small lakes, tall pines, a man-made island, and elevation throughout. The course was designed with the Open Masters player in mind, requiring precision and proper disc selection rather than power and "discing up". Shawshank rewards players who play smart and show much patience for the right shot.
Although there are several birdies to be had on this course, bogies can be more prevalent if not focused. Par for the course is 71, offering two par 4's and the rest 3's. Holes range from 207 - 598 feet and are a combination of wooded to tightly wooded holes, along with a few more open shots.
From the start, the course does a nice job helping first timers with navigation. Tee signs are installed on every hole, along with "next tee" signs throughout as needed. Each hole also uses durable rubber mats and Mach V baskets.
Named for the movie as most know,
Shawshank is a themed DG course with uniquely named holes, art decor that is strategically placed, and specially run tournaments that even have the players wearing jail stripes. The owner has taken a classic and run with it, and I commend him for it!
Favorite Hole(s): #5, #10, #18, #23
As others have previously mentioned, there is very little wrong with this course considering all the course maintenance and upgrades that constantly go into it. The course was in stellar shape even toward the end of summer and although I wish I was there when it was green and lush in the spring, I could still get a good sense.
There was however some areas in the course design that I felt were too gimmicky and almost took away from what was otherwise a challenging and professionally designed course. Holes thirteen and fourteen were both ridiculous in that they took away from any natural flight that a disc was designed for. Luck was much more important than skill and although they left the possibility for a birdie, bogies are much more prevalent. Not a deal breaker for the course, but quite a thorn in the side.
Least Favorite Hole(s): #13 & #14
Having family in the greater Houston area has given me the opportunity to play several quality courses in the state of Texas over the years but have never had the time to play Shawshank. On my last visit however, I made it a priority, along with Oak Meadow and Texas Army Trail and it was one of the better disc golf vacations I have had to date!
The fact that Shawshank is private is what makes it so special. Courses like this one must be private in order provide this type of atmosphere, for if it were public the course would be destroyed over time by vandals and/or slowly deteriorate until there was no more. The blood, sweat, and tears shed by Steve Dufrane are quite obvious and much appreciated. As a course bagger like me, it is always a pleasure to play a course for the first time and become completely enamored with it from the first hole to the last. With the Shawshank Jailhouse theme, it feels like a theme park for adults and the $5 is the least I could do considering all Dave has done for the DG community.
16 of 18 people found this review helpful.
0 Helpful / 13 Not
Pros: A excellent mixture of technical holes with tactically placed OB and long bomb holes that make this course stand out among the rest. Not to mention the hospitality of the Dufrane's!
Cons: Not enough people review this course
Other Thoughts: Love the fountain/basket for final hole #23
0 of 13 people found this review helpful.
14 Helpful / 2 Not
Pros: First off, Steve Dufrane is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and you can tell that he has put in a bunch of work to make this course one of the better in this part of the state.
Each of the holes is different. Each hole is named with something that has to do with prison as this is the theme of this course. It is hard to say which is the signature hole of this course as there are at least four in my mind that really stick out. "The Green Mile," "Death Penalty," and "Conjugalcal Visit" are probably the most recognizable and talked about holes at the course.
"Tin Cup" the 23rd and final hole on the course is one of the best finishing holes I have ever played. It is a 240 ft shot to an island green. The basket has water coming out of the top of it and it really is a picturesque hole as many others on the course are.
Each hole is different. There are big downhill shots like #10 and #17. And really tight fairways that puts a premium on accuracy. There are REAL par 4s at this course.
The flow of the course is easy to follow. Each hole has nice tee pads along with big tee signs. Some of the baskets have poles on the top of them to show where they are in a shot that has changed elevation where the basket is not visible from the tee (#1)
There are no confusing parts of the course. The course is also really nicely manicured and up kept, like mentioned previously Mr. Dufrane cares for this course.
Cons: The only cons I can think of is the course is brutal. Even the best player has an opportunity to lose discs on one of the three ponds on the course.
The course is also a drive from Houston and even a bit of a drive from Huntsville.
The course is built on 25 acres. This is a small piece of land and come tournament time the course can feel a bit crowded. However, playing any other day the course is very quiet and serene.
Other Thoughts: This is my second pay-to-play course along with Spring Valley. The cost to play Shawshank is $5 compared to $3 at Spring Valley. Paying the $5 to play here is completely worth it. The course is a blast. Anyone within a 150 mile radius of this course should want to come out and play here.
14 of 16 people found this review helpful.
8 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: One look at this awesome course and you can tell the designer takes the sport of disc golf seriously. Mr. Defrane took this property and turned it into possibly the finest course found in this part of the state. There are no two holes alike on this course. Even the first three holes are different in their own right. There are so many holes and so many shots that have to be made here to score well. I will highlight my faves here: Hole 4 "Jail" a Par 3, 305 Ft. shot off the tee into a thick forest of trees! Get your roller shots ready or prepare to play ricochet among the trees. Hole 7, "The Green Mile" a 600 Ft. shot through the middle of two rows of trees on each side of the fairway. Hole 18 "Conjugal Visit" A 261 Ft. Hole that is all pond. And Hole 15 "Death Row" a 276 Ft. narrow fairway that winds in two different directions before you reach the basket. (One of the most excellently designed holes I have ever seen). There is so much more here, but the holes just mentioned are my faves. There are several holes here that are like signature holes including 23 the "Tin Cup" with its basket as an interesting water fountain. So much fun here to be had. This course has to be played to be appreciated!
Cons: The only con I can see is the course is so far out from any major city, but that only increases the anticipation even more to play this magnificent course once you reach there.
Other Thoughts: Excellent course. Fine attention to detail. Thanks, Steve. I look forward to playing this great course again sometime!
8 of 9 people found this review helpful.
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