13 Helpful / 1 Not
Funnest Time You'll Ever Do
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!
13 of 14 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.
a Texas gem
19 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: -amazing piece of property, well-designed course, tons of fun shots!
-beautifully maintained and landscaped, looks great
-teepads are great, baskets in good condition, signs on each hole, stairs and benches, 'next tee' signs
-prison theme, each hole has a name, really clever
-tons of great elevation changes: long downhill throws and sharp uphills
-varies from lightly wooded to heavily wooded, a few are crazy tight!
-secluded, picturesque, quiet, never crowded
-course owner, Steve, is a really great guy and obviously puts in a TON of work here
-Warden, the course guide, is an awesome dog!
Cons: -it's a punishing test of accuracy. if that's not your thing, too bad.
-a bit out of the way but i say it's a good thing
-a few unintuitive navigational spots, print the map
there's not much to say here. this course has it all: elevation, distance, ace runs, water hazards, tons of signature holes, a premium on accuracy, risk/reward, you name it
the one thing i could complain about is that the holes are not secluded from each other. the property is relatively small and you play through some areas of the course multiple times and it could feel cramped. this is not really much of a concern though since you should have the course to yourself most of the time. the course lacks that "epic" and grandiose feel of being in the middle of nowhere. but for the land it is on, this course could not be any better.
Other Thoughts: This course is an experience. Out in picturesque nature on a perfect piece of property for a disc golf course, the pictures here do not do it justice. Like the book/movie it is named after, the prison-themed Shawshank is a true test of character, patience, and careful planning.
As I said above, this course is a punishing test of accuracy. The holes range from lightly wooded to hellish corridors with 100 degree turns, from 180' to over 600', up and down hills and across ponds. It favors only the consistent player and demands a variety of shots and line-shaping to score well.
The holes are all very straight forward. There is a required shot and except for the more open holes, that's the only line. Lots of good early trouble and some well placed late trouble also. The basket locations are well planned and all the baskets have movable bases so Steve can tweak them as he likes. The signs have the hole name and distance to the basket. The signs are magnetic so when he changes basket locations he can just swap them out. Steve also said he was planning to redo all the tees again soon (they already look great!) with stone borders instead of wood. The tees themselves are great, I would never miss concrete here.
This is the perfect place to spend the day playing incredible golf. Most definitely a destination course, I would recommend it to anyone as one of Texas' most unique courses. I had given it a 5 previously but after playing some more top tier courses it couldn't hold up anymore. That said, I can't imagine a better course on this property.
**Like this review? Hate it? Message me and let me know why! I want to make them better!**
19 of 20 people found this review helpful.
8 Helpful / 2 Not
Shawshank, Huntsville Texas
Pros: Well maintained, well established, well designed. Dogs allowed
Cons: Pay to play. No restrooms
Other Thoughts: A private course owned and maintained by Steve Dufrane. Pay to play $5, for all day access. Go to the house and knock on the door. This course has a good balance of long and short holes, focusing on technical aspects due to excellent course design. Lots of foliage, mature trees mostly, making several tee shots challenge your accuracy instead of distance. There are slight elevation changes throughout the property which adds to the course playability and fun factor. Excellent use of water hazards as well. This course is not exposed to the elements because of all the trees and bushes so wind is not a big factor.
The tee pads are rubber on a wood-framed compacted sand area. The custom tee signs are up to date and have pertinent information about each hole, every hole has a unique name. Benches on most of the tees. Baskets are well marked and visible from the tee areas, except for the blind shots of which there are several. Average hole length is closer to 300 feet than 400 feet. There are also some extra holes being put in bringing in the total hole count around 21, not sure how many total but it is more than 18.
Because of the technical level being so high on this course, I believe advanced and pro players will find this course more to their liking, beginner players may become frustrated or feel some of the fairways are just too hard to negotiate. However every hole has a well established fairway the AVERAGE player can negotiate with the exception of hole 5. Hole 5 has a high F-luck factor if you can"t throw a forehand cut roller, left or right handed off the teepad.
The atmosphere and character of this course will leave you with a good feeling once your done for the day, and if your like me you will look forward going back to play the course again. This course is well above average for all aspects. The property is a bit out of the way so you need to bring all you need for your round as there is nothing at the course to purchase and the closest place to get anything is several miles away. If Steve is there you may be able to buy some discs from him but that's about it.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 0 Not
Wonderfully technical course
Pros: This course is a technical course that will challenge even the most seasoned player. All shots are required to even imagine getting par on the entire course. This course challenged my abilities more than any other I have played and should be visited by everyone in the Houston area.
Cons: The only con I can say about this course is that it is not available all the time. This is a private course and its availability is subject to the owner Steve so call ahead and make an appointment.
Other Thoughts: I work part time at one of the prisons here in Huntsville and found the names to be fun and amusing. Shawshank is a course with character which is something of a rarity in disc golf courses.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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