Shawshank...Deep in the Heart of Texas!
15 Helpful / 0 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.
15 of 15 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.
1 Helpful / 11 Not
Pros: Everything about this course is amazing. The layout is utterly beautiful. a must-play for any serious disc golfer. The shots make you think to always question the way you're going to approach the hole.
Cons: Waupon..... Hole 6. 'Nuff said.
Other Thoughts: I enjoyed the dog, he was the best course guide ever.... even though he drank half of my bottle of water.
1 of 12 people found this review helpful.
17 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: 1) This course is on private property and will never see a ton of traffic so you should always be able to get a nice calm round in here.
2) Steve - the designer and owner is very passionate about his creation and the sport of disc golf. He loves to talk about his course, how it was built, and his game.
3) I was laughing out loud numerous times on the course because I could hear the cows int he pasture. They sounded like they wer ebeing led to slaughter and for some reason I just couldn't shake the laughter. It sounds sadistic that I would get enjoyment out of cattle slaughter, but I had just come from the Texas Prison Museum where I got to see "Old Sparky" so perhaps the souls of those killed in that chair got to me.
4) Well designed course incorporating some really cool parts of a really cool property. There are no wide open holes just holes with some forgiving lines, holes with tight dense woods in spots, holes that are throught he middle of a tree nursery with the gap being only about 5' wide. There is elevation used tremendously well on this property. Boy it is fun to throw down holes #10 and #15.
5) Pond on Hole #6 is a true risk reward. There isn't much of a safe play on that hole however because if you want to go right of the pond you have some serious tight gaps int he trees to deal with. odds are you will get knocked down and then have to throw a pretty risky approach to the green which may or may not force you back over the water you were trying to avoid in the first place.
6) The holes are all named, having something to do with Jail or the movie The Shawshank Redemption. The owner's name is even Dufrane like the guy in the movie.
7) Benches and garbage on many holes. It is nice to see a private course as clean as this one too, so obviously either people are using the garbage cans or someone is walking around picking up the garbage all the time.
8) Nice attractive sign announcing you are at the course. It is nice to see someone take all level of their course to the top level!
9) Riser poles on a couple of the baskets to help you see the baskets over the rise. That is a nice touch and it helps the first timer for sure.
10) Steve has been out overseeding with Ryegrass . . . how often do you see this? Well I saw it one other place . . . Bud Hill in Memphis . . . another private course where the owner takes a lot of pride in the conditions.
11) 23 holes now as Steve has added 2 more holes into the design 12A and 12B. Its always nice to play courses with a lot of holes, it just extends the fun!
Cons: 1) The tree behind #6 basket seems a little close to me. I typically would like to see at least 15' around any given basket because I feel like those should be automatic putts, or at least free of obstacles.
2) The rubber tees were a little bumpy in spots probably due to settling. I never had a problem with them being slippery just lumpy and uneven on a few occassions.
3) There is some rust on some of the chains. It doesn't seem to affect the catchability but it is noticeable. If I remember right he had a couple different kinds of baskets. SOme may have been homemade but I am not 100% sure on that. Too many courses in too short of time for me. Sorry!
4) Hole #13 was kindof a goofy hole. I tis like a 90 degree shot both shots are under 100' and the gap is only about 8' wide. It just seems a little gimmicky. Noone will make a 2, most will make a 3, but a few people who get off the fairway will take a 4, that doesn't necessarily mean it is a good hole.
Other Thoughts: This was a really fun course. Steve said it was designed for Masters players which although I am not 40 I throw a lot like the better Masters players would. I do not throw far, but i am pretty accurate. They are hosting a big Masters tournament this year actually. It should be interesting to see how those people play in that tournament. Its a challenging tough course, there are some birdie opportunities but a lot of risk/reward that can lead you to take bogeys or worse in some spots.
This is just another great private course that leads me to believe the future of disc golf is going to be pay to play. People that want to play ebtter courses will need to be willing to spend a few dollars. If this is the course that i get to pay for a $5 fee, well then I am all in. I love the quality the cleanness, the private property aspect meaning nobody else around typically. It also reaffirmed I need to buy some land to live on that has some land like this so I can make my own private course. It would be a lot of fun to do the work on my own and design a course on my own property.
This course is definitely a 4-4.5 disc course. It has the amenities of a 5.0 disc course, but I just cannot give it that score. Ideally I would say I could give this a 4.25 but that is not possible, but I almost feel like giving this course a 4 would be too punishing considering all the things they have going on here. I guess I would consider it to be one of the lower 4.5 disc rated courses I have played. Concrete tees would help because they are more consistent, but there isn't much else I would recommend to upgrade the course from the 4.5 rating. It is hard to quantify, I just don't quite feel it is worthy of a 5.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful.
18 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: - Course is set on private property, so it is guaranteed to be exclusively used for disc golf (property owners trump all, of course). There are a few separate forested areas, a big sloping hillside, and multiple spots with water.
- Four of the first seven holes are set in and around a large cluster of small, thin trees, set in rows to create very very thin tunnels. A few holes require a dead straight shot off the tee to keep in the hallway; anything that strays too far is guaranteed to be in tough jail. #7 has a wider fairway, but a small kink with a guardian tree makes it a very tough line.
- A ton of other holes are completely encompassed in a more gnarly forest, with many different looks. There are some lightly wooded ones, like #19 and #20, some tighter lines, like #11 and #12, and some that are downright ridiculous, like #13. Excellent variety in lines; super straight, big and small s-curves, hyzers, anhyzers, each hole has good character.
- Holes #8 and #9 force an accurate RHBH hyzer, with dense forest on the left and OB to the right/practically straight. Landing pin high is one of the few ways to get a good look at the basket; the thin fairways are tough to hit cleanly. The rest of the holes are set in more open areas, with trees both big and small littering the fairways and greens. The island hole (OB pavement) is a nice touch as well.
- Very good variety of elevation changes on the back side of the course. Two long downhill bombers in the open area must be under control to avoid the numerous mature trees. The uphill shots are mostly in the lightly forested areas, amongst three or four holes. The slopes are definitely noticeable and are a big factor.
- Awesome variety of shots involving water at this course. The first is on #6, which has a drive through a tight window to even get to the pond. #10 has water as a backstop for the bigger arms, as the downslope allows drives to just keep going. #16 is directly over a larger pond, and #19 is a short uphill shot over an tiny bowl (OB if dry too).
- Good mix of hole lengths; there are some shorties, some long ones, and a lot in between. Distance is usually not nearly as important as accuracy, but there are definitely places to really air them out. Probably one par 4, the long and narrow #7.
- Baskets are protected in some spots, to the point where you wonder how they got them back there. Lots of little trees are speckled in front of #2, #9, and an alternate hole (A?). #16 is elevated on a hill, with barbed wire way behind, and #19 has water/OB right in front.
- Unique tee signs have distances; the map shows the way. Teepads are very good, and baskets are in great shape, permanent or not. Navigation is very easy with the map and directional signs.
Cons: - While there is a wide variety in hole lengths, there are 4 holes under 210', and 11 more holes under 305'. The average hole length hides the large number of the shorties. As such, there is an overload of shots that value accuracy to the extreme, with distance being a means to an end. Some of the short holes, like #13, are borderline unfair, at least to a casual or even experienced player.
Other Thoughts: - This course pretty much has everything, minus gargantuan elevation changes and 8000' length. The two separate forest areas are very unique, and very challenging. Some extremely tight lines and tight windows, and some uphill shots with more leeway. The holes by and over water are great as well; laying up is almost as tough as getting it in one shot. The open holes are no slouches either, the long downhill shots and the island green are very enjoyable.
- Heads up for some barbed wire, especially on the long end of hole #16.
18 of 18 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 2 Not
Shawshank: Doin' time is fine!
Pros: First and foremost, the Warden is fair, equitable and the perfect host. Enough can't be said for enjoying the experience of incarceration in this highly technical detention center. It will test not only your skills moving from cell to cell, but it will your mettle and strategy.
The grounds are well kept even in the winter months. The course signage is well thought out and the tee signs are as technically unique as the course. Inmates are guided from cell block to cell block without error. The rubber tee pads are perfect in both wet and dry weather.
The elevation changes support the length of the holes nicely, and the view downhill to the pond is amazing regardless what time of year you are serving time.
Parking is easy and straightforward.
BTW, my cellmate birdied "Death Row" with a monster Anhyzer last week. Seconds before launch shout "Go big or go home". It seemed to work for CH!!!
Cons: I haven't served enough time at Shawshank to come up with any reason not to play this course as often as I can. Any arguments about the course being too technical, or absurd, should be immediately detained in solitary for 30 days in the hole.
Other Thoughts: For my next round of detention, I'm making it a point to serve my time at night, and take advantage of the LED lighted holes.
Shawshank is perfectly located within the boundaries of the Sam Houston National Forest, make sure you plan your directions well.
Call in first and check in immediately at the Wardens quarters.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 2 Not
Pros: You have almost every type of shot you throw tested. Great variety, very challenging, and great people. Love the elevation and canopy. Definately a shot-maker course. I am looking forward to playing it again for a little redemption.
Cons: Limited parking is the only con that I can think of and that would only be for large venues. This is already being addressed by the warden. So there are no worries.
Other Thoughts: If I had to pick 5 favorites, they would be as follows: #7 (The Green Mile), #10 (Alcatraz), #12 (Solitary), #15 (Strip Search), and last but not least #21 (Tin Cup).
3 of 5 people found this review helpful.
10 Helpful / 0 Not
i sucked and had fun
Pros: This course is an absolute joy.
i got my butt kicked, and smiled the whole time.
this course has every shot ive ever seen, or tried.
2 new holes just went up an they are awesome 12a is 300ish? strait tight shot with a well guarded pin. for a rec player, a beast up the right side will get you in a lay in 3 range.......maybe :)
12b is tight, not that the previous 11 holes werent already making you want to skip the hole, this one makes you use a light placement shot...get it right, and your making a 50-60 footer for bird....get it wrong....hows your forehand rollers to get into the fairway?
the course is so well maintained i'm surprised the pine needles aren't picked up by hand!
benches everywhere, same with trash receptacles.
the course owner called me i think 4 times throughout the day to see how it was going. to me that means alot about this course instead of just making it very frickin hard. it has personality.
best holes are 4,5,10,15...you'll see
Cons: when i was out at the recent tourney watching, i saw some pin placements, not the alternates. a few times i threw to the short placement and was exstatic i hit the line and parked it. then there was no basket....it was another 50 or so feet away. not really a con for a casual round, having those alt distances would make you go up and look a little harder for the basket your first time out. this would definatly take this place to the next level.
other than that....simply amazing
Other Thoughts: if you never play shawshank your really missing out
the us masters will be there next year, so if anything come out and get a good round in, then see how they do, you might not be far off.
bring your chainsaw.
i think this place gets its highest rating for the hospitality of the family that runs it. they are disc golfers, and they are exactly the kind of people you want to be around when you start and finish a round.
i need to learn the dogs name, he kept thinking he had the box at every hole.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful.
9 Helpful / 3 Not
Great Difficult Course
Pros: This Course has got everything. from Water to elevation to trees to wide open. I mean this course is a top notch course in the Houston area. This course will make you work for your score. they are working on new tee pads and the one that are done are great. this course gives you opportunities to use every disc and throw that you have.
Cons: it is in the middle of no where! Maybe two of the holes are almost just to crazy hard.
Other Thoughts: this is a course that you should play all the time. I wish it wasn't so far away or i would be trying to get here alot more.
When the Tee pads are done I will Edit this rating up to a 5 star.
9 of 12 people found this review helpful.
28 Helpful / 0 Not
Escape to Shawshank
Pros: Originally a pig farm, Shawshank has 23 solid holes over a 23-acre lot of varied terrain. Apart from a few big downhill bombs on the back end, most of the course is tight playing through alleys of trees, good elevation changes, and over water in big risk versus reward shots.
Holes range from 189' to almost 600', and will push you to be accurate with every shot. For example, hole 5; "The Tunnel" plays through a 208' alley of pines with about a 12' lane to the entire way. If you can keep your disc straight on this course - you will be rewarded.
Each tee box is marked by a homemade hole number and yardage sign usually crafted from wood or granite, and the pins themselves are in good shape for private course standards.
BEST HOLE/S: #5
Cons: The tee boxes themselves have been transitioned to rubber pads, and though not as good as concrete IMO, it's a huge step up from the natural and gravel pads Shawshank used to have.
The biggest personal issue with Shawshank is that technical borders on silly with some holes. Hole 4, "Jail" is a 305' hole that involves more luck than skill in attempting to thread your disc down an 8' fairway. If you end up on the left side of the pin you'll understand why this hole was called jail. Also, hole 15, "Death Row" is aptly named since it's 276' of zigzagging putts. A pro might hyzer over the trees if they know the line, however regular players will be forced to make a 126' midrange putt to a 10' square landing area if they want a shot at hitting the next alley and escaping with a 4.
WORST HOLE/S: #3
Shawshank is an excellent mix of technical holes that go from wow to sometimes bordering on the absurd. I found myself wishing multiple times that if holes like 4, 13, and 17 would be thinned out a bit, it would make it much better - but that is obviously part of the challenge. Basically, if you love tight and technical, then this place will rank high on your list.
There is another component of Shawshank that one usually doesn't consider in a course. Personality - and this course brims with it. From the owner Mr. DuFrane, to the course name and hole names like "The Green Mile," "The Conjugal Visit," or "Death Row." There's a playfulness of the course and its design to truly make you feel like you've escaped upon completing the round. I find it compares well in many regards to Dalaiwood
, one of my all-time favorite courses up in Washington where you emphasize technique over power. Then you combine it with a flair that only a passionate owner and a privately run course can muster.
The course itself feels like it floats somewhere between the 4.0 and 4.5 mark for design, creativity, diversity, and difficulty, but it's the overall Shawshank experience that just pushes it up between a 4.5 and 5.0, and something to seriously consider when choosing to play this course. Sure, you're just playing a round of disc golf, but the overall experience is you what you wish all disc golf experiences should be.
28 of 28 people found this review helpful.
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