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.
22 Helpful / 2 Not
You WILL Grin
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.
2 Helpful / 5 Not
Pros: Not even sure where to start. If you can master this course you can do well on any. Very challenging, but a blast. Well designed. So many different shots. no hole feels " just like the others". 23 if played the way its supposed to definitely takes this course to the next level skill wise. Go there play it you won't regret it.
Cons: Basket markers would be nice... That's about it..
Other Thoughts: Conjugal visit (18) is a blast. 200 ft lake. If you are scared of losing a disc bring a blizzard. Monday nights is Monday night lights ( night golf) the front nine is lit up and 23. Mini doubles tourny if enough show up. It's a lot of fun. Be there at 6:30
2 of 7 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.
12 Helpful / 3 Not
Pros: I don't write really long reviews because I don't like reading them. I like to know why the course is good; not info on every hole but I could go on and on about Shawshank. Friendly people, great view, and great disc golf. Every hole is something new. The first 9 have a few open holes and an excellent orchard type obstacle that makes 3 holes very exciting. There is one pond in play over here that makes things a little difficult. Very challenging but very fun. The back 9 starts with a long bomb down a hill and the rest of the holes are played on the hill and in some woods. An excellent combination of lightly wooded to safari. 2 water hazards come into play on this hole. 1 is a 260 foot drive over the water (be careful). The other is over a small pond but when I played it no water was there. All of the holes are named prison terms which is fun and all the holes are marked beautifully. A beautiful piece of land in a beautiful part of Texas.
Cons: Pay to play, it's 5 dollars. Private course you should call ahead, but the people are really nice. 23 holes was a little long for me but I forgot to bring water. I also don't really like courses that take you 2+ hours to play. I get a little tired after the 2 hour mark (it might have only taken that long since it was my first time there). If you are a beginner or an intermediate who doesn't like challenging/wooded courses then you should stay away. Other than that I would play this course every day if I could.
Other Thoughts: Not for the faint hearted. This course will challenge and text you. A must play for Houston area disc golfers. I am from College Station currently and plan on making the drive as often as I can (at least once a month). Worth your time and worth your money. I give this course a 5 disc review because I think it deserves better than a 4.5 and would like to bring it's rating up.
12 of 15 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 12 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 13 people found this review helpful.
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