Lackey Farms Pasture Golf outside of Thorndale mixes golf balls with horse apples. The nine-hole course takes the game of golf back to its origins when it was played in Scottish sheep fields.
Pasture golf is just what it sounds like. A farmer mows fairways through his hay fields. Golfers try their skill at hitting a little white ball to a stick with a flag waving in the breeze. The conditions are rough, but the focus is on the challenge of the game. The toughest fashion decision is whether to wear golf shoes or hiking boots. Either will work.
In the last couple of years, pasture golf courses have been cropping up around the country. According to www.pasturegolf.com, there are at least 25 homegrown courses from Alaska to Massachusetts. Two of them are in Texas. Besides Lackey Farms, about 55 miles east of Austin, there is a second course in the Panhandle town of McLean, about 80 miles east of Amarillo.
Don and Beth Lackey designed their course in a 10-acre pasture behind their house. Beth, the avid golfer in the family, thought it would be fun to put a couple of practice holes in the field they hoped to someday turn into a vineyard. "To lay out the course, we just did it by eyesight," Don says. "There weren't a lot of options. We just kind of puzzled it together."
Construction on the course took priority last fall when the couple rushed to have it completed by Thanksgiving. "Beth's boys were coming to visit, and we wanted to have something for them to do," Don says. This was before the Lackeys had ever heard of Pasturegolf.com or knew that other landowners were opening their fields to guests.
The Lackey's course is a par 35 with six par-4 holes, two par-3 holes, and one par 5. A ball is considered "in the hole" when it is within a club's length of the flag. The layout of the course follows the natural contour of the land going downhill to the draw and then back up again and around the stock tank.
Each hole is a challenge in its own right, but all of them put a premium on accuracy. A slight hook or slice can cause a ball to disappear into the thick grass lining the fairways or across the barbwire fence into the neighbor's pasture. Bring plenty of extra balls.
Because of the rough conditions of the pasture-golf courses, each one has unique rules. At Lackey Farms they have the dog bonus rule: If a dog or coyote picks up your ball, subtract one stroke and play the ball from wherever the dog drops the ball. "Balls lost down a varmint hole should not be retrieved. Take a drop with penalty," says another rule.
The Lackey's six horses seem to be too cautious around strangers to cause much of hazard on the course. They generally watch the golfers with a mild curiosity, but keep a safe distance from all but the most errant balls. "The horses are easily amused," Beth says with a laugh, "kind of like those of us who play pasture golf."
Although the course can be played year-round, the summer heat turns the black dirt as hard as concrete. "Springtime around here is just magic," Don says. Last April, the course meandered around islands of bluebonnets. During the winter, rye grass keeps the field green.
The green fee at the Lackey Farms Pasture Golf Course is $5 for a nine-hole round, but Don often lets visitors play as much as they want for the single price. Tee times are seldom needed, but he says it is always preferable to call ahead to be sure that someone will be home. It is a long way to go to get there and find the gates are locked.
To get to the golf course, take County Road 486 south from the blinking light on U.S. 79 in Thorndale for five miles to County Road 451. The gravel road becomes paved again at the county line and turns into County Road 439. The Lackeys are the last farm on the right. For information, call 512/898-0600, or check out their Web site at www.lackeyfarms.com.
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