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20221116 20181212 Shary Golf Course webFirst impressions can mean a lot, set within the right context. J.K Rowling said, “A good first impression can work wonders,” while Daniel Handler has a completely different take and said, “I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong.”

However you view first or early impressions and whether they make a difference on you, they remain something that, as Charles Swindoll said, “never have a second chance.”

The following is a look at some of the first impressions provided by Upper Valley Golf Courses.

Alamo Country Club
438 Country Club Dr., Alamo
(956) 687-0910

This pretty and quaint golf course was once known as a hidden gem in the Valley for several years, its secret kept safely within the walls of Alamo Country Club and the residents who live there.

Something that bright and beautiful can only be hidden for so long, however.

The pride everyone has in this 9-hole private course is almost tangible. The course is impeccably maintained, the lush fairways are lined with palm trees and water hazards are strategically placed to make this a thinker’s course – do you try to clear the water, put the ball on the tiny landing strip to the side or just lay up and go from there?

The course, clubhouse and pool are so inviting as you drive into the destination, that you already feel at home. People are chatting and having a good time all over the place, and the golf course seems to be the perfect gathering place – well, so does the patio… and the pool…yeah, and the clubhouse.

The beautiful course is set up for 1,881 yards from the forward tees and 2,216 yards from the back tees. It’s a fun and radiantly beautiful course.

And it’s still a gem.

Champion Lakes Golf Club
2701 South Ware Road, McAllen
(956) 681-3444

What can be said about Champion Lakes that hasn’t already been said. The experience from the parking lot to the clubhouse to the restaurant to the course and back is one of the best in South Texas.

That’s because the City of McAllen Golf Director Carlos Espinosa knows golf, knows the service industry, and cares about the people he and his staff serve. It’s that simple.

When COVID-19 hit, every course in the Valley took a step back and looked to see what Champion Lakes was doing. And what were they doing? Still serving their community and golfers, knowing that golf was one activity that people could still do despite the world seemingly being shut down. Espinosa was at the front of it all and gained first-time golfers as loyal customers and members.

So, while the first impression may be an immaculate golf course with top-of-the-line amenities, the deeper and most important impression is a staff that works to make a day on the golf course a memorable time and, after all, that’s what it should be about.

Ebony Hills Golf Course
300 W. Palm Dr., Edinburg
(956) 292-2144

20221116 Ebony Hills CAB webEbony Hills was opened in 1927 as a country club and later turned into Ebony Hills Public Golf Course. The course was named for the Ebony trees that are in abundance throughout the course.

As it closes in on its 100th birthday, a first impression doesn’t give the course justice. It needs context. The fairways have returned to the best shape they’ve been in maybe a decade. Its value is one of the best in South Texas and Winter Texans flock to it like a Saturday morning garage sale.

The City of Edinburg is working on the course fervently as Ebony Hills makes a comeback. Golf Course Manager Ross Williams said the course is undergoing some construction, but it will remain open throughout the process.

This is a popular course during the winter season played by a lot of Senior citizens that enjoy walking when they play. It is basically a flat course therefore easy to walk using a pull cart for their clubs.

Highlighting the course is a canal that runs through the layout along with the Ebony and palm trees that line the fairways.

If you’re looking for value and a relaxing fun round, this is your place.

Los Lagos Golf Club
1720 S. Raul Longoria Road, Edinburg
(956) 316-0444

20221116_Los-Lagos-Golf-Course_ALB_0005_web.jpgThere may not be a better first impression of a golf course in the Rio Grande Valley than at Los Lagos as one winds through a few holes – and some beautiful homes – en route to maybe the most unique course in the RGV.

The course is a par 72, 18-hole championship golf course that offers more than 7,188 yards of fun off the black tees. The course opened as an 18-hole facility in 2001. Today, all golfers are welcome to enjoy the undulating fairways, epic ponds, moguls and a layout that is filled with risk and rewards.

As one walks into the clubhouse it’s a struggle to go to the left, where you check in and all the pro shop garb and golf necessities await, or to the right, where the grill and all of its wonderful aromas come steaming out of. With some flavor-filled burgers and delicious breakfast tacos, who said you had to choose left or right. Be like a ping-pong ball and bounce back and forth until your golf bag, and golf belly, are content.

Rarely is this course in anything but pristine shape. The layout is exquisite, the surroundings are beautiful, and the challenge can be enormous. Oh, and that wind? It should be copyrighted for this course.

Assistant Manager Joe Lopez said, “The aesthetics of the course, it’s just beautiful and we are very proud of. That’s the idea, to come out here, have a great time and the course right now is in beautiful shape — the greens, the fairways, the atmosphere and staff — everything here is accommodating.”

Oh, and after you’re done, there’s a patio and a walkup window. Now that you know what’s on the menu, you may leave as content as you started.

Howling Trails
1910 Hole in One Dr., Mission
(956) 585-6330

20221116 Howling Trails CAB webOnce known as Martin Valley Ranch, the golf course changed its name and was sold to the La Joya school district.

That hasn’t changed the love that the surrounding Winter Texan Parks (and others) have for this 27-hole golf course, more aptly known as the Howling Trails 18-hole course with the “3rd Nine at Howling Trails Golf Course.”

As you wind through the park en route to the clubhouse one can’t help but notice the abundance of golf carts in driveways or shelters, many ready to go with the clubs and just waiting for the driver to jump in.

The course is wide open for the most part, but don’t let those early impressions draw you into a false sense of security. The trees were placed in the most imperfect spot for golfers but not so challenging that you won’t enjoy the course. It’s a course similar to a jar of jalapenos, most might be mild but every once in a while you get an “oh my goodness” fiery one that reawakens your senses.

This just isn’t a course to enjoy, it’s an entire area to enjoy. Get to know the area and the people and this will become a regular stop for those just wanting to have a wonderful day.

Monte Cristo
2919 North Kenyon Road, Edinburg
(956) 381-0964

20221116 Monte Cristo CAB webThe first thing you may notice when you get to Monte Cristo Golf and Country Club is that, probably compared with where you live, it's a little bit off the beaten path.

But it is so, so worth the little jaunt.

Once you walk in, you realize that the place loves food – it has a little bar inside and a large dining room. It hosts several long-held charity tournaments, and it is always in great shape.

One thing to remember, bring every club with you. If you’re playing well, there are some holes you’ll definitely want to grip it and rip it, but there are others where playing safe is as good as anything. The plethora of trees and water not only come into play, but often dictates your play. Every hole is different and it’s up to you on how much you want to challenge this course – or let it challenge you.

Its island hole par-3 is devious and due to the roaring Valley wind, can play all sorts of distances. Get it on this island and beat your chest in gorilla-style victory, no matter how long your putt is.

This is also possibly the most serene course in South Texas, out of the cities. You can smell when the fresh grass has been cut, see plenty of wildlife and lose 100 balls. But that one shot that you will certainly make makes it all worth it.

Shary Municipal Golf Course
2201 N. Mayberry St., Mission
(956) 580-8770

In exchange for the City of Mission constantly looking to improve the golf experience, Winter Texas especially have shown unbending loyalty.

The first impression of this course is usually not about the course at all, but the people inside the clubhouse. Rarely will you find people who don’t know one another – and even if they walked in not knowing each other, chances are they found another golf buddy.

The long dogleg right No. 1 is about length accuracy and shot selection. Whenever you decide to make your approach to a green guarded by a Doberman of a massive tree and water, make it wisely knowing that many of the outcomes are probably not what you’re looking for. However, in the risks versus rewards category, this is the perfect template of a hole.

The course offers some wonderfully straight holes to help a golfer feel like a true golfer, but that doesn’t mean you can speed golf through and shoot par. There are plenty of holes that make you think. And if you don’t want to think that much, just go for the middle of every fairway and you’ll be fine… somewhat.