Starcke Park is the epitome of a parkland-style golf course.
Spread out on land that nestles right next to the Guadalupe River, it’s a serene setting on one of the most beautiful pieces of property in Seguin.
I had the opportunity to play there a couple of weeks back for the first time, and thoroughly enjoyed my round with Seguin golf royalty: former Seguin and TLU golfer, and now the head pro at Landa Park in New Braunfels, Chad Donegan; lifetime Seguin resident Paul Smith; and Seguin High School golf coach Paul Stadtmueller. All have been playing the course for years.
I returned and interviewed head pro Aaron Krause last week, and learned some of the history of the course, which reminded me of many city park courses I have played in the past.
The front nine and clubhouse at Starcke Park, named for Seguin’s mayor at the time, Max Starcke, opened in 1938, interestingly enough, with money from what would later be known as the New Deal.
The property was purchased by the city in 1937, and a year later, the course and clubhouse opened.
The original nine-hole golf course was designed by John Bredemus, the first resident golf course designer in Texas. He went on to design 19 other courses in Texas, including Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.
The course has had at least a couple of pros that made names for themselves professionally, including “Lefty” Stackhouse, who helped Seguin High School establish a golf program and led them to four successive state championships in the 1960’s.
The clubhouse at the course was named after him in 1977.
One of his students, Shelly Mayfield, was part of three of those state championship teams, and went on to play on the PGA Tour, where he had three wins and finished in the top 10 of two major championships, the 1954 U.S. Open and the 1956 Masters.
Mayfield later became a course designer, and designed many famous tracks, including Doral Country Club in Florida and La Costa Country Club in California, both of which have hosted the PGA Tour.
He returned to Seguin and designed the back nine at the course, which opened in 1980, and in 1992 Mayfield was elected to the Texas Golf Hall of Fame.
The information above came from a complete course history, which made for some very interesting reading.
Starcke offers golfers in the area an affordable place to play, with green fees that are some of the least expensive in Central Texas.
“We’re priced fairly for what we offer,” Krause said. “As a municipal course we’re providing something for our local people here and also for the surrounding area.
“It’s priced right for what you’re getting, it’s a golf course that is in good shape, and is priced competitively for folks to come and play from San Antonio and Austin, where we get a lot of our golfers from.”
The parkland-style layout, with few forced carries over hazards or the like, means that golfers can get around in a short amount of time on most days.
“It’s generally about a four-hour round, maybe 4:15 on a busy day,” Krause said. “On a good day you can get around in three-and-a-half hours.”
While there is no formal men’s or ladies’ club at the course, there are “several groups that play out here regularly,” Krause said. Locals, golfers from New Braunfels and La Vernia, among other places around Seguin, make up the groups which play almost every day of the week.
Krause estimated that the mix of players on the course, locals versus players from outside of Seguin, is about 50/50.
The pro mentioned a couple of players that have been playing at the course for decades, including Clarence Little, who started caddying at the course in the 50’s and figures prominently in the course’s history as one of the first African-Americans to be allowed to play the course in 1955.
Little still plays at the course today.
Starcke Park is a fairly forgiving course off the tee — golfers that spray their tee shots are usually able to find their balls, unless they happen to hit it into one of the seven or eight ponds on the course.
The major defense is the trees, mostly old and large pecan trees, among other varieties, that line several of the fairways.
“It’s pretty straight forward, what you see is what you get,” Krause said. “You can see anything, generally, that is going to be trouble out in front of you, and the big pecan trees provide a challenge.
“The trees can get you pretty quick, but as a parkland course it’s fairly open. There’s a lot of places to hit it, so if you hit it offline you can still find it.”
The greens were resurfaced in 2013, and while they are not the fastest in the area, “there’s plenty of grass on them,” Krause said. “It’s made a big difference in the quality of the surfaces.”
On the front nine, I found the par-4 third hole, a long dogleg left uphill to the green, to be quite a challenge.
“It’s a good hole, you have to hit a good drive and with it downwind most of the time, you might have a long to mid-iron into the green,” Krause said. “The green used to be flatter, but now it’s got some good slope in it.”
The par-3 sixth, with the green some 30 feet or so above the tee box, offers the greatest elevation change on the course. The slope in the green was significant and “is probably what makes the hole difficult,” Krause said. “There’s nothing that’s ‘good’ from very close, you could have a two-foot putt that’s got a foot of break in it.”
On the back nine, the finishing holes, starting on the par-5 14th, meander through the old growth pecans on the east side of the course.
A good tee shot is required on 15, a slight dogleg right with the largest trees on the course protecting the right side.
“Those par 4’s that bend to the right are tough for Seguin golfers,” Krause said. “We’re taught from a young age to hook the ball, so that’s the difficulty there.”
The par-3 16th is fairly long at 193 yards from the back tees (176 from the white tees), with a small green that is tough to hit.
“The green has gotten a little bit smaller over the years,” Krause said. “You have to hit a really good tee ball because anything that misses the green and requires a chip shot is going to be a challenge.”
The last two holes are par-4’s, with the 18th hole fairly long when the usual wind comes into play.
“They are slight little doglegs to the right, but both require two good shots to make birdies,” Krause said. “On the 18th there’s usually a little wind across or quartering into you, but it’s a fair hole.”
Call the Starcke Park pro shop for more information at 830-401-2490.
Kevin Duke is the sports editor for the Seguin Gazette. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com