In 1912, Lakewood Country Club’s graceful three-story clubhouse overlooked a woodland that rolled and tumbled pleasantly over this fast growing East Dallas neighborhood. The Club’s founding fathers knew that the land at the corner of Gaston and Abrams would be a perfect spot for Dallas’ second 18-hole golf course.
To fulfill their vision, they hired a Scotsman, Tom Bendelow, whose prolific career included more than 400 golf courses. As the story goes, Bendelow would set off in the morning with an armful of stakes and a hammer and by the end of the afternoon present a new, yet unimaginative golf course — two doglegs left, two doglegs right, two par 3s a side, fairway bunkers 180 yards from the rectangular tee boxes, and a water hazard or two that might or might not come into play.
Throughout the tough years of World War I, Prohibition, The Great Depression and World War II, Lakewood members held onto their dream that their course was something special. The introduction of slot machines in the men’s locker room provided funds to improve the course during the darkest days of the 20s and 30s. Those improvements led to hosting the Texas Amateur in 1942 and the Dallas Victory Open in 1944.
Byron Nelson won the 1944 Victory Open — one of eight tournament titles for him that year. The Victory Open became the Dallas Open, which later became the Byron Nelson Classic, one of the most successful events on the PGA Tour. The long and happy association between Lakewood and Nelson continued into the new millennium with the Byron Nelson Junior Classic Invitational.
The post WWII boom sent Lakewood to make more significant changes to the golf course. Ralph Plummer, a Texan with a knack for bringing out the best a site has to offer, worked his magic in 1947. The Plummer design provided a course neither too long nor too tight, with subtleties and mysteries from tee to green that take some time to master. Of note is that Plummer designed, built or re-worked the three Texas courses to host U.S. Open events — Northwood, Colonial and Champions — where the premium is on accuracy and course management, not brute strength.
The team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore completed the 1995 facelift at Lakewood. Crenshaw, a Plummer aficianado, knew just how and where to improve the gem Bendelow laid out and Plummer reinvigorated. Tiff 419 Bermuda fairways, Pennlinks bent greens, repositioned tees and improved bunkering now greet all who desire to challenge the 6,750- yard, par-71 course.
Lakewood is one of the oldest and best clubs in the Southwest. The membership knew if they could restore Plummer’s imaginative design through Coore and Crenshaw’s subtle and effective touch, they would have something special to celebrate and share. The 1998 Texas Mid-Amateur was the first to test the redesigned course. The 2000 Texas Amateur and the 2001 AJGA Boy's Championship followed, along with the Byron Nelson Junior Championship. The Byron Nelson Junior, held at Lakewood annually, is now considered one of the elite Junior Tournaments in the state and is nationally ranked by the American Junior Golf Association. Lakewood hosted the 24th Annual Texas Joe Black Cup matches in 2004, a Ryder Cup style competition between North and South Texas PGA sections. In 2003 Coore and Crenshaw returned to resurface the greens with a new bent grass, a blend of LS44 and 962. They further updated the golf course by adding seven new fairway bunkers and two new back tees. This work provided another step in the progress of the historic golf course and the future of Lakewood Country Club.