Harlingen Is a Golfer's Paradise

Harlingen's public and private golf courses offer a variety of venues and ranges of difficulty, making it always a pleasure to get out on the links.

The Harlingen area also hosts several tournaments throughout the year, with the most notable being the Life Begins at 40, or LBA, tournament. The event began 53 years ago and is open to players ages 40 and up. It began at the Tony Butler Municipal Golf Course and moved to the Harlingen Country Club when that course opened in the late 1960s. The tournament is so popular that it literally takes years to make it onto the roster.

“You have to be 40 to get your name in the fishbowl, and it takes eight to 10 years to get pulled out,” says Joyce Benson, a broker/owner with Coldwell Banker Impact Properties and a former professional golfer who has lived in Harlingen since the late 1970s. “Once you’re in, you’re eligible to play every year, though. It’s one of the really nice senior golf tournaments, and we get a lot of good players.”

The February event holds 52 players and usually brings about 500 people to town, Benson says.

“It has nine flights, so you get a lot of different types of handicaps and a great variety,” she says. “And there are costume parties and things like that every single night, so there’s a lot of fun the whole time.”

Tournaments aside, every day is a good golfing day in Harlingen, and the opportunity to keep her hand in after retiring from the tour circuit was one of the draws that brought Benson to town in the first place.

“I’m still a member of the LPGA teaching and touring divisions, so I’m still considered a pro,” she says. “And here you have so many different topographies. Some courses are more flat but have a lot of water hazards and trees, while others are more rolling and hilly. There’s quite a variety.”

Indeed, golf is so much a part of the local landscape that the area draws in not only tourists, but also new residents who like the idea of living near so many different courses.

“I absolutely market the area that way as a real estate professional, and a lot of people come down to get involved in the outdoor life,” Benson says. “Some are golfers, but others are birders or just people who are planning to settle in and get out more, whether it’s those activities or just walking and hiking. Having all the golf courses is just one more nice thing that I can promote about the area.”