The 10 Best Public Golf Courses in Texas
By Peter Simek
It makes sense that Texas has given the world a number of golf legends, from towering figures such as Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson to newcomers such as Jordan Spieth; the Lone Star State is a golfer’s paradise. With golf-friendly weather 12 months a year (as long as you’re willing to sweat a little in the summers) and more than 900 courses to choose from, avid players could spend their lifetimes exploring Texas’ golfing landscape and never get bored.
Another thing Texas golf has going for it: You don’t have to be a member of a country club to get in a great round. Here’s what you can expect when playing the 10 best public golf courses in Texas.
Old American Golf Club, The Colony
Tripp Davis and PGA star Justin Leonard designed this course as a tribute to the classic American courses from the 1920s and 1930s. It’s situated on a peninsula that juts out into Lewisville Lake north of Dallas, and it cleverly utilizes the location to create course conditions — from wind direction to hazard design — that continually shift during play. With holes reminiscent of classic courses like Shinnecock Hills in New York and and Prairie Dunes in Kansas, this “player’s course” is one of the best public golf courses in Texas.
Fazio Foothills. Courtesy of Omni Barton Creek Resort
Fazio Foothills Golf Course, Austin
The second Fazio-designed course on the list, Fazio Foothills is one of four championship courses at Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa northwest of Austin. What sets this one apart is its incredible scenery, with cliff-lined fairways, caves, waterfalls, and challenging hole designs that leave players with plenty of strategic choices throughout the round.
Ram Rock Golf Course, Horseshoe Bay
Located about 50 miles west of Austin in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, this Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed course incorporates 147 hilly acres into the layout. Narrow fairways, large bunkers, and elevated greens make for a challenging round of golf — but not out of the reach of players of all skill levels. Players who are not members will have to book a stay in the adjacent Horseshoe Bay Resort to snag a tee time.
Black Jack’s Crossing. Courtesy of Lajitas Golf Resort
Black Jack’s Crossing, Lajitas
This 27,000-acre resort located in the heart of Big Bend country is a perennial golf course. Golf magazine also named it the most beautiful course in Texas, and there’s no mystery why. Set against majestic desert mountains, this challenging course designed by Lanny Wadkins offers one of the most unique and stunning golf settings on the planet.
TPC San Antonio Oaks Course, San Antonio
One of two courses developed in the Cibolo Canyons north of San Antonio, Oaks was designed by Greg Norman, with player consultant Sergio Garcia, and it hosts the PGA Tour’s Valero Open. It is notoriously difficult, featuring hazardous challenges and plenty of strategic variety. One caveat: For public access, you’ll have to book a room at the resort.
TPC San Antonio Canyons Course, San Antonio
The companion course to the Oaks, Canyons stands in stark contrast to the neighboring championship-style course. Designed by Pete Dye and Bruce Lietzke, it weaves creatively through the Hill Country landscape, with large elevation shifts that will challenge even scratch golfers. As with Oaks, a round will require a booked room at the resort.
Pine Dunes. Courtesy of Pine Dunes Resort
Pine Dunes, Frankston
This East Texas gem was completely redesigned in 1999, when architect Jay Morrish transformed a run-down, 9-hole course into one of the best championship courses in the state. Its rolling fairways, piney forest setting, and challenging holes have even won comparisons to Augusta National. Not too shabby for a public course that can be played for $59 on a weekday.
Woodforest Golf Club, Montgomery
PGA Tour pro Steve Elkington designed this lovely course that winds through pine and old-growth oaks. It features strategically placed bunkers and meticulously maintained greens. The course has hosted several major championships but can be enjoyed by players of all skill levels.
Butterfield Trail Golf Club, El Paso
Considered one of the best municipal courses in the country, Butterfield was closed for part of 2020 because of financial troubles but has since reopened under new management. Tom Fazio designed a course that cuts through desert dunes against the backdrop of the Franklin Mountains. It makes for a challenging 18 holes.
The Rawls Course, Lubbock
If you expected a West Texas course with a tabletop flat design, the home base of Texas Tech’s golf team will surprise you. Tom Doak’s Rawls Course is located northwest of Lubbock, where the high plains begin to drop into the Caprock region, an undulating landscape of valleys and canyons that provide perfect terrain for golf.
If you’ve got your own golf cart you like to drive, keep these safety, legal, and insurance tips in mind before taking it off the green.
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