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Elevated tee shots on both sides highlight the excitement of the Fazio Foothills course at Omni Barton Creek.
Here’s the ultimate Texas Hill Country Resort Course: Fazio Foothills, where the architect gives the tourist what they want: elevated tee shots, Hill Country scenery and waterfalls galore. It’s older than Fazio Canyons and homes play a little closer to the fairways in a couple spots, but the shot variety is a little better and the routing has more interest, at times playing along high ground overlooking the namesake creek. The par 5s are a strength, especially the gutsy shots into the narrow 8th and 14th greens. And before you think Fazio is resort-friendly all the time, play the 18th, which has a severely elevated green and a small cave that gobbles up mishits. Recent renovation and tree management as part of Omni Barton Creek’s extensive expansion helped elevate this showy layout back to the top. (Green fees: $185-285)
*Resort stay required
Honorable Mentions: three fun golf courses an hour from Austin
Historic Landa Park in New Braunfels has a pleasant setting along the springfed Comal River.
There are a few courses outside of town that are a little too far away to really call “Austin golf courses,” but they’re within a 60-75 minutes drive and are unique enough that I try and make the trip on occasion.
Delaware Springs Golf Course: Northwest of the city in Burnet, this friendly muni is one of the best in Texas for the combination of value, conditions and course design. The duo of Axland & Proctor laid out a very fun routing in gentle but scenic land near Inks Lake. The only thing I don’t like is it’s a little too spread out to walk comfortably, in contrast to my next pick. | My full course review from 2013
Landa Park Golf Course: An old muni jewel of New Braunfels, I like this loop more than the newer and flashier (and pricier) Bandit nearby. Set right in the historic town, the course winds along the Comal River, passes over railroad tracks and around the city park and is also bordered by Schlitterbahn. It’s just 6,200 yards but a recent renovation by the Finger-Dye-Spann team made the green complexes very interesting (playing here makes me salivate over what Lions would be like with rebuilt greens). If you play Landa in the summertime, be sure to pack your swim trunks and go to either Schlitterbahn or the spring-fed pool next door. Visiting in the fall? Plan your tee time around Wurstfest.
Horseshoe Bay Resort: An hour west of Austin on Highway 71, this resort is set along the shores of Lake LBJ and features three Robert Trent Jones Sr. championship courses, led by my favorite, Apple Rock (though Ram Rock is usually rated higher). In 2021, Horseshoe Bay is finally ready to open their brand new Cap Rock clubhouse. This is an ideal resort stay for families and the Yacht Club on the shores of Lake LBJ is a fantastic summer-day hang for everyone.
More Austin-area golf sleeper picks
Mustang Creek, northeast of Austin, is a rural, historic 9-hole course.
Still reading? Why stop now!? Here are a few others worth seeing:
Mustang Creek Golf Course: If your group is seeking “Keep Austin Weird” vibes, here’s a proposal: 9-hole Mustang Creek in Taylor. It’s an unlikely spot for one of the oldest courses in central Texas, dating back over 100 years. It feels a lot like a remote, unknown Scottish heathland you might uncover by accident. It’s a rural place that is minimally maintained with small greens but has an interesting layout. (It’s not far from Star Ranch if you’re looking for a PM round).
Riverside Golf Course: On the east side, Riverside was the second home of Austin Country Club from 1950-84. This Perry Maxwell design has since lost most of its shine and has been altered due to development of Austin Community College, which now owns and operates the course. Nevertheless, it’s an affordable, convenient play with its share of moments. Nos. 8, 14 and 15 are three of the strongest long par 4s in town, while the stretch from 11-13, back-to-back par 5s followed by a drivable par 4, is a hoot.
Lakecliff Country Club: West of town near the exclusive Austin Golf Club, Lakecliff has rare bentgrass greens to go with an Arnold Palmer design. It used to be a private club, and for a year Austin Country Club members had an option on the property and considered adding it to their portfolio, but it’s since settled into a semi-private course that posts times to TeeOff.com. It’s also a little lesser known, so if you’re looking for tee times last-minute on a busy weekend be sure to look it up. Green fees are ramping up to a $140 peak, which is surprising.
I can’t end an article about Austin golf without mentioning Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Cut & Putt. Willie owns this 9-holer west of town near Lake Travis. Golf doesn’t get any more casual than here. There are basically no rules, and apparently on Saturdays, a group of 20+ locals play in a group, and if you happen to be behind them, too bad. When I was there a couple summers ago the irrigation (original to the 1970s build) was on the fritz and conditions were a little iffy. It’s hard for me to recommend the 45- minute drive from the city solely to play golf here. But if you’re also going to Pace Bend State Park or some other landmark out this way and will be in the neighborhood with some curiosity and time to kill, it’s a fun couple hours. Good news for Willie fans is there’s plenty of merch in the clubhouse.
By now I have played most of the private clubs around town. Here’s how I’d rank the top ones: Austin Golf Club >> Austin Country Club >> UT Golf Club (the new Short Course gives it a great edge) >> Spanish Oaks >> Hills Course at the Clubs of Lakeway.
Texas golf packages
The La Cantera Resort & Spa Package
FROM $197 (USD)
SAN ANTONIO, TX | Enjoy 2 nights’ accommodations at La Cantera Resort & Spa and 2 rounds of golf at La Cantera Resort – Resort Course.
Horseshoe Bay Stay & Play Package
FROM $217 (USD)
AUSTIN, TX | Enjoy 3 nights’ accommodations at Horseshoe Bay Resort and 3 rounds of golf on Horseshoe Bay’s Apple Rock, Ram Rock, & Slick Rock Courses.