Appeared in Spring 2014 LINKS
Cutting a swath through the southern tier of the Lone Star State, the Hill Country is a crescent of deep-carved, layered limestone covering 25,000 square miles and a shocker to visitors expecting dusty prairies, cattle herds, and oil rigs. Sheer-walled canyons, spring-fed lakes, and swift-flowing streams mark this lovely Lone Star landscape. Boasting more than 300 sunny days a year, this inviting getaway comes alive in spring, when bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and other native wildflowers blanket the hillsides.
On the outskirts of Austin—the state capitol and a live-music capital renowned for authentic B-B-Q and Tex-Mex cuisine—is the newly reflagged Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, a splendid 72-hole complex. The two Tom Fazio courses are the ones to play. The original, Fazio Foothills, rambles around limestone cliffs, gurgling brooks, and slim waterfalls, with 100-foot drops from tee to fairway. Fazio Canyons is chiseled into rock-studded terrain, framed by red oaks, cedars, and deep escarpments, and has water in play at 14 holes.
East of Austin is Wolfdancer, an Arthur Hills design routed through pinelands, pecan groves, and rolling meadows above the Colorado River. Named for the traditional wolf dance of the Tonkawa Indians who once inhabited this region, the well-groomed layout is attached to Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa.
Farther afield is Horseshoe Bay, a large resort community on the shores of Lake LBJ that offers a trio of sturdy Robert Trent Jones-designed layouts, notably Ram Rock, a take-no-prisoners test revered as one of the toughest in the state.
San Antonio, southern terminus of the Hill Country, has a bevy of exceptional resort and daily-fee courses. The top newcomer is TPC San Antonio, which sits beside a JW Marriott hotel and offers a pair of broad-shouldered layouts: AT&T Canyons, a mindbender by Pete Dye; and AT&T Oaks by Greg Norman, host of the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open.
La Cantera Hill Country Resort shelters two fine courses adjacent to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. The Resort Course, one of Weiskopf/Morrish’s final collaborations, veers from the Rattler, a wooden roller-coaster, to the sheer walls of an old rock quarry. La Cantera’s Palmer Course presents a tougher test on steeper terrain.
Traditionalists should tee it up on Brackenridge Park Golf Course, a 1916 A.W. Tillinghast in-town muni reopened in 2008 following a $7.5 million renewal. After the round, be sure to tour The Alamo (admission is free) as well as the lively open-air cafes lining River Walk (Paseo del Rio), the state’s top tourist attraction.
Forget the doom and gloom. This gotta-play region hasn’t thrown in the golf towel, choosing instead to invest in the game, add new courses and places to stay, and reach out to traveling golfers. It's where to go now.
By: Brian McCallen