The city of Austin is known for its mouthwatering Texas barbeque, bustling music scene, and Longhorns college football. Austin may also be considered a sleeper when it comes to high-level accessible golf courses. Golf in the Texas Hill Country is unique, with courses often winding their way through distinctive terrain, lakes, and streams that aesthetically you simply can’t find in any other part of the country.
While the PGA Tour makes its annual stop at the private Austin Country Club for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the deep roster of semi-private and public courses within the city limits, and just a short drive outside of Austin, is impressive. Here’s a look at five of the best public golf options in the Austin area.
Lions Municipal Golf Course—Austin
Lions Municipal holds the honor of being the first public golf course in Texas. Opened in 1924, Lions is a 97-year-old gem and is recognized on the Registration of National Historical Places by the National Park Service. Names like Ben Hogan, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, and Jordan Spieth have all teed it up at the course nicknamed, “Muny.” It also became the first desegregated golf course south of the Mason-Dixon line in 1951.
Located just five minutes from downtown Austin, the land is owned by the University of Texas and leased to the city—Crenshaw is leading The Muny Conservancy (aka “Save Muny”), an ongoing effort to save the green space from being sold and developed into something other than a golf course. The 395-yard par-four 16th, known as “Hogan’s Hole,” challenges golfers with a blind tee shot. If players are lucky enough to find the fairway, they’ll face a testy approach over water to the green. Its old charm combined with a challenge has stood the test of time, and with luck will continue to do so. Sunset rounds go for $20 and weekend rates reach $35. https://www.austintexas.gov/department/lions-municipal-course
Horseshoe Bay Resort—Horseshoe Bay
Considered by many to be the ultimate golf resort in Texas, Horseshoe Bay is home to 72 holes of golf designed by two of the biggest names in golf course architecture. While the Jack Nicklaus Signature Summit Rock course is for members only, guests of the resort are able to play any of the three other courses, all designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.
The best of the public trio is Ram Rock, also known as “The Challenger,” which is as lush as you’ll see in the Lone Star State. Located an hour’s drive from downtown Austin, half of the holes at Ram Rock feature water hazards that are very much in play while natural rock formations create dramatic approach shots. Ram Rock’s 4th hole is its most memorable; a 186-yard par-three island green with bunkers sandwiching the putting surfaces. Info on stay-and-play packages can be found on their website. https://www.hsbresort.com/golf
Grey Rock Golf Club—Austin
Though not a new golf course, Grey Rock is the most recent addition to Austin’s stable of municipal golf courses. The city purchased the golf course, formerly known as Circle C, for just under $10 million and has transformed it into a public facility with high-quality golf located less than 20 minutes from downtown.
Designed by Jay Morrish, Grey Rock features large, inviting greens and rolling terrain lined by massive oak trees. Perhaps one of Grey Rock’s biggest attributes is its proximity to the famous Salt Lick BBQ—just a 10-minute drive to the popular spot in Driftwood. Play a twilight round for $46 during the week, otherwise the prime weekend rate is $85. https://www.greyrockgolfandtennis.com/index.htm
Located 20 minutes northwest of downtown Austin, Avery Ranch is a “real Hill Country golf experience” running along the 60-acre Lake Avery. The golf course opened in 2002 and was designed by former Nicklaus Golf Course Design architect Andy Raugust and features generous yet undulating greens and an array of rock walls and water features.
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Avery Ranch’s signature hole comes at the conclusion of your round. Considered one of the best finishing holes in Texas, the 18th is a 477-yard par-four stunner. Set along the lake, the hole features daunting trouble up the entire left side of the fairway. If you’re lucky enough to find the fairway a precise shot is required into a narrow approach to the green. One last test before you make your way to the popular Sunset Grill for a post-round beverage. It’s $38 for a “Super Twilight” round after 4 p.m., with a peak “Rack Rate” of $85. https://averyranchgolf.com/
Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa—Austin
Located just 10 miles northwest of downtown Austin is one of the top golf resorts in Texas. Barton Creek provides even the biggest golf nut with as much golf as they can handle—four golf courses designed by Tom Fazio, Arnold Palmer, and Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. The 72 holes are open to guests of the AAA Four Diamond resort, which recently underwent a massive $150 million renovation.
Barton Creek is Texas Hill Country golf at its finest. Both Fazio courses (Foothills and Canyons) feature dramatic elevation changes and limestone rock formations that are unique to the area. The Coore & Crenshaw design has a linksy style while the Palmer Lakeside course rests high above Lake Travis providing golfers views for miles. Depending on which course you play, and time of year, resort rates range from $75 to $285. https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/austin-barton-creek/golf
What’s your favorite public golf course in the Austin area?