If every state was asked to field an all-star team of the best golfers it ever produced, Texas would be tough to beat. Just a few of the natives include Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Lanny Wadkins, Tom Kite, Justin Leonard, and even Golf Magazine columnist Brandel Chamblee.
The Lone Star state's course roster is equally impressive, although playing all of the best tracks in this expansive state is another challenge. There are must-play courses throughout -- from El Paso in the west to Houston in the southeast to Lubbock in the north. A shorter trip will take you up and down the central portion of Texas, along the Interstate 35 corridor shared by Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. The big name layouts in those cities are good enough that the PGA Tour stops in Texas four times a year.
Barton Creek - Fazio Canyons (bartoncreek.com, 512-329-4653, $150-$250)
Change is coming to Golf Magazine's top-ranked public course in Texas. This Tom Fazio design, which debuted in 2000, will be closed for three months this summer for renovation work (all greens are being rebuilt). What won't be changed is the downhill par-5 18th hole, one of the state's top finishers, where water comes into play twice. The course, located a short shuttle ride from Barton Creek Resort & Spa, is open only to resort guests.
Pine Dunes (pinedunes.com, 903-876-4336, $49-$79)
Never heard of this course? You're not the only one. But it's worth making the drive two hours east of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to play. Tucked away in Frankston, this 2001 Jay Morrish design is nothing fancy; just a collection of good, solid holes, although the merits of the dogleg par-5 18th are the subject of debate. The price is right though, and you can stay in a handful of condos near the 18th green for multiple rounds.
Barton Creek - Foothills (bartoncreek.com, 512-329-4653, $150-$250)
Located just out the back door of the Barton Creek Resort & Spa, this 1986 Tom Fazio layout still resonates as must play thanks to plenty of elevation changes and interesting green complexes. Not to mention an abandoned bat cave you must carry on the par-5 18th.
The Rawls at Texas Tech (therawlscourse.com, 806-742-4653, $36-$65)
Tom Doak's first project after completing Pacific Dunes in Oregon (ranked No. 1 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses You Can Play) brought him here, just northwest of Lubbock, to build a course on a completely flat piece of ground. He built berms that surround the entire layout, named for a Texas Tech alum, but wind remains a factor on the heavily landscaped property.
Old American The Colony (theoldamericangolfclub.com, 972-370-4653, $125)
Tripp Davis and Justin Leonard created one of Golf Magazine's Best New Courses of 2010 at this stylish layout north of Dallas. The old school feel of the layout overlooking Lake Lewisville is a nod to classic American courses built in the early 20th century. For a closer look, check out the detailed hole-by-hole sketches on the club's website.
TPC San Antonio - AT&T Oaks (tpcsanantonio.com, 210-491-5800, $159-$249)
Another of Golf Magazine's Best New Courses of 2010, the Oaks hosts the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open in April. Designed by Greg Norman, with consulting help from Sergio Garcia, the massive 7,522-yard layout is well-bunkered (including one in the middle of the par-3 16th green) and demanding. It's only open to guests at the adjoining 1,002-room JW Marriott that towers over the course.
TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas Irving (fourseasons.com, 972-717-2530, $195)
The venue for the PGA Tour's HP Byron Nelson Championship (played in May) turns 30 this year but was renovated in 2008. In 2011 and 2012 play on the layout (open only to Four Seasons guests) has continued up to the Saturday before the PGA Tour event.
BEST OF REST
Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort - Palmer Course (lacanteragolfclub.com, 210-558-4653, $69-$140)
If you like rollercoasters, you'll love the Resort Course layout (and the Fiesta Texas amusement park located right next door) here in Texas Hill Country. But the more subtle and straightforward Palmer design is the one you would likely play more than once.
Butterfield Trail (butterfieldtrailgolf.com, 915-772-1031, $65-$80)
The standout public layout in West Texas was named a Top 10 New Course you Can Play by Golf Magazine in 2007. Built on land in El Paso that was part of a 19th century mail delivery route, the Tom Fazio design features a number of elevated tees, natural sand dunes and a two-acre lake that comes into play on the closing hole of each nine.
Cowboys Golf Club (cowboysgolfclub.com, 817-481-7277, $80)
For fans of the Dallas Cowboys, seeing the five replica Super Bowl trophies in the clubhouse may be enough to warrant a trip here. But for golfers, the solid course is an added bonus. Located in Grapevine, north of downtown Dallas, the course completed a renovation of all bunkers late last year.
Wolfdancer Golf Club (wolfdancergolfclub.com, 512-308-4770, $119-$149)
Opened in 2006 35 minutes southeast of Austin, this course features an initial 12-hole stretch with distinct elevation changes, notably on the severely downhill par-3 12th hole. The remaining holes are more parkland style with the 17th and 18th running quite near the Colorado River as it flows through the property.
Redstone Golf Club - Tournament Course (redstonegolfclub.com, 281-454-7797, $150)
Site of the PGA Tour's Shell Houston Open since 2003, the Tournament Course at this 10-year old facility was designed by Rees Jones with David Toms. Located north of downtown Houston, the layout has water in play on 10 holes.
Brackenridge (alamocitygolftrail.com, 210-226-5612, $50-$60)
One of the most historic courses in the state, this 1915 A.W. Tillinghast was expertly restored in late 2008. Barely 6,300 yards, the "Brack" hosted the PGA Tour's Texas Open from 1922 to 1959 and is now home to the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. It's a wonderful, flat walk with six square greens and subtle bunkering, all located just 10 minutes from both the San Antonio airport and downtown (the 750-foot Tower of the Americas serves as your target line on the 4th hole).
Memorial Park Golf Course (memorialparkgolf.com, 713-559-2000, $39-$49) is a truly great muni near Houston's city center. Long (7,305 yards), wide and wooded, this Depression-era creation from John Bredemus, who also authored fabled Colonial in Ft. Worth, played host to 14 of the PGA Tour's Houston Opens from 1947 to 1963, when winners included Arnold Palmer, Jackie Burke Jr., Cary Middlecoff and Bobby Locke.
A 1995 refurbishment yielded a new (and lighted) range, putting and chipping areas and clubhouse. While the design isn't the most attention-getting in Texas, the value is a jaw-dropper: $30 to walk during the week, $38 on the weekend, and a maximum fee of $49 if you ride. Twilight rates during the week are $21. Cheap and convenient, Memorial Park is usually crowded, but at that price for a course with that much history, it's worth the hassle.
Worth the Money
Annual host to the PGA Tour stop that bears Byron Nelson's name, the TPC Four Seasons Resort earned its status when Jay Morrish retrofitted the existing Las Colinas Sports Club course in 1987. With Nelson and Ben Crenshaw acting as design consultants, they revised an existing Trent Jones nine and added nine new holes.
It's far from the most exciting or attractive layout on Tour, but tree trouble, elevation changes and typical Texas winds serve as effective challenges.
The par-4 14th and the par-3 17th (the latter re-worked with considerable skill by D.A. Weibring's firm) are both graced by superbly placed water hazards. With the pampering comforts of the Four Seasons hotel next door and a roster of champions that includes Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, the TPC Four Seasons is a must-play.