Texas can proudly claim a Mt. Rushmore of golf giants (Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Babe Zaharias, and Harvey Penick), two history-rich courses (Colonial, Champions), a whopping four PGA Tour stops, and now, in San Antonio, one of the hottest public-golf cities in America.
Hilly San Antonio, the country’s ninth largest city, not only has an abundance of great public courses, but a mild climate, a less-hurried feel than Houston or Dallas, and a vibrant Mexico-centric culture. Add kid-magnet attractions like SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, historical jewels like The Alamo and Spanish Mission Trail, and the alluring limestone canyons and cool streams of the Texas Hill Country, and you have a fine alternative to better-known golf meccas.
| Pecan Valley is a modern classic.
D2 Productions Inc. Murphy/Scully
A San Antonio primer: The region is neither pool-table prairie nor piney Deep South. Expect rolling fairways, Bermudagrass everywhere, and plenty of different looks, from woods to plains to quarries. Spring and fall are best for golf.
Where to Play
Pecan Valley Golf Club
A recent $5.5 million renovation by architect Bob Cupp to J. Press Maxwell’s 1963 design attracted the 2001 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and restored this jewel to its former luster (as host of the 1968 PGA Championship). Salado Creek winds among huge, gnarly oaks — one is 800 years old — their branches shrinking the fairways. The mighty 2nd, a 453-yard uphill par 4, is probably the best hole in town. Walkable and free of fairway housing, the city’s best players flock to this pure-golf sanctuary. Green fee: $50-$70; 210-333-9018; www.americangolf.com.
La Cantera Golf Club
Famous for its hallelujah tee shots from 80-foot quarry walls and roller-coaster scenery (Six Flags’s 16-story Superman Krypton Coaster looms nearby), the original Resort Course, a 1995 Tom Weiskopf-Jay Morrish work, hosts the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open. Even more stunning is La Cantera’s Palmer Course, with its breathtaking hilltop views of the city and holes cut beside deep ravines and limestone cliffs. Fun and fair, this is thrill-packed golf with a matching price tag, but the course and magnificent Westin resort are worth the splurge. Green fee: $115-$130; 210-558-4653 (Resort Course), 210-558-2365 (Palmer Course); www.lacantera.golfclub.com.
Hill Country Golf Club
Arthur Hills’s seductively subtle design intrigues better players and deserves, if not requires, two rounds to appreciate it. Blind shots and overhanging trees have you always thinking shot placement. Unobtrusive housing and a restful ranch setting perfectly complement this exceptional Hyatt Regency Resort compound. Green fee: $120 resort guests, $135 outside play; 210-520-4040; www.sanantonio.hyatt.com.
Silver Horn Golf Club
Like Pecan Valley, this Randy Heckenkemper design is not about awesome, cliff-hanging golf, just intelligent holes. It quietly attracts the low-handicapper crowd with Tour-like par 4s, speedy rounds, and great conditioning. Walkable and mature, Silverhorn is better than many overhyped rivals. Green fee: $55-$65; 210-545-5300; www.silverhorngolfclub.com.
Cedar Creek Golf Course Among the nation’s better munis, Cedar Creek, opened in 1989, is caviar golf on a fajita budget. Steep ravines, waterfalls, and multitiered greens make this ample 7,150-yard course the equal of some area resorts at one-third the price. Hard to walk, very popular, and, alas, somewhat slow. Green fee: $26-$30; 210-695-5050.
Republic Golf Club
Downstream from Pecan Valley and 10 minutes from The Alamo, Republic is a new pure-golf experience with big, fast greens and secluded oak-lined holes. No encroaching homes, no glitz, just inviting fairways and impenetrable woodsy rough in a beautiful river flood plain. From the hacienda clubhouse to the eco-mindful use of replanted trees and recycled water, Republic’s owners got everything right. Green fee: $35-$49; 210-359-0000; www.foresightgolf.net.
Quarry Golf Club
Architect Keith Foster, known for creative natural layouts, carved a treeless, links-style course from this turn-of-the-century limestone quarry. Busy, plenty of water, truly unique. Trendy shopping and movie theater just up the hill. Some people adore this place; others are ho-hum. Green fee: $69 to $79; 210-824-4500; www.quarrygolf.com.
Bandit Golf Club
|The well-defended par-4 8th at The Bandit. Rick Muniz|
Twenty minutes outside San Antonio in New Braunfels, Foster has created another demanding layout with more than two miles of creek, big elevation changes, sharp doglegs, and 13 water holes. A good bargain and close to factory-outlet heaven. Green fee: $35-$45; 888-923-7846; www.foresightgolf.net.
Golf Club of Texas
A sprawling, windy course located on historic Briggs Ranch 20 miles west of town. Less hilly than other area courses, good service, plus a Texas-shaped water hazard. Yee-haw. Green fee: $75-$85; 210-677-0027; www.thegolfcluboftexas.com.
Where to Stay
In addition to dozens of moderately priced hotels (La Quinta, Hampton Inn, etc.) situated around Six Flags, golf packages are available at the region’s two full-service resorts.
| Staying dry is a challenge at the Golf Club of Texas.
The Westin La Cantera Resort promotes a Golf Par-Tee for One package starting at $299 plus tax that includes one round of golf with cart on either the Resort or Palmer Course, 45-minute golf clinic, use of the driving range, breakfast for two in Brannon’s Cafe, and other extras. Golf Par-Tee for Two starts at $419. Reservations: 210-558-6500; www.westinlacantera.com.
The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort offers a one-night golf package priced at $290 for one player ($350 for two) that includes accommodations, unlimited golf with cart and range balls, full breakfast, and complimentary valet parking. Reservations: 800-233-1234; www.sanantonio.hyatt.com.