Travelin' Joe's Advice
"I haven't spent nearly as much time in Austin as I should have, but that said, I can also say that its neighbor to the southwest by 80 miles, San Antonio, is one of the most underrated cities – and golf destinations – in America.
"As illustrated brilliantly by its hosting of NBA Finals and NCAA Final Fours, San Antonio knows how to throw a party. All of the action, including the major hotels, dining and drinking establishments, civic attractions and big games, revolve around the city's historic River Walk, so hoofing it on foot is the norm, as is making merry with an extra margarita or two.
"If there's any excuse to engage an automobile, it's to facilitate getting to San Antonio's excellent collection of public golf courses and resorts. From a current PGA Tour and Champions Tour site – the JW Marriott San Antonio's two TPC layouts AT&T – to a past PGA Tour venue, La Cantera's Resort course, plus their equally strong siblings, you'll walk in famous footsteps and bask in Hill Country scenery. If you want a real vacation, plus great golf, San Antonio is ideal. And don't forget the Alamo!"
Texas Insider Info
Replica Courses: If playing a PGA Tour course or traveling to Scotland is not in your future plans, then there are two Texas courses that try to replicate those experiences. The Tour 18 (tour18-dallas.com, 800-946-5310, $59-$89) in Flower Mound, northwest of Dallas, includes holes from Augusta National, TPC Sawgrass, Riviera and Doral, among others. The Tribute (thetributegc.com, 972-370-5465, $79-$129), part of The Colony north of Dallas, is a Tripp Davis homage to holes from the best links courses of Scotland.
History Lesson: The Texas Golf Hall of Fame (texasgolfhof.org) is located at Brackenridge Park Golf Course in San Antonio. The Hall of Fame Walk, featuring 24 inductee plaques (including Ben Crenshaw, Ben Hogan, Tom Kite, Byron Nelson and Lee Trevino) plus a life-sized sculpture of famed Texas golf instructor Harvey Penick are the foundations. Also on-site is The Borglum Conference Center and Studio — used in the 1930s site by sculptor Gutzon Borglum for the initial rendering of Mt. Rushmore — which is expected to host its first major golf-themed exhibit later this spring.
Sound Effects: Austin is famous for its live music venues, mostly located in and around the usually crowded 6th Street area downtown. But a quietly great venue a few minutes away on South Lamar Boulevard is the Saxon Pub (thesaxonpub.com), where a pool table, cold beer and a main stage room with great acoustics await.
BBQ: You might get a bigger argument about where the best BBQ stops are in Texas than you would about which are the best courses, but a fivesome of highly recommended options include Rudy’s BBQ (in Boerne, northwest of San Antonio), Goode Company (Houston), Hard Eight (Dallas) Railhead (Ft. Worth) and County Line (Austin). Or just head to the Barbecue Capital of Texas, as proclaimed by the state legislature: the town of Lockhart, between Austin and San Antonio, for four more restaurants to choose from.
Deluxe Driving Range: Tired of just banging buckets of balls toward colored flags in the distance? Check out TopGolf (topgolf.com), with locations in Dallas, Allen, and Houston and new locations coming to Austin (spring 2013) and The Colony (late summer 2013). It's a cooler range, featuring point-scoring games with mini-scoreboards for competing against friends, plus food and drinks.
From the Concierge: “Spring and fall would be the top choice for visiting golfers as course conditions are optimal in these peak seasons. Weather-wise (and festival-wise), September-November or March-May are the best times to visit Austin. June-August and December-February are when you’ll get the most value in terms of pricing.
"For a dose of Austin culture, music, comedy or adventure: the LBJ Presidential Library; Texas State Capitol downtown; Esther’s Follies on 6th Street for laughs; Cedar Street for the Spazmatics; and rafting down the Guadalupe River.
"You can’t come to Austin without having BBQ (Iron Works Barbecue on Red River Street downtown), and Mexican food (Trudy's Tex-Mex Restaurant and Bar has five locations). For fine dining, there’s Barton Creek’s Hill Country Dining Room for more traditional Texas cuisine, or 8212 Wine Bar & Grill has exciting flavors and a more casual menu. Austin is also known for its food truck scene — they’re everywhere and have great food!”
— Marcia Lepore, concierge at Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin.
Top 100 Teacher Tip
"Texas is a big place, so depending on where you land, you can be playing desert/mountain golf or down near the ocean. You get a little bit of everything, which makes it interesting. There's plenty of wind everywhere, though.
"Instead of just changing your ball position, we encourage golfers to use less loft and less swing when playing into the wind. If you have what is normally an 8-iron shot, use a 3/4 backswing with a 7-iron. It will go the same distance with a lower trajectory. Using half a regular backswing with a 6-iron will too, and if you take your hands out of it and just make a bigger shoulder turn, you can move a 5-iron about the same distance.
"That gives you multiple trajectory options in the wind. Keep the ball in the middle of your stance for all of those swings. When using a driver into the wind, try and tee the ball slightly lower than normal. And don't swing extra hard to try and overpower the wind."
-Top 100 Teacher Kevin Kirk is Senior Director of Instruction at The Woodlands Country Club in Houston.
GolfTec: If you have downloaded the My Pro To Go app (myprotogo.com) and want an in-person swing consultation, or just need a tune-up before starting your first round here, head to one of GolfTec's locations throughout Texas:
Austin (Arboretum, 512-231-9797)
San Antonio (210-519-2600)
Houston Galleria (713-850-7555)
Upper Kirby (832-426-5650)
Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex
Las Colinas (972-294-7787)
Montgomery Plaza (817-524-6648)
North Dallas (972-239-4700)
North Richland Hills (817-281-7496)
Park Cities (469-334-0500)