Toughest public golf course in Texas

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 13, 2011, 10:54 pm

In this edition of Travel Punch Shots, senior writers Mike Bailey and Brandon Tucker debate which is the toughest public golf course in Texas.


You wouldn't think that a golf course less than 7,000 yards could be all that difficult, but the Ram Rock Course at Horseshoe Bay just outside of Austin proves that a course doesn’t need length to be challenging. And Ram Rock, which is known as the 'Challenger,' can be awfully difficult.

Opened in 1981, this Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed track is a narrow, winding shot-makers course built on the rock outcroppings of the Texas Hill Country. The par-71, 6,926-yard layout is one of four golf courses open to the public at the Horseshoe Bay Resort. Rated at 137/75.6 from the tips, it has 62 deep bunkers that are true hazards, 10 water hazards and natural dry creek beds that I highly recommend avoiding.

There are holes with plenty of length, like the 488-yard par-4 second hole, and the 344-yard 10th hole. Neither one of them is easy. The second, and No. 1 handicap hole, is a dogleg right with a fairway bunker at the turn. Even a perfect drive leaves you more than 200 yards to a well-guarded green, and Ram Rock's bentgrass greens have plenty of movement in them to complete the experience. And the 10th? Forget about the driver. Players have to hit a very accurate iron off the tee to avoid water crossing the fairway and avoid the overhanging tree limbs of the oaks that surround the hole.

There's also the par-3 fourth. Its island green will remind you of No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass, but at 191 yards from the tips it’s about 50 yards longer.

The thing about Ram Rock is that you have to think your way through the golf course at all times and then execute your plan. Make a mistake, and you could be looking at double bogey or worse. Hit it through a dogleg, and it could end up lost or out-of-bounds – and almost every non-par 3 is a dogleg. Greens are well-protected and generally surrounded by stuff you won't find your ball in. Add a little wind and Ram Rock can be really treacherous.

This is a golf course that has gotten the best of the state's best players. I've seen tournaments in which club pros scared triple digits – and they were trying their hardest. It's a course that you can't blast away on, but you need length on certain holes, and it's a layout that will always withstand golf equipment technology.

Ram Rock is definitely one the toughest public golf courses in Texas.


This is a no-brainer. Texas' toughest public golf course is TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks Course.

It's not often that a golf facility's Pete Dye course is considered the easier of two courses, but the Norman and Garcia-designed Oaks easily takes the honor as this TPC's Alpha Dog.

Unlike the Westin La Cantera's Resort Course, which was designed to be friendly to the resort golfer while also challenging the pros, the Oaks' main goal when it opened in 2009 was to be Texas' toughest test for the pros.

The course plays 7,435 yards from the tips and still more than 7,000 yards from the next tee up. Though most golfers won't want to touch those sets, even the 6,624-yard middle tees boast a slope of 142.

Why so high? The Oaks simply doesn't allow much room for error anywhere. Fairways are narrow, often playing tightly through oak trees. Unlike Augusta where you can find your ball under the trees, high grass makes a lost ball a real likelihood, so welcome to virtual out-of-bounds lining most fairways. These corridors are pinched even more by massive – albeit artfully crafted – bunkers. They are plentiful and severe, with high lips and plenty of spots for an awkward stance. It's been said a bunker should be a 'half-shot penalty' but it felt higher when I played it.

The multi-tiered greens take on a life all their own, giving greenskeepers the opportunity to set some really tough pin positions. And they can't always go easy on mid-to-high handicappers because it's tough to find many green light pins out there.

Thankfully, steps from the 18th green is the JW Marriott's High Velocity sports bar, which has an imaginative setup with a 120-foot-long projection screen and an impressive tap beer list.

You're going to need one or two cold ones after playing the Oaks.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.