In Austin, the allure of the Texas Hill Country is right in your backyard at Barton Creek Resort & Spa

By Brandon TuckerJanuary 29, 2013, 5:04 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Barton Creek, the long, winding greenbelt that flows from the Hill County toward the heart of the state capital is a Central Texas staple as much as barbecue and Willie Nelson.

It's a source for outdoor activities in all seasons. During the cooler months, hikers and mountain bikers and even rock climbers make use of the trails and limestone rock walls. In the summer, shady swimming holes fill up with dogs and their owners and their coolers to relax on a hot afternoon. For golfers, the creek is the centerpiece for a prized foursome of courses at Barton Creek Resort & Spa to be enjoyed year round: the Tom Fazio-designed Canyons and Foothills Courses, plus additional designs by Ben Crenshaw and Arnold Palmer.

Barton Creek delivers a luxury resort for visitors to the Hill Country as well as private club experience for those who call here home. The AAA Four Diamond hotel, operated by KSL, has 312 guest rooms, while there are over 1,000 golf memberships, managed by ClubCorp, in addition to social memberships that are included with surrounding real estate. Both members and resort guests enjoy the property's tennis, spa, dining, pools, hiking trails and 72 holes of golf. It may sound like a lot on one property. Rest assured, the development has a Texas-sized 4,000 acres at its disposal. Also, the fact it's a mix of residents and visitors tends to give the whole place more of a relaxed and less-touristy vibe. 

Before resort-goers wonder if members have the upper-hand here, allow me to drop a brief anecdote of our stay: Upon a mere mention that I'd recently been engaged when booking the night's stay, a welcome tray of sweets and fruit with congratulations greeted us in our room. We were also unexpectedly delivered a little celebratory champagne and dessert at the end of our dinner in the Hill Country Dining Room. Apparently, word gets around of such occasions. 

'It's about operating in such a proactive mindset,' said Michael Sizemore, the new Club Director at Barton Creek. 'That you're able to anticipate and blow people's minds.'

Off-course resort amenities are highlighted by the Three Springs Spa, set in a wing of the resort that accented with local limestone and spring water. The fitness center is 11,000 square feet and offers group exercise and yoga classes, while the spa treatment menu is a vast one, ranging from sports to rejuvenation and relaxation therapies. 

True Texas Hill Country golf at Barton Creek

Crenshaw Cliffside

The Crenshaw Cliffside at Barton Creek Resort & Spa

The flagship of the four courses at Barton Creek, the Fazio Foothills still holds its own with the best golf courses in the Hill Country, thanks in part to a 2004 refresh of the course that originally opened in 1986. Dazzling elevated tee shots and fairways that hug high ground overlooking distant green expanses is the norm. Other holes, like the play along creeks, while Fazio crafts greens set beside small waterfalls. From the 18th tee, you'll notice the hotel and clubhouse is still well above you - a reminder that you've got a long way to go, uphill on this 560-yard brute of a finishing hole. Fazio was invited back for an encore and crafted the Fazio Canyons in 2000 to round out the foursome.

It would be darn near Texas sacrilege to not invite native Austinite Ben Crenshaw, Masters winner-turned top golf course designer, to lend a course to Barton Creek. He did so on the Crenshaw Cliffside in 1991, one of his earliest designs in his budding relationship with architect Bill Coore. While it's shorter and open from tee-to-green, the legendary putter laid down a set of large, swooping greens that can befuddle even the best flat sticks to pass through town.

For those who want a taste of Hill Country golf out towards Lake Travis, Barton Creek has a club-style course, the Palmer Lakeside, designed by Arnold Palmer in 1986. Located about 25 miles west of the hotel, the resort offers shuttle service for guests who book a tee time.

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Dining at Barton Creek: Hill Country Dining Room

Hill Country Dining Room

Austin is a foodie kind of town, and in true Texas style, the menu at the Hill Country Dining Room is robust. Breakfast here is a sight to behold; a buffet so large it needs its own room and complete with numerous chefs on-hand to cook omelets or virtually anything else, yet quick enough to get to your morning tee time.

Dinner time here is an entirely different affair, more slow-paced with live piano and an extensive wine and cocktail list, so plan on making a night of it. On the menu, Texas staples like Chili BBQ stuffed quail or Prime Grade A black Angus filet or Ribeye. Should you save room for the desert, order up the Bananas Flambe, cooked up right at your table, with the spark for flames coming from a dash of Bacardi 151.

Unlimited Golf packages at Barton Creek

Golf nuts who want to play as much golf as daylight allows should check out one of Barton Creek's Unlimited Golf Packages. Rates vary by season, but by booking unlimited golf, you'll be sure to get all the golf you can play from sunrise to sunset on all four courses while here. Barton Creek also introduced a new Callaway Performance Center in 2010 which uses the brand's best technology to assist with club-fitting, from the full bag to drivers-only.

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.