AUSTIN, Texas ' If a geographer were to pinpoint the epicenter of Texas Hill Country, he or she would probably point to somewhere near Austin, the capital city of the Lone Star State. After all, the scenery here is perhaps the best in Texas.
And while the views are a tourist attraction in and of themselves, the golf is even better.
With four golf courses and a luxurious chateau-style hotel, Barton Creek Resort & Spa is the crown jewel of Austin and the surrounding Texas Hill Country. The resort houses two courses ' the Crenshaw Cliffside and Fazio Foothills. Together they hosted the Canadian Tour Barton Creek Austin Classic. Off-property are two more courses ' the Palmer Lakeside and Fazio Canyons.
The Fazio courses stand alone as the only two in Texas that appear on Golf Magazine's 'Top 100 Courses You Can Play.' Each course offers a unique blend of scenery and difficulty you won't find anywhere else in America.
For you, the traveling golfer, heres what to expect from each course:
|Barton Creek Resort & Spa|
How to get there
From Austin-Bergstrom Airport head west on TX-71 for 9 mi. Make slight left to stay on S Capital of Texas Hwy. Take Bee Cave Rd. exit, turn left. After one mile, turn left at Barton Creek Rd. Resort is 1.8 mi. on left.
312 guest rooms, suites and villas. Cowhide desk chairs, hardwood floor entries and plasma TVs are luxurious.
How to play it
Unlimited stay-and-play packages on the Fazio courses start at $211 / night. Unlimited Crenshaw and Palmer packages start at $170. Check the website for full details.
County Line is a mainstay atop many magazine 'Best-of' lists. Located on Bee Caves Rd., 15 minutes from the resort.
With its wide variety, the Fazio Foothills course is vintage Tom Fazio. Whats unique about it, however, is the degree to which the natural landscape is incorporated. Fazio didnt move as much dirt as he normally does, which gives the Fazio Foothills course a rugged feel.
The topography Tom saw when he got here is essentially whats here today, said Justin Kutz, head golf professional at Barton Creek Resort & Spa.
As a byproduct of the rugged design, Fazio Foothills is also quite difficult (74.0/138). Several holes, including the long par-5 5th, cause the player to be strategic ' and accurate ' with their shots. Hitting the fairway here is manageable, but players must then decide which shelf theyll lay up to. The upper shelf is a bigger target, but requires a tougher shot to the hazard-protected green, while the smaller, lower level gives way to a more conventional approach shot. Its a pick-your-poison design characteristic thats challenging yet enjoyable.
Like most great golf courses, theres more than one signature hole at Fazio Foothills. The par-3 9th, however, stands alone as the prettiest. At 175 yards from the tips it doesnt require a difficult shot, but those who get too caught up in the scenery meet a watery grave. A deep, rocky crevasse drops down short left of the green, with a rushing waterfall providing the backdrop to a hole known as one of the best par-3s in Texas.
As scenic and challenging as the front nine might seem, the back nine is even better, and true to many Fazio designs, it closes with an outstanding par-5. Your most accurate drive of the day is required here if you want any chance of finishing strong. Second shots must be directed to the layup area left, avoiding an abandoned bat cave that protects a severely elevated green. The chateau-style hotel serves as a dramatic backdrop.
As the saying goes, a closing birdie makes the post-round beer taste colder, but if you can muster a par at the Fazio Foothills 18th youll no doubt feel like toasting your efforts.
In 1999 ' 10 years after completing Fazio Foothills ' Fazio took his design expertise two miles down Barton Creek Blvd. to the site of what would become Fazio Canyons. Fazio Canyons is also home to the Barton Creek Golf Academy, one of the leading instructional facilities in Texas.
The no. 1 handicap hole is No. 9, an uphill par-4 with a creek running from the green back toward you. If you can make par here, youll have positive vibes heading into the back nine.
No. 10 completes a rarity in which the two lowest-handicap holes come back-to-back. At this severe dogleg right par-4, players must play their tee shots out to the left and then hit a tiny green thats protected by a cross-cutting creek. Its one of the toughest turns in golf this side of Bethpage Black.
If you manage to make it to No. 18 with your dignity still intact, theres still an excellent chance to lose it at the home hole, an awesome par-5. After a great drive, players will be enticed to go for the green in two, but the same creek thats reachable for long hitters off the tee meanders back in front of the green. And if thats not enough, a massive live oak guards the left front of the green. If the pin is front-left, have fun maintaining that dignity you still have.
A consummate student of the game, Austin-resident Ben Crenshaw knew that preserving the natural hill country was key to turning his design into a great golf experience.
Holes like no. 17 are proof that he pulled it off. At this short par-3, players are required to play their tee shots over a deep ravine, to a narrow green. The safe play is long, but shots played this way run the risk of spinning back off the front of the green.
Located 25 miles west of the main resort, Palmer Lakeside offers a secluded retreat from resort-style golf.
With panoramic views and a multitude of wildlife, it's similar to the other three courses in the Barton Creek Family, but is unique in that it's more forgiving off the tee.
The first tee sits atop a plateau that looks out over the entire course, allowing players an opportunity to survey many of the holes they'll encounter during their round.
The most strategic hole at Palmer Lakeside is no. 16, a moderate-length dogleg par-4. Off the tee, players can take a shortcut as the hole slopes up toward the clubhouse. The less-aggressive approach is down the right side, leaving a mid-iron approach shot over a live oak to the green.
Palmer Lakeside is usually the least-crowded of the four courses at Barton Creek.