San Antonio breaks into national golf scene

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SAN ANTONIO – If your impression of golf in San Antonio is hot, dusty municipal golf courses played by locals wearing cowboy hats, think again.
 
With the grand opening of TPC San Antonio in spring 2010, the city that’s hosted the PGA Tour since 1922 turns the page to a new chapter that many believe will vault it from a former Fall Series afterthought to a golf destination of national prominence. And it’s not all about the TPC; San Antonio’s supporting cast of golf courses has more variety than you might have thought.
 
TPC San Antonio tpc san antonio
 
TPC San Antonio
Web site
 
How to get there From airport, take 281 North; turn right on TPC Parkway and follow it to the Cibolo Canyons development.
 
How to play it Scheduled to open in Spring 2010. You must stay at the J.W. Marriott, or be the guest of a member to play golf.
 
19th hole A state-of-the-art sports bar will satisfy any post-round appetite.
 
At the master-planned TPC San Antonio, two 18-hole courses are garnished with the world’s largest J.W. Marriott, a multi-million-dollar sports bar and a six-acre water park that would even cause Colin Montgomerie to giggle with glee.
 
Simply put, TPC San Antonio is a 21st century golf arena built to host a PGA Tour event – the Valero Texas Open moves here from Westin La Cantera in 2010. But with panoramic views of downtown San Antonio and the surrounding Hill Country landscape, the experience is far from man-made. In fact, a deep appreciation for nature conservation is evident on every hole.
 
At the AT&T Oaks Course, designer Greg Norman utilized classic design principles. Tree-lined fairways give way to natural bunkering that mimics the gnarly look of the centuries-old oaks that dominate the landscape. Sergio Garcia collaborated on the project, suggesting sight lines and tee box locations that would challenge today’s Tour player.
 
“You could pick up this course and place it in Chicago,” said Jimmy Terry, general manager and director of golf. “I think that says a lot about its character.”
 
At the Pete Dye-designed AT&T Canyons Course the trend of nature conservation continues. The 7,545-yard layout is routed like fingers on a hand with a 768-acre nature preserve filling the gaps. The result is panoramic Hill Country views that extend as far as the eye can see.
 
A unique twist to the Canyons Course comes at the par-3 13th, where for one hole the veteran Dye stepped aside to allow amateur architects the chance to submit their own design. A contest was held with simple rules: Submit a sketch of a slightly downhill 226-yard par-3. The winning design needed to complement the surrounding landscape and ecology, while being playable for all skill-levels.
 
After a judging process led by Dye and his wife, Alice, Brian Fitzgerald of Hendersonville, N.C. was declared the winner. In addition to having his creative stamp on the course, the 4-handicapper also earned the opportunity to take a personal tour of the construction site with Mr. Dye himself.
 
Like the Oaks Course, the Canyons Course debuts Tour-ready. Within the next couple years the Champions Tour AT&T Championship will move from its current home of Oak Hills Country Club to TPC San Antonio. At that time, TPC San Antonio will join Pebble Beach as the only two resorts to annually host a PGA and Champions Tour event.
 
Westin La Cantera Resort la cantera In between screams from the neighboring Six Flags theme park, Olin Browne hits hit tee shot at No. 8 during the second round of the 2008 Valero Texas Open.
 
Westin La Cantera
Web site
 
How to get there From airport, take I-410 West to I-10 West to exit 555.
 
How to play it Book tee times at their Web site. For a list of specials, click here.
 
19th hole The Kona Grille at the Shops of La Cantera, Rudy's BBQ, Chango's Havana Club and The Longhorn Cafe.
Since 1995 the Resort Course at Westin La Cantera Resort has set the stage for the ultimate “Go low or go home” PGA Tour event. In 2003, PGA Tour veteran Tommy Armour III set the 72-hole PGA Tour scoring record here of 254 (26 under par) with rounds of 64-62-63-65.
 
With wide, fast fairways and large, smooth greens, it’s no surprise that par is defenseless against PGA Tour pros, but for the average golfer La Cantera’s hilly layout is a formidable test.
 
“Nos. 5 and 10 are long par 4s for the pros,” noted Steve Shields, director of golf operations. “The average golfer plays those as good par 5s.”
 
The signature hole is No. 7, a short par-4 that drops down into a chiseled-out rock quarry. In the background are several roller coasters that are part of the neighboring Six Flags theme park.
 
With several tee boxes, the hole can play as short as 250 yards, but each tee box gets progressively higher, so for once it’s actually easier – and also more breathtaking – to play it from the tips.
 
If you’re looking for a tougher test of golf, check out the Palmer Course at La Cantera. It has more elevation change than the tournament course, and requires more precision off the tee. No. 18 is the prettiest hole, offering picturesque views of downtown San Antonio.
 
If the Palmer Course were more gallery-friendly, it would have probably hosted the PGA Tour instead of the Resort Course. All in all, both are a treat. If your game is in need of repair – and whose isn’t – the golf academy is state of the art.
 
Brackenridge Park Golf Course
Brackenridge Park
Web site
 
How to get there From airport, take 281 South to Mulberry Ave., turn left at light, then take third right.
 
How to play it $85 on weekends with a cart. Tee times at Web site (above).
 
19th hole Cheesey Janes is just north of the course and has big shakes and big burgers. If you're in the mood for Mexican try Tomatillo's or Picante Grill.
 

 
For a unique experience in downtown San Antonio, you’ve got to play Texas’ first 18-hole municipal course, Brackenridge Park. Designed by A.W. Tillinghast and opened in 1916, it was redesigned in 2008 but maintains a vintage Tillinghast feel.
 
If you’re lucky enough to have visited Tillinghast’s Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, you’ll notice how Brack is similar the moment you pull in the parking lot and see the stone-walled clubhouse.
 
“Some people refer to it as a miniature Winged Foot,” head professional Greg Hiller said of Brack’s 6,263-yard, par-71 layout.

Hole No. 7 is the perfect example. Guarding the left side of this 385-yard, par-4 is a long fairway bunker that hides just below the player’s sight line – most bunkers at Brack are flanged with grass, which adds to the deception.

Golfers are then met by three more bunkers that sit below an elevated, square-shaped green – a common design trait of Tillinghast courses but a rarity in this region of the U.S.
 
“You’d have to drive about 1,000 miles to find another course with square greens,” Hiller said.

In all, seven greens at Brack have this unique characteristic.
 
Hyatt Hill Country Resort hyatt hill country
 
Hyatt Hill Country
Web site
 
How to get there On the west side of town. 25 minutes from San Antonio Airport.
 
How to play it $135.00. Significant discounts for twilight and super-twilight times. Check Web site for packages.
 
19th hole There seems to be a restaurant for any occasion. Springhouse Cafe is cheery and casual, Antlers Lodge is more formal and Cactus Oak Tavern is your 19th hole. If you crave Texas BBQ, Rudy's is right outside the front gate.
 
For a relaxing getaway, Hyatt Hill Country Resort is a sure bet. The 500-room hotel is set amidst beautiful oak trees, giving it a private, tucked-away feeling. An accompanying spa and water park makes it the most family-friendly option in San Antonio. But the golf is the main attraction, and at the adjoining Hill Country Golf Club there are 27 Arthur Hills-designed holes that provide a unique and diverse golf experience.
 
Each nine is distinct, as the names indicate. The Oak nine is a classic, tree-lined layout. The Lakes and Creek nines are more open but also have more water. Each nine incorporates the Texas landscape nicely.
 
'We are the only 27-hole facility in San Antonio and with that we are able to offer different combinations for our guests to play,' said head professional Mike Champagne.
 
Perhaps most memorable are the par-5s.

No. 6 on the Lakes Course, for example, is a 563-yard three-shotter with a natural dry creek that runs along the fairway's left side but twists back around to affect placement of the second shot as well. Three precise shots are necessary here, the true sign of a solid par 5.
 
Testament to its keen sense of environmental conservation, Hyatt Hill Country is the only certified Audubon Sanctuary in San Antonio. Bamboo tees are even used in order maintain a heightened awareness of the environment.
 
Quarry Golf Club quarry golf club No. 13 at Quarry Golf Club
 
Quarry Golf Club
Web site
 
How to get there From airport, take 281 South to Jones-Maltsberger Rd exit; exit left, then take first left. The Quarry will be on your right.
 
How to play it $59 Mon.-Thu. $89 Fri.-Sun. For twilight rates and tee times check Web site.
 
19th hole The Quarry Restaurant is open for dinner Wed.-Sat. Flemings Steak House and Paesanos Italian are within walking distance.
 
Any good golf city must have a course that's meant for the business traveler on the go, and Quarry Golf Club is your answer in San Antonio. Situated in a rock quarry less than 10 minutes from the San Antonio airport, Quarry Golf Club doesn't feel like it's in the city.
 
The front nine is a links-style course with few trees but lots of water. Like most links courses, low-ball hitters are rewarded with lots of roll. And if you putt well, you can score well on this side. No. 8 is the shortest hole on the course, but might be one of the trickiest. The green drops off on the right toward the water, placing a premium on accuracy.
 
The back nine is where Quarry gets its name. Spectacular views make the experience very enjoyable, but don't be too distracted. You'll need to hit solid shots here in order to score well.
 
No. 17 is Quarry's signature hole. At less than 390 yards from the tips it may not seem intimidating on the scorecard, but wait until you step onto the tee box where your tee shot must cross a gaping crevasse. Each hole at Quarry has a name. The 17th is named Reload. Good luck!