Brackenridge Park is Texas' first 18-hole municipal golf course
If you're planning a San Antonio golf vacation, the good news is that not only are there plenty of good courses from which to choose, but an option for every budget.
In terms of variety, scenery and price, San Antonio might have the best public golf scene in the state of Texas. From the new high-end JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa to the recently renovated and affordable Brackenridge Park, there's a golf course for every taste and every budget.
Fall and spring are probably the best times of year to plan a San Antonio golf trip, but winter can be pretty good, too. The area has a mild winter climate, where days in the 70s and 80s are not uncommon, and like Arizona golf, most golf courses in San Antonio are overseeded, which means you'll enjoy terrific conditions.
Here, then, is a guide for enjoying San Antonio golf on three different budgets – premium ($100 or more rack rate), medium (generally $50-$100), or bargain ($50 or below).
High-end public golf in San Antonio
Perhaps the biggest news in the last year or two has been the addition of the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and two golf courses of the TPC San Antonio. In order to play here, you have to be a member or a resort guest, and the packages generally do run on the premium side. However both courses – the Greg Norman/Sergio Garcia designed AT&T Oaks Course, and the Pete Dye/Bruce Lietzke-created AT&T Canyons Course host PGA Tour (Valero Texas Open) and Champions Tour (AT&T) events respectively. And that means you're getting to play where the pros play, which is always fun.
Norman's course has scores of tough bunkers, strategically difficult fairways and undulating greens designed to test the best players in the world, while Dye's work (which is mild by his standards) has more elevated tees, views of the Hill Country and blind shots.
The Westin La Cantera, former site of the PGA Tour Valero Texas Open isn't too shabby either, and it's better than ever. The resort recently underwent a multi-million dollar improvement project and has on the best views of the city. You don't have to be a guest to play either the Tom Weiskop/Jay Morrish-designed Resort Course, which hosted the PGA Tour for more than a decade, or the Arnold Palmer Course. Both have spectacular elevation changes and great Hill Country views. The bonus on the Resort Course is that it bumps up next to the Six Flags Fiesta Texas Theme Park.
And finally, the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort near SeaWorld offers 27 shotmaker's holes designed by Arthur Hills. This understated, elegant Western resort has a true Hill Country Feel, great dining and excellent golf with plenty of wildlife, local flora and hole variety. The trick to playing the course successfully is to think your way through it, as is the case for most Hills courses.
Mid-priced golf courses in San Antonio
Just below the resort experience is probably one of the most talked about golf courses in the state, The Quarry. Opened in 1993, the Quarry Golf Club is a splendid Keith Foster design that combines a linksy sort of nine with a nine that's carved out of an old stone quarry, making for some interesting caroms on wayward tee shots. The course has a real resort feel and even offers forecaddies.
You don't often include municipals in this category, but Brackenridge Park Golf Course, an A.W. Tillinghast design and one of the oldest golf courses in Texas, fits the mold after a recent renovation. Great conditions and old school architecture make this a must-play for any mid-level-budget visitor. Plus, it's the new home of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame and just minutes from downtown and the famed River Walk.
Visiting golfers will also enjoy the Golf Club of Texas at Briggs Ranch, a 7,000-yard Lee Trevino design that's different from most anything else around the city, with lakes, streams, mounding, a few pot bunkers and undulating greens.
Other good mid-level options include The Republic Golf Club and Canyon Springs Golf Club. The Republic was designed by former Keith Foster associate Art Schaupeter and has become a perennial favorite among locals with its great conditions, challenging greens and mature trees. Canyon Springs was built on an historic ranch and quarry, has a man-made waterfall behind one green, and was once planned as a TPC course. The result is a challenging and beautiful design.
San Antonio golf bargains
If you're looking for bargain golf in San Antonio, a good place to start is the Alamo City Golf Trail. Although the Trail is headed up by the mid-level priced Brackenridge Park, the rest on the list can be played for less, including Cedar Creek, a Finger/Dye/Spann design on the northwest side of town.
There are four other courses on the Trail, including Olmos Basin and Mission Del Lago golf courses, both of which are enjoyable for the money.
If you're looking for more tournament history, Pecan Valley Golf Club is an excellent choice. Site of 1968 PGA Championship won by Julius Boros, the 7,010-yard, par-71 Press Maxwell-designed course underwent a $5.5 million renovation in 1998 to bring back much of its former glory. Pecan Valley also hosted the 2001 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
And finally, an excellent daily-fee course that's almost always in good condition but very economical to play is Silverhorn Golf Club. Operated by Palmer Golf Management, Silverhorn is a Randy Heckenkemper design that opened in 1996. Heckenkemper also crafted Silverhorn Golf Club in Oklahoma City five years earlier, but he worked with PGA Tour pros Willie Wood and Scott Verplank on the San Antonio version to build a course that would not only test really good players, but also be enjoyable to the average player.