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
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.
Dining at Barton Creek: 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.
For more information: BartonCreek.com