Window Shopping: Golf bargains in Austin will be music to your ears


AUSTIN, Tex. -- It's a busy autumn in Texas' capital city. Not only are the Texas Longhorns in the mix for a Big 12 Championship, but Austin City Limits music festival and the brand new Formula One Grand Prix race make their way to the capital city this fall.

And until the first Tuesday of November, there are plenty of politically-spirited residents campaigning from street corners for local, state and national elections.

The gift - and curse - of Austin's location in the heart of the Texas Triangle is that while San Antonio, Dallas and Houston are all within a three-hour drive, it also means major sports pass up Austin for any franchises and the professional golf tours head elsewhere in Texas for tour stops.

But regardless, there are a lot of reasons to visit Austin, especially in the fall, when the weather is best and the air is just cool enough to make barbecue smell that much better. Golf in Austin at this time of year is also as good as it gets. 

The Austin golf scene's big cahuna is Barton Creek Resort & Spa, home to three courses at the resort (plus a fourth, the Lakeside, out by Lake Travis). The catch is you have to stay at the resort to gain access to golf at this private club, and green fees can cost north of $200. Just east of the airport, Wolfdancer Golf Club, part of the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines, delivers one of Texas' best layouts and a lower green fee ($139-179) - and the public can get on without booking a hotel room (county residents can also get a discounted rate here). 

So while the area has Top 100 resort golf, the best thing about the golf scene here is that you can virtually name your price to play. The most basic options are Butler Park Pitch & Putt ($8 for nine holes), an ultra-casual course near Town Lake and 9-hole, historic Hancock Golf Course just north of U.T. ($12). The best municipal facility is 36-hole Jimmy Clay & Roy Kizer. Each course is walkable and of championship standard between 6,800-7,100 yards. Clay is usually a few bucks less than Kizer. Expect to pay $30-50 with a cart.

Residents are also excited for January, when Morris Williams reopens after nearly a full year under the knife. The course, on the east side of town, is being entirely re-seeded and a new clubhouse is under construction, while several holes are being redesigned as well. 

Beyond the munis, Austin has a wealth of semi-private facilities that welcome public golfers. Grey Rock, Avery Ranch, Star Ranch and Teravista on the outskirts of the city offer member-worthy conditions and facilities. These courses charge between $50-90 depending on the time of day. Northwest of town, Sun City offers three of its own layouts, Cowan Creek, Legacy Hills and White Wing. You can also find some limited public availability online at private courses Onion Creek and River Place.

Just a step below these semi-privates in price and experience is Shadow Glen Golf Club ($40-50), located on the east side of town and offers a unique, 7,000-plus-yard layout without much residential impact.

The Texas Hill Country borders Austin to the west, and this is where some of the more dramatic courses in the area can be found. If you can't play Barton Creek, the next best thing for the public golfer is Falconhead Golf Club ($60-90), which has a gorgeous, Hill Country layout with one of Texas' most remarkable holes. Dabble around the small towns west of Austin like Wimberley or Blanco and you can uncover a little country charm and some lesser-known, very affordable courses like Quicksand at Woodcreek, Highland Lakes or Vaaler Creek that make for good compliments to an afternoon in the car exploring this most unique part of Texas.