Toughest public golf course in Texas

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 13, 2011, 10:54 pm

In this edition of Travel Punch Shots, senior writers Mike Bailey and Brandon Tucker debate which is the toughest public golf course in Texas.


You wouldn't think that a golf course less than 7,000 yards could be all that difficult, but the Ram Rock Course at Horseshoe Bay just outside of Austin proves that a course doesn’t need length to be challenging. And Ram Rock, which is known as the 'Challenger,' can be awfully difficult.

Opened in 1981, this Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed track is a narrow, winding shot-makers course built on the rock outcroppings of the Texas Hill Country. The par-71, 6,926-yard layout is one of four golf courses open to the public at the Horseshoe Bay Resort. Rated at 137/75.6 from the tips, it has 62 deep bunkers that are true hazards, 10 water hazards and natural dry creek beds that I highly recommend avoiding.

There are holes with plenty of length, like the 488-yard par-4 second hole, and the 344-yard 10th hole. Neither one of them is easy. The second, and No. 1 handicap hole, is a dogleg right with a fairway bunker at the turn. Even a perfect drive leaves you more than 200 yards to a well-guarded green, and Ram Rock's bentgrass greens have plenty of movement in them to complete the experience. And the 10th? Forget about the driver. Players have to hit a very accurate iron off the tee to avoid water crossing the fairway and avoid the overhanging tree limbs of the oaks that surround the hole.

There's also the par-3 fourth. Its island green will remind you of No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass, but at 191 yards from the tips it’s about 50 yards longer.

The thing about Ram Rock is that you have to think your way through the golf course at all times and then execute your plan. Make a mistake, and you could be looking at double bogey or worse. Hit it through a dogleg, and it could end up lost or out-of-bounds – and almost every non-par 3 is a dogleg. Greens are well-protected and generally surrounded by stuff you won't find your ball in. Add a little wind and Ram Rock can be really treacherous.

This is a golf course that has gotten the best of the state's best players. I've seen tournaments in which club pros scared triple digits – and they were trying their hardest. It's a course that you can't blast away on, but you need length on certain holes, and it's a layout that will always withstand golf equipment technology.

Ram Rock is definitely one the toughest public golf courses in Texas.


This is a no-brainer. Texas' toughest public golf course is TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks Course.

It's not often that a golf facility's Pete Dye course is considered the easier of two courses, but the Norman and Garcia-designed Oaks easily takes the honor as this TPC's Alpha Dog.

Unlike the Westin La Cantera's Resort Course, which was designed to be friendly to the resort golfer while also challenging the pros, the Oaks' main goal when it opened in 2009 was to be Texas' toughest test for the pros.

The course plays 7,435 yards from the tips and still more than 7,000 yards from the next tee up. Though most golfers won't want to touch those sets, even the 6,624-yard middle tees boast a slope of 142.

Why so high? The Oaks simply doesn't allow much room for error anywhere. Fairways are narrow, often playing tightly through oak trees. Unlike Augusta where you can find your ball under the trees, high grass makes a lost ball a real likelihood, so welcome to virtual out-of-bounds lining most fairways. These corridors are pinched even more by massive – albeit artfully crafted – bunkers. They are plentiful and severe, with high lips and plenty of spots for an awkward stance. It's been said a bunker should be a 'half-shot penalty' but it felt higher when I played it.

The multi-tiered greens take on a life all their own, giving greenskeepers the opportunity to set some really tough pin positions. And they can't always go easy on mid-to-high handicappers because it's tough to find many green light pins out there.

Thankfully, steps from the 18th green is the JW Marriott's High Velocity sports bar, which has an imaginative setup with a 120-foot-long projection screen and an impressive tap beer list.

You're going to need one or two cold ones after playing the Oaks.
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Watch: Hahn slam-dunks ace on 11th hole

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:20 pm

There are aces, and there are slam-dunk aces. No question which one this one by James Hahn on the 154-yard 11th hole was.

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Els' nephew Rebula wins Amateur Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:05 pm

Ernie Els is one proud uncle.

His nephew, Jovan Rebula, won the Amateur Championship on Saturday at Royal Aberdeen to become the first South African to capture the title since Bobby Cole in 1966.

Rebula, a junior at Auburn, will join his famous uncle in Carnoustie next month for The Open. He also will get invites to the 2019 Masters and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Rebula defeated Ireland's Robin Dawson, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final.

"It’s unreal," Rebula said. "It’s really something that is hard to describe. I feel like many have been in this position before but it’s an unreal feeling. It hasn’t sunk in quite yet but hopefully tomorrow morning I can wake up and I will feel a little different."

Rebula received plenty of texts from Els throughout the week, and the encouragement paid off. Rebula opened a 1-up lead after 18 holes, and he extended his advantage by winning the 26th and 27th holes. He was 5 up with six to play before finally closing out Dawson on the 16th hole with an up-and-down from the bunker.

"It’s been a long week and especially today," Rebula said. "I should have finished maybe a couple of holes earlier, but it’s been awesome. A very tiring week. I’m standing here right now and there’s so much adrenaline pumping through me."

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Squirrel gets Rory's round off to a rocky start

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 6:42 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy’s third round at the Travelers Championship got off to a peculiar start before he even hit a shot.

McIlroy had just been introduced on the first tee at TPC River Highlands and was ready to unload on his opening drive of the day when a squirrel ran across the tee box a few feet in front of him.

McIlroy stopped his swing and laughed it off, but the squirrel continued to linger for several seconds, criss-crossing from one side of the packed tee box to the other. And while this was no black cat, the pump-fake to start his round didn’t exactly help the Ulsterman.

McIlroy ultimately blocked his drive into the right rough after enduring his brief rodent delay en route to an opening bogey, and amid soft conditions at TPC River Highlands he played his first five holes in 2 over. McIlroy started the day at 7 under, three shots behind leader Brian Harman.

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Kaymer in six-way tie for BMW International lead

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 5:29 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - Danish golfer Lucas Bjerregaard shot a 5-under 67 to equal the week's lowest round for a six-way share of the lead after the third round of the BMW International Open on Saturday.

Bjerregaard had eight birdies, a double bogey and a bogey to finish on 5-under 211 - jumping 23 places and joining local favorites Martin Kaymer and Maximilian Kieffer, England's Chris Paisley and Aaron Rai, and Australia's Scott Hend at the top of the leaderboard.

Bjerregaard was fortunate to play before the wind picked up again later in the afternoon.

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Kaymer, the 2008 champion, delighted the home supporters with two birdies in his last three holes for a 71.

Finland's Mikko Korhonen and Chile's Nico Geyger were one shot off the lead after rounds of 69 and 73, respectively.

Defending champion Andres Romero equaled the week's best round (67) to be among a large group two shots off the lead going into Sunday, including three-time European Tour winner Andy Sullivan.

Romero is bidding to be the first player to retain the title.