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Window Shopping: Affordable golf in San Antonio

Brackenridge Park
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LA JOLLA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Paula Creamer hits her approach shot on the 4th fairway during the second round of the LPGA Samsung World Championship on September 18, 2009 at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California. (Photo By Donald Miralle/Getty Images)  - 

When you think of San Antonio, the Alamo, the Riverwalk, great Tex-Mex food and theme parks probably come to mind. But over the past 20 years, no place in Texas has made more strides in its golf scene than Texas' third-largest metropolitan area, and much of it is very affordable.

While it's true that you have to stay at the new JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa to play the TPC San Antonio, where the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open and AT&T Championship on the Champions Tour are played, there are plenty of other resort, daily-fee and even muni tracks that make for a great San Antonio golf vacation.

In fact, you can play the course that used to play host to the Texas Open -- the Resort Course at La Cantera -- for less than you would probably think, well under $100 depending on the day of the week and especially if you look on for some specials. The resort course is a fun, Tom Weiskopf-Jay Morrish design with lots of elevated tees and some cool views of the Fiesta Texas theme park next door. In fact, on one hole, the drivable, par-four seventh, tee shots are aimed at the Rattler roller coaster. The other course at La Cantera, the Palmer Course, has even more dramatic elevation changes and one of the best 19th holes anywhere, overlooking the 18th and ninth greens and cascading water between them.

Another reasonable resort play is Tapatio Springs in Boerne, just west of San Antonio. Now partially owned by country music star George Strait, this beautiful 27-hole resort recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. The setting, with lots of wildlife, rolling hills and gorgeous sunsets, is as tranquil as it gets.

San Antonio also has a terrific municipal scene, led by historic Brackenridge Park G.C. While the green fees aren't dirt cheap, they are reasonable, and you can follow in the footsteps of the greats like Hogan, Snead and Nelson on this restored A.W. Tillinghast classic that hosted Texas' oldest PGA Tour event. Plus it's right next to the Riverwalk, and the clubhouse is the home of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame.

One of the more overlooked muni golf courses in San Antonio, however, is Willow Springs Golf Course, which like Brack, is part of the Alamo City Golf Trail and also hosted the Texas Open. For travelers it remains one of those best-kept secrets, but this 1923 Emil Loeffler/John McGlynn design is longer than Brackenridge, always in terrific shape and also in a great location, just east of downtown San Antonio across the street from the AT&T Center. It's also cheaper. Another really good San Antonio muni is Cedar Creek Golf Course, which is about 30 minutes west of downtown off of Interstate 10. It's a Finger-Dye-Spann design that can play more than 7,200 yards.

Sadly, San Antonio recently lost one its treasures, Pecan Valley Golf Club, the site of the 1968 PGA Championship won by Julius Boros. The course was closed and is being turned into a real estate development.

Still, there are lots of other worthy, inexpensive other daily-fee plays like the Lee Trevino-designed Golf Club of Texas, Olympia Hills, Silverhorn and Canyon Springs, just to name a few.