I miss Texas.
Having grown up in Austin, I couldn't wait to get back home for the first time in 15 years to check out the #1 rated Golf Resort in Texas - Barton Creek Golf Resort and Spa. Was disappointed when we didn't fly over the State Capital on our descent into Austin, and then remembered that the Robert Mueller airport had been replaced by Bergstrom some 7 years ago! It's been a while...
I had forgotten about the topography of the Hill Country. Driving down Bee Caves Road reminded me alot of Fountain Hills, here in east Scottsdale. Windy roads let to the hilltop resort which you could see for miles in the distance. Valet parking and check in at Barton Creek was fast, efficient, and pleasant. The bellman had my bags at my "Resort Guest Room" in a matter of 5 minutes which was a nice surprise, as I find you often wait 20 minutes at some full service resorts. They also had a fresh ice bucket waiting for me. How do they do that?
The "Resort Guest Room" at Barton Creek is spacious, very nicely decorated, and has all the amenities you would want - my room was facing the back of the resort, and had a small balcony with a truly incredible view of the pool area, #18 on the Fazio Foothills course, and the rolling countryside of Barton Creek. Went down to the lobby bar "Jim Bob's" and had a late dinner - very cozy little dark bar with a decent menu at 10:00 pm.
First up was the Palmer Lakeside Course, about a 25 minute drive from the resort. Built in 1986 by the King, I enjoyed the fact that the fairways were fairly generous, and the rough was mowed relatively short - this seemed to be the most forgiving of the four courses, and had some of the best par 3's. The most dramatic hole was #11, a 201 yard par 3 with a huge waterfall in the background. Terrific views of Lake Travis and mesquite tree lined fairways make this the perfect start to your weekend. Nice job Arnie.
The afternoon round was onsite at the resort on the Crenshaw Cliffside course. #1, a short par 4 of 358 had a great view of the resort from the fairway, and resulted in a rare birdie. I always liked Ben. #10, a brutal, skinny par 4 of 455 yards produced a double bogey. I never liked that Crenshaw guy. I thought the back nine was certainly more dramatic than the front, and the #17 142 yard par 3 was stunning - downhill and downwind was a great way to finish. Back nine was really, really great stuff.
Next up was the Fazio Canyon's course on Friday morning. The Canyon's course is typically rated just behind the Fazio Foothills course on most rankings, but I thought the Canyon's was clearly the best of the four at Barton Creek. Surrounded it seemed like on all sides by hilltop mansions, it was visually stunning from start to finish. The approach shot on the par 5 #10 hole reminded me alot of the approach shot on We-Ko-Pa's famed #8, and dramatic elevation changes from tee to greens in my mind made this the clear winner. I thought just about every hole was a "signature hole" - fantastic. The 18th hole, a downhill par 5 I thought was the most dramatic hole. This course would be in my all time Top 5. In a word? Wow.
Last up was the #1 ranked Fazio Foothills course. I should have quit while I was ahead. The architect boasts on his website that it "puts a premium on long, accurate drives down the hybrid TIFsport bermuda fairways, and small undulating TIFFeagle greens makes this a shotmakers paradise." Being a 14 handicapper, long accurate drives and shotmaking are not my specialty. Although I managed to put up a pathetic 97, the Foothills course was clearly the best option for a golfer that could hit driver / 3 irons all day and be happy. #10 a 424 yard par 4 is an awesome start to an incredible back nine, with 3 of the best finishing holes anywhere. In two words??? Look out.
Being from Scottsdale, I'm spoiled when it comes to golf, but I have to say that I was blown away and just how good the golf was at all four courses. Here's how I ranked them:
- Fazio Canyons - Dramatic elevation changes and scenery made this #1.
- Fazio Foothills - 3 of the best finishing holes anywhere, and brutal - bring a dozen Pro V-1's.
- Palmer Lakeside - Easy and breezy. Great views of Lake Travis.
- Crenshaw Cliffside - Front nine? O.K. Back nine? Phenomenal.
P.S. Don't mess with Texas.