SAN ANTONIO — The Alamo City doesn’t keep many secrets. Everyone raves so much about San Antonio’s famed Tex-Mex, theme parks and River Walk that golfers would be happy to keep their courses to themselves. But right now, there’s no better place in Texas to play golf. So pack your clubs, set your internal clock to mellow and head south. Here are five places where you can escape the city, air out your driver and kick back under Hill Country sunsets so vivid they make even a box of Crayolas blush.
Originally built in 1916 by famed golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast, Brackenridge Park is one of the real jewels of Texas golf.
Only five minutes from downtown, this recently restored parkland course couldn’t feel farther away.
Century oaks, pecan trees, stone bridges and a storied history make “Old Brack” a literal walk in the park — and, yes, you should walk this classic layout rather than ride in a cart.
You’ll be walking in the footsteps of such golf luminaries as Walter Hagan, Byron Nelson , Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, who all battled for prizes on its square greens and gaping bunkers. A round on Old Brack is the best $50 you’ll spend on golf all year.
Contact: 2315 Avenue B; 210-226-5612; alamocitygolftrail.com. Green fees: $50 to $60.
With a pair of Longhorn steer off the first fairway, an old rock well in the middle of the second fairway, and deer romping through nearly every other fairway, Canyon Springs is family-friendly Hill Country golf turned up to eleven.
The new owners (the same group that runs Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine) say they intend to make Canyon Springs “the premiere daily fee golf course in America.”
I wouldn’t bet against them.
Contact: 24405 Wilderness Oak; 210-497-1770; canyonspringsgc.com. Green fees: $69.
♦The Palmer Course at La Cantera Golf Club
Course marshal Phil Sloan says there are more than 5,000 balls in the deep canyon running beside the 10th fairway, which is probably close to the number of foxes, turkeys, rabbits, hawks, deer, wild boar and roadrunners that roam the 225-acre golf course, one of the most scenic parcels of land in Texas.
The course, part of the Westin La Cantera Resort, is equal parts tough and fun. The expansive views will leave you as breathless as the rollercoaster elevation changes.
From the crest of the 12th fairway, one of the highest points in San Antonio, “if you squint, you can almost see Dallas,” says Sloan.
Contact: 17865 Babcock Road; 210-558-2365; lacanteragolfclub.com. Green fees: $89 to $99.
TPC San Antonio
TPC San Antonio’s two courses both opened in 2010 as part of the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa. But don’t let the word “resort” fool you; these two tracks were designed for serious golf.
Professional golfers compete in two events here each year. The Canyons course, designed by Pete Dye (the same guy who laid out Harbortown in South Carolina and TPC Sawgrass in Florida), is the kinder and gentler of the two, weaving through the oaks and cedars that border a 700-acre wildlife park along Cibolo Canyon.
The less-forested Oaks course, designed by pro golfer Greg Norman, has only 100 feet of elevation change, but it’s all the golf you could possibly want — and maybe more. Long holes, tight fairways and tough greens combined to make the Oaks one of the most difficult courses for pros on the PGA Tour last year.
Contact: 23808 Resort Parkway.; 210-491-5806; tpcsanantonio.com. Green fees: $189 to $199.
Cedar Creek Golf Course
“If Brackenridge Park is the jewel of San Antonio’s municipal courses, then Cedar Creek is its gem,” says Travis Salkowski, a scratch golfer and the head pro at Cedar Creek. He’s right. Cedar Creek golf course snakes like a lazy river through rock-walled canyons and deep, tree-lined valleys.
Better players call the course tough but fair, while less-skilled golfers love the casual vibe.
Either way, blue jeans, T-shirts and a cooler of beer seems to be a popular way to go. “Six-Pack Special,” touts the sign in the clubhouse, “Buy Five, Get One Free,” which is probably good advice.
“Buy some liquid courage,” a golfer cautioned me on his way to the parking lot. “The fairways and greens slant like a Tilt-a-Whirl.”
Contact: 8250 Vista Colina; 210-695-5050; alamocitygolftrail.com. Green fees: $30 to $35.
Michael Hiller is a golf and travel writer based in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHiller.