For the third time in the past five weeks, the PGA Tour is in Texas playing at the TPC San Antonio AT&T Oaks Course for the Valero Texas Open. As players continue to trickle back from their Masters hangovers, they are tested on a Greg Norman (with consultation from Sergio Garcia) course, designed with the fan in mind. It directly reflects the PGA Tour’s departure from the modern tournament-style course (expansive grass areas and spectator mounding) to a more natural look and feel (if you can forget you’re in Texas) without sacrificing the fan experience, making it very tournament friendly.
Opened in 2010, The Oaks “winds through Texas Hill Country featuring narrow fairways, bunkers as deep as 12 feet and native vegetation where unplayable lies loom.” Some may recall that five years ago Kevin Na recorded a 16 at the par-4 ninth hole after struggling to free himself from rocks and underbrush.
On the course’s website it notes a few specific design features:
- Traditional design that balances narrower tree-lined fairways with wider fairways offering multiple routes (i.e., strategic options) to the green
- Intimate design with narrow corridors carved through oak trees
- Only 100 feet of fall from the high point of the course to the lowest
- Bunkering reflects a natural, rugged “minimalist” edges emulating the canopy of the native oak trees
- Native grasses and plants are prevalent throughout the course
- Downhill holes play into the prevailing wind, uphill holes play downwind
And if you like fun facts, the course tournament record is 63, achieved by Matt Every (1st round, 2012) and Martin Laird (4th round, 2013).
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Holes to Watch
The most difficult par 4 on the front nine, this 481-yard brute requires a precise and long tee shot into the most narrow fairway on the course. Once in the fairway, the player takes aim at a picturesque green surrounded by mature gnarly oaks trees along with artistic bunkers featuring a rock outcropping along the back edge.
Another long-ish par 4, at 464 yards players again need a well-aimed drive to avoid a fairway bunker on the right side to ensure a mid to short iron into the green. The smallish green is protected by some of the most artistically designed bunkers on the course. The cross bunker some 40 yards short of the green makes the green appear closer than it actually is.
A cross between the 16th at TPC Scottsdale and the Riviera’s sixth, this relatively short par 3 is certainly eye-catching. The green is well defined by beautiful bunkers on both sides, with the added touch of a bunker in the center, which divides the green into three smaller targets. An assortment of teeing areas offers the player not only different yardages but different angles onto the green. Spectators get a great view with stadium seating around the green.