The Texas capital of Austin, the site of WGC-Dell Match Play, is known as the “live music capital of the world,” and it certainly lives up to that title, as any attendee of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival can attest.
However, it’s also a criminally underrated golf destination. While all eyes are on the venerable Austin Country Club for the big tournament, visitors to Austin can enjoy a plethora of great public courses. The city sits on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, an area known for its beautiful rolling countryside and dramatic limestone cliffs, and many of the area’s top courses incorporate this scenic terrain into their layouts.
As an Austin resident, I’ve been lucky enough to play just about every single course in town, as well as enjoy many of the other aspects, including the food and the nightlife, that make this city great.
In Part 1 of our two-part piece, I'll share the must-play courses here in Austin.
Where to play golf in Austin, Texas
Barton Creek Resort
Barton Creek Resort is home to three great on-site courses, the Tom Fazio-designed Foothills and Canyons courses, and the eponymous Crenshaw course, laid out by the hometown hero and two-time Masters winner. All are great tracks, and while the Foothills course gets the majority of the play, the Canyons Course has the most stunning layout, with dramatic elevation changes providing golfers with some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The Crenshaw course lacks some of the length and hype of its sister courses, but its greens, which are lightning quick and severely undulating, are among the best in town and its quirky layout is a favorite of those in the know.
Hyatt Wolfdancer Golf Club
Some 20 miles east of downtown Austin, Wolfdancer offers golfers a diverse layout, incorporating sprawling oaks and pecans, a towering pine forest and rolling grasslands at the Hyatt Regency Resort in Bastrop County. Like the landscape, the holes at this Arthur Hills design are varied, with a links feel to the opening stretch, before giving way to wooded doglegs that test a golfer’s shotmaking ability.
River Place Country Club
River Place in northwest Austin is a true roller coaster of a golf course, with holes that twist and turn through the peaks and valleys of the rolling hillsides. No two holes are alike at this thrilling Tom Kite layout, and conditions are generally very good, especially since the club spent nearly $1 million to upgrade the greens in 2015. Be prepared to lose a few balls, as the numerous ravines that come into play mean that errant shots are unlikely to be retrieved.
Falconhead Golf Club
Just west of town is Falconhead, another course which takes full advantage of its Hill Country topography. Despite having only 27 bunkers and two holes where water comes into play, the course is one of the most challenging in town, owing in large part to the severe slopes and undulations that can be found on nearly every hole. The eighth hole is one of the prettiest in all of Texas, a par 3 with a green that overhangs a pond, with a tumbling waterfall constantly reminding golfers what awaits a misplayed shot.
Lions Municipal Golf Course
If you want to play like a local, there’s no better place in Austin than Lions, or “Muny” as it’s affectionately known around town. The short, quirky municipal course is where Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite honed their games growing up, as well as where a young Crenshaw took on the great Ben Hogan in an exhibition match in 1950, one month before the latter won the U.S. Open at Merion in dramatic fashion. Go on a weekday afternoon and you’ll find everyone from big shot lawyers to University of Texas freshmen waiting to tee off on the hallowed ground, all for the paltry sum of $16.50! You’d better hurry, though, because the university, which owns the land, has announced plans to bulldoze the course in 2019 to make way for commercial development, a proposal which has outraged local citizens. For more information, check out www.savemuny.com.
In Part 2 of my Austin guide, we outline all the best places to stay, eat, and drink in Texas’ coolest, weirdest city.
Ravi Coutinho is a contributor at Golf News Net and the founder of Worldwide Golf Adventures, a golf travel company based in Austin, TX that offers dream vacations to the world's top golf destinations.