Bergstrom Golf Course: "Hole No. 1, You're Cleared for Teeing Off!"

By Kyle Dalton, Contributor

AUSTIN, TX - Businessman's special.

No two words better describe Bergstrom Golf Course in Austin. That's because it's located just south of the new Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) and provides any businessman traveling to Austin with the perfect opportunity to sneak away from the business at hand a little early and hit the links before jetting out of town.

While location is a main reason for playing the course, it's creative yet simple links-style layout of 6,576 yards, also provides ample opportunity to get in a three-and-a-half hour round during the weekdays and catch the next flight out.

Although many, including the locals, don't know that Bergstrom is a course with a long history. On the grounds of the former Bergstrom Air Force Base, which fell victim to military cutbacks and was shut down in 1992, Bergstrom Golf Course has been around since 1952. It was always open to the general public, but members of the military were the main clientele.

From 1992 until September 2000, a private corporation owned and operated the course. Today, the City of Austin owns the property and is in the process of making renovations, most of which have occurred in the clubhouse. When you walk into the clubhouse and pro shop, it's obvious its original design wasn't that of a standard clubhouse. With the ceiling at least 50 feet high in the pro shop, it looks more like a ballroom. In fact, that's exactly what it was according to head professional Steve Hammond. "Our pro shop is where the big ballroom in the old Officer's Club used to be." The current clubhouse/pro shop facility is the former home of the Officer's Club, which was renovated in 1990 by the military, only to be abandoned in 1992 when the Air Force left town. "Our snack bar is where the cafeteria used to be and they could have had a buffet-style line or used it for formal dining."

While the clubhouse has undergone change with renovations that are continuing still today, the course, with the exception of several holes, has remained the same.

The first hole is prototypical of what you'll find throughout the Bergstrom course, which plays host to 55,000 rounds per year, as it features little elevation from tee to green with trees along the side of the fairway. The one additional obstacle found on this par 4, 440-yard slight dogleg-left is water, which is in the form of a moat that crosses in front of the green.

This is one of only five holes on the course that feature water in play. Another obstacle, or obstacles in this case, also commonly found throughout the Bergstrom design, are bunkers at the green. More than 50 bunkers dot the course and on No. 1, there is one on either side of the green awaiting any errant approach shots.

No. 2, a par 5 of 479 yards, like the beginning hole, is as flat as the West Texas desert. However, unlike the desert, it includes several trees with one standing in front of the crowned or push-up green - another common design element - and directly affecting any approach. "On the push-up greens, you want to work on shot placement coming into the greens and it's a good idea to stay below the hole," Hammond said.

After the opening duo and their relative flatness, hole 3 through 7 offer a contrasting style and almost seem to be of a different course. No. 3 is a par 3 of 180 yards that features a tee box even with the green. However, the portion in between the tee and green consists of water in the form of a small retaining pond almost 50 feet below. A solidly struck middle to low iron will clear the trouble with relative ease. Two bunkers, one on either side, protect the green, which slopes from back to front.

No. 4, a par 4 of 405 yards, is without question one of the more difficult tee shots on the course. Trees line the left and right side of the tee box extending a considerable distance out into the fairway on this dogleg to the left. If you successfully clear the chute of trees and land along the right side of the fairway that opens up, you are in good position to go at the crowned green on your second shot.

After completing No. 5, the shortest par 4 on the course at a distance of 365 yards and a hole that more closely resembles the rest of the course with a flat, benign layout, nos. 6 and 7 are two holes with peaks and valleys.

No. 6, a longish par 3 of 195 yards, features a tee shot over a valley to a crowned green. No. 7, like its preceding hole, features a tee shot over a valley from the back tees.

However, this valley is actually a ravine and is an extension of the pond/creek crossed on No. 3. Although the ravine crosses in front of the tee box, it can still be in play 200 yards out as it runs almost parallel to this 560-yard par 5. If you do hit your tee shot left within the 200-yard range, your ball will likely find the trees first and then the ravine.

Either way, you are more than likely in an unplayable situation and you should probably hit a provisional. The safe bet off the tee on this No. 1 handicap hole is to stay right, avoiding the one lone tree to the right. If you stay right on your second shot as well, your approach to the crowned green will be unimpeded and offer you a good chance of scoring par or better.

No. 8, in appearance, seems to offer some relief following the long par 5. Don't be deceived. This par 3 of only 165 yards has two kinds of trouble - visible and invisible. The visible and obvious trouble comes in the form of two large bunkers, one to the right and one to the left of the green. The hidden trouble is on the actual putting surface. If you are successful in avoiding the bunkers and hitting the green off the tee, you're only one-third of the way there. This green will test your putting mettle as it features a large valley in the middle. Pin placement is crucial on this hole and you must leave your ball below the hole.

To finish the front side, No. 9 is a par 4 of 403 yards that is a slight dogleg to the right. Trees sporadically dotting both sides of the fairway and a couple of fairway bunkers can create problems if you find them. Otherwise, this hole is a nice finishing hole as you make the turn.

While you thought the airport was close on the front nine, with the sounds of jet engines roaring in the background, the back side gives you an opportunity to see up close and personal what all the roar is about.

No. 10, heading straight toward the air control tower, is a par 4 of 366 yards. Trouble off the tee is possible if you manage to hit a drive of approximately 250 yards into the small crevasse that runs across the fairway. If you're confident off the tee and the wind is blowing from a favorable direction, you can clear it, provided the draft from a 767 doesn't knock your ball out of the sky.

Actually, planes are never a concern on the course according to Hammond. "We are fortunate because the flight pattern is never over the top of the golf course." Laying up off the tee on No. 10 with a 5-wood is not a bad choice and leaves you with just more than 100 yards to the raised green that is protected by bunkers on either side. This green, like No. 8, has some undulation but not as severe.

Off the tee box at No. 11, you'll get your first peek at the nearby runway, air control tower, the terminals and a plane or two coming in for a landing or taking off. This dogleg-left and par 4 of 398 yards, is tempting to say the least. Trying to cut the corner over a line of trees and a fairway bunker is definitely a risk-reward shot.

To this golfer, the risks outweigh the reward. Of course this was only after my tee shot. If you do successfully manage to clear the corner, you are left with a shot of 160 yards or less to yet another raised, undulating green with bunkers right and left.

No. 12 is similar to No. 8 on the front side in both distance and difficulty. It is also 560 yards and rates as the second most difficult hole on the course. In appearance, it doesn't look that threatening with its flat design. However, this dogleg-right features trees that are strategically placed on both sides. In addition, the thick rough, which can be difficult to advance the ball any measurable distance on this hole or anywhere else on the course, can pose problems.

The approach to this green is unique as the green features two deep bunkers to the right, one to the left, and a gigantic radar tower in back. The radar tower doesn't come into play unless the constant whirring sound of its spinning distracts you while on the putting surface.

Following No. 12, you must drive your cart or walk a considerable distance to the No. 13 tee box. The next three holes are isolated from the remainder of the course and provide a serene playing environment when planes aren't approaching or leaving the airport. These three holes were added in the late 1990s when the old Bergstrom airstrip was removed and replaced by the runways at ABIA.

"They had to take out some old holes and add three new ones," Hammond said. "The golf course used to actually extend to where the runway is now."

No. 13 is a par 3 of 180 yards that features a small lake to the right of the hole. Only the most errant of tee shots to the right will find the hazard. However, if you do have a tendency to play to the safe side, two large bunkers sit elevated to the left of the green and can inflate your score if you happen to find them.

Nos. 14 and 15 are a par 5 and par 4 respectively. Both holes feature the lake to the right off the tee. The lake is more of a danger on no. 15 as it hugs the right side of the fairway up to the green. Any tee shot to the right will likely include an approach over the water. Stay left.

No. 16 is a dogleg-left of 380 yards. The main challenge of this hole comes on your approach as you hit to a blind green created by a mound and bunker to the left, much like No. 17 at Augusta. Another bunker lies to the right.

No. 17, if it had a name, would be the "runway hole." This hole runs parallel to the runway at ABIA and provides prime viewing for any airplane enthusiasts. While not watching planes or any of the nearby airport action, you are faced with a par 4 of 410 yards that includes three fairway bunkers and a pair of bunkers at the green.

Finishing your round, No. 18 is a par 3 of 180 yards. It features a bunker and tree to the right of the slightly elevated green and a small ravine in front of the green.

Although history, the short time to complete a round, and the convenient location to the airport are three good reasons to play Bergstrom, many come to the course just for the friendly environment. "It's a whole lot of atmosphere," Hammond said. "It's basically a nice, friendly place to play."

With all those factors, not to mention the inexpensive cost per round, Bergstrom is easily one of the best deals in Central Texas.

Bergstrom Golf Course
10330 Golf Course Road
Austin, TX 78719
(512) 530-4653

Head Professional: Steve Hammond

Amenities: Putting green, chipping green and a driving range

Directions: From Austin, take IH-35 south to Riverside Dr. Go over IH-35 heading east. Take Riverside Dr. approximately four miles and turn left on E. Ben White Blvd. E. Ben White Blvd. becomes Bastrop Highway, which then becomes Highway 71 East. After taking a slight right on Highway 71 east, turn on to FM 973 and follow the road.

Kyle Dalton, Contributor

Since graduating from the University of Texas in 1992 with a degree in journalism, Kyle Dalton has been a writer and editor for a variety of national publications in various fields.

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