Crenshaw Cliffside at Barton Creek: Greens That Make You Go "Hmmm!"
AUSTIN - Although all the Barton Creek golf courses offer incredible views of the Texas Hill Country and playing conditions that are second to none, the Crenshaw Cliffside is known for one item in particular - challenging greens.
This should come as no surprise considering the course's namesake is its designer and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, who is known for his deft touch on the greens. Crenshaw, along with partner Bill Coore, designed the course, which opened in 1992 and in doing so, created a course with greens that have as many undulations as the surrounding Hill Country.
According to head professional Bryan Kennedy, the Tifdwarf Bermuda greens at Crenshaw Cliffside definitely change in style from one hole to the next, and sometimes even on the same green. "The greens are very difficult to read because they are not one certain way," Kennedy said. He said on most courses, including the three other Barton Creek courses, the designer has a specific style of green they like to design, whether it slopes front-to-back, back-to-front, or side-to-side.
Kennedy said Crenshaw incorporates all three on the 6,678-yard layout and uses combinations of each on numerous holes. "There is not one set pattern."
On the front side, no better example of this variation can be found than on hole Nos. 5 through 8. No. 5 is a 210-yard, par 3. Off the tee your shot must carry an area of tall grass and native plants to a green with two bunkers on the right. The green has an incredible slope from left-to-right. Any shot, no matter where the hole is placed, must be hit to the left side of the green.
No. 6 features another challenging green, but the hole in general is the single most difficult hole on Crenshaw Cliffside as evidenced by its No. 1 handicap. The reason - 464 yards and only four strokes to get there. Your tee shot is relatively wide open to a fairway that slopes slightly from left to right. Your second shot should be to the left of the green as a valley of rough lies in front of the green and to the right, while the fairway continues up to the left. The green itself slopes back-to-front and left-to-right.
The par-4, 345-yard No. 7 is a hard dogleg to the left and plays easy if you hit a solid shot off the tee to the Bermuda 419 fairway. A drive of 225 yards can reach the dogleg but it must be accurately placed or it will find the fairway bunker on the right. Your second shot is to a green that slopes front-to-back and right-to-left.
To wrap up the stretch of varying greens, No. 8 is another par 3, this one of 169 yards. Depending on the pin placement, the hole can be blind with a small ridge in front of the green that slopes hard front-to-back and right-to-left. Whatever you do, stay right and the ball will funnel down to the green and the hole.
On the back, Crenshaw Cliffside offers the same undulating greens as the front side, but unlike the front where canyons come into play only if you hit your ball out of bounds, the canyons are more prominent in the holes and require "forced carries" to clear them. If you do find a canyon with your shot, you're better off dropping and taking a penalty.
"It's unplayable if it goes into the canyons," Kennedy said. No. 11 is the first such carry. This par-3, 185-yard hole is across a wooded canyon to a green that slopes hard from back-to-front.
No. 12 is a tee shot back across the same canyon featured on No. 11. The tee shot is easily the most important shot on this 535-yard, par 5, because you must cross the canyon, while at the same time avoiding a large fairway bunker on the left of this dogleg left and a tree placed in the middle of the fairway. After successfully maneuvering your tee shot, your second shot must avoid several trees protruding out into the fairway on the right and several fairway bunkers and a tree to the left. The green is unprotected and slopes front-to-back.
After the par-5 at No. 12, and before two consecutive par 5s on Nos. 15 and 16, Crenshaw incorporated two short holes, a par 3 and par 4 respectively, that both provide some of the best views on the entire course. No. 13 is a 160-yard, par-3 that features a tee shot to a hole surrounded by five bunkers. Most impressive on this hole is the view beyond the green.
No. 14 is another beauty with an elevated tee shot to a fairway and green approximately 100 feet below. This short par 4 of 285 yards looks easy, but requires an accurate tee shot to a fairway that slopes left-to-right and an equally accurate second shot to a small green that slopes front-to-back.
Following the two short, relatively easy holes, you are faced with two holes totaling 1,165 yards. The first is the par-5, 590-yard No. 15. This hole features a tee shot straight up the hill. On top of the hill, your second shot is a lay-up to the dogleg right. Bunkers lie to the left of the dogleg and trees and a cliff lie to the right. The green slopes back-to-front.
No. 16 is a very deceptive hole off the tee. Out of the box you must clear a rather wide tree-filled canyon to what appears to be a flat fairway landing area. However, it is actually a ridge that slopes down to a valley and left-to-right toward the canyon at the dogleg. Out of the valley your second shot is to an open landing area with trees and the canyon to your right.
Finally, your approach is to a green that is unprotected. Don't be fooled. This green is just the type of green you envision Crenshaw hitting one of his masterful putts in his illustrious PGA career. It features a plateau in front that suddenly drops off to the left and down toward the back at the halfway point. Depending on pin placement, this green could wreak havoc on your score.
To close, Nos. 17 and 18 feature forced carries over canyons. No. 17, considered by many to be the signature hole, is a short par 3 of just 125 yards. It features a green that is wide overall but short in depth. A hill behind the green allows you to go long and avoid the canyon. It also features several greenside bunkers.
The last on Crenshaw Cliffside, which hosts on average of 40,000 rounds per year, is a par 4 of 393 yards. The tee shot is slightly uphill to a fairway that includes a large bunker to the right.
A straight shot left of the bunker will run far enough down and leave you with a middle iron to the green. Your approach to No. 18 is a carry over the canyon and creek one last time to a green that slopes left-to-right and is surrounded by several bunkers.
8212 Barton Creek Drive
Austin, TX 78735
Head Professional: Bryan Kennedy
Amenities: Putting green, chipping green and a driving range.
Directions: From Austin's Bergstrom International Airport: As you exit the airport on Presidential Blvd., make a left on Highway 71 heading west. Drive 5.5 miles on Highway 71 West, passing Interstate 35, to exit for Loop 360. Take Loop 360 North 7.7 miles to the exit for Bee Cave Road (R.M. 2244). Make a left on Bee Cave Road and go 1 mile to the stop light for Barton Creek Blvd. Make a left on Barton Creek Blvd. and go 1.8 miles to Barton Club Drive and turn left into the resort complex.