Avery Ranch Golf Club in Austin: A top Hill Country splurge
AUSTIN, Texas -- "Member for a day" golf is all over the Austin area, and one of the best upscale layouts and facilities can be found northwest of town at Avery Ranch Golf Club.
Around the turn of the 21st century, Austin beefed up its golf product in a big way, going from a scene dominated by either municipal or traditional private courses to new, semi-private clubs that would serve as part of residential developments. This included Grey Rock Golf Club at Circle C, Teravista Golf Club, Star Ranch Golf Club and Falconhead Golf Club.
Now after opening in 2002, Avery Ranch, located northwest of Austin near Cedar Park, has always carried one of the best reputations among clubs that offer a consistent daily fee play (other clubs such as River Place Country Club and Onion Creek are private but offer public tee times sporadically).
Avery Ranch Golf Club: A top Texas Hill Country test
Rolling up and down on modest but always-changing Hill Country terrain, Avery Ranch features five sets of tees and can play as along as 7,121 yards, making for one of the top tests in the Texas Hill Country for low-handicappers.
The course also features five par 3s and five par 5s, including two back-to-back par 5s on the back side, which helps beef up hole variety and birdie opportunities.
While the golf course is part of a large residential development, the layout feels far more secluded than its location might suggest. The northern border of the course is the Brushy Creek Trail, an undeveloped area aside some baseball fields and park space.
The course was designed by Andy Raugust, who spent much of his career as an associate at Jack Nicklaus Design. Raugust assisted on such courses with the Nicklaus firm as the Ocean Course at Cabo Del Sol before going on his own, and today his firm is more prolific in Asia than in the dried up U.S. design market. It's easy to detect some similarities in Avery Ranch to Nicklaus designs: large, sweeping bunkers that defend fairways, and the greens are large enough to create some very different pin positions on any given day.
The standout hole on the front nine is one of the course's most intimidating: the par-4 seventh. This hole plays along the edge of the course's property beside Brushy Creek. The approach must carry a creek and land softly on a shallow green.
The most visually dramatic hole on Avery Ranch is the shortest: the par-3 13th that plays 161 yards from the tips. The narrow, long green hugs a creek, and on the other side is a sheer-face limestone wall.
The club certainly finishes with one of the area's most dramatic closing holes. The 18th, as scenic as it is, is certainly one of the toughest holes on the golf course, as well. The hole, which can set up as long as 477 yards, plays on the banks of Lake Avery, a large conservation lake, while the narrow green sits right beside it, easily making for one of the city's toughest, albeit dramatic, final hole approach shots.
Avery Ranch Golf Club: The verdict
Golfers who may have stumbled upon Avery Ranch in the fall of 2010, shortly after a freak 16-inch rainstorm flooded a huge portion of the course, would be happy to know it has since fully recovered. It's hard to believe this site, which sits on high ground, could ever flood -- but that's Texas weather for you.
The club features great practice facilities, GPS and coolers with ice in golf carts, and range balls are included with your tee time. The layout is also walkable, and one of the players in my threesome did just that. With the exception of a long walk under the Parmer Road bridge between the 10th and 11th holes and back underneath between the 17th and 18th holes, the course is routed quite well for hoofers.
It's also tough to depart Avery Ranch in a hurry after your round; your first draft beer after golf is $1.50 in the clubhouse bar.