Barton Creek: Hill Country Solitude Just Minutes from Austin's Hustle

By David R. Holland, Contributor

Just 10 miles west of downtown Austin, a place that is bulging at the seams with growth and traffic jams, is a place of solitude named Barton Creek.

Here in heavily-wooded hill country terrain you can play golf on Tom Fazio's 6,956-yard par-72 Foothills layout that is ranked No. 44 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play List and ranked No. 1 Texas Golf Resort by Golf Digest.

You can also relax in the luxury of a hotel, European-style spa, conference center and tennis complex -- which is also bulging at the seams. Barton Creek is undergoing an expansion of 158 guest rooms, 11,000-square feet of additional meeting space, a $1.2 million resort pool, 14 new tennis courses and naturally, more golf.

The newest golf course in Barton Creek's portfolio is another Fazio layout named Canyons, which just opened and measures 7,287 yards at par 72. Barton Creek also has two other popular courses -- the Crenshaw and Coore Golf Course and the Arnold Palmer-designed Lakeside Course.

"The Fazio Canyons course design meets environmental standards while offering challenging layouts set against the backdrop of the panoramic Texas Hill Country," said Tom Fazio. "We believe it has great potential as a nationally ranked contender and is a great complement to Barton Creek's three existing courses."

The Fazio Foothills course, established in 1986, was home of the Liberty Mutual's Legends of Golf from 1990 to 1994. "It's not an easy golf course to walk so it was deemed not spectator-friendly and the tournament was moved," said Director of Golf Chip Gist. "We would love to host another tour-quality event some day."

Actually, Austin could be considered the birthplace of the PGA Senior Tour. Back in 1978 the very first "Legends" tournament was played at Onion Creek and two years later the Senior PGA Tour was established from the success of that event.

The Fazio Foothills course has waterfalls, dramatic elevation changes, hills, knobs, rock-filled grottos, green-side mounds, smallish greens, and panoramas of awesome limestone-rock houses that look like small hotels. Former University of Texas legendary football coach Darrell Royal's house looks down on the fairways.

It even has the entrance to a cave molded into the finishing hole.

"Fazio does a great job of setting golf courses in its natural terrain," said Gist. "There are demanding driving holes an fairly small greens which are subtle -- you need to pay attention. The par-4 holes vary from 467 yards to 275 and are fun to play. Almost any hole gives you a chance at a birdie or a high number.

"I think Nos. 15 through 18 are the best closing holes that I know," Gist continued. "In tournament play these holes will decide the outcome. In 1993 Harold Henning was in a playoff with Don January. When they came to the par-3, 203-yard 17th Henning found the left bunker well below the hole -- that's normally a sure bogey. Well, he hit one of the best bunker shots I've ever seen and made his par to win as January made a bogey.

Henning holds the competitive course record of 63 but Austin-native Ben Crenshaw and tour veteran Bob Estes also have posted 63s.

If you play Fazio Foothills on a typical breezy Texas day it will challenge your shot-making ability. If you really want to score in the wind watch Paul Azinger on a windy day. He plays the ball back in his stance and hits three-quarter shots that hit short and roll toward the hole. Easier said than done, huh?

The course has several difficult carries over water for the high-handicap players. That can be intimidating. Fazio's Champions Bermuda greens normally play back to front, so make your mistake short of the flag stick.

The No. 9, par-3, 175-yarder is a true signature hole. On your left is a waterfall that cascades down to a grotto. Lots of shots find this area and if you are short there is no recovery. Hit it right with a draw if you can and let the ball carry to the flag.

The view is all downhill on No. 10, a 418-yard, par 4. This is a fun hole but the wind could be tricky. Following an uphill par-4, 415-yard No. 11, the 12th is one that will tempt you to go for it. Measuring only 270 from the back, there's trouble left, but it is open on the right. Just hit it straight and make a good second stroke and you are in birdie land.

The par-5, 15th, at 527 yards is a target hole with a beautiful downhill approach to a green just over a ravine.

No. 16 is the postcard hole. This par-4, 420-yarder requires a drive left-center (to the right is dead). The second shot may be distracting. There's a waterfall and stacked limestone-rock wall that you have to negotiate to a small and shallow green.

No. 18, a par-5, 546-yard beauty can be a challenge if the wind is against you because it's uphill. It you nail two good ones just in front of the cave entrance, you will have a very short uphill, but blind third shot over a rocky area to the split-level putting surface -- one of the smallest greens on the course.

Barton Creek:
8212 Barton Creek Drive
Austin, TX 78735
Phone: 800-336-6157
Corporate Meetings E-Mail:

Green Fees: Foothills $175. Canyons $175. Crenshaw and Coore $110. Palmer Lakeside $110. Play on Fazio Foothills is limited to the public to Tuesday and Thursday and these tee-time slots are limited.

Barton Creek Dining: The Tejas Dining features southwestern regional cuisine including "Smart Cuisine" healthier options. Conference guests enjoy buffet-style dining for breakfast and lunch, and a more formal sit-down dinner experience. Less formal fare can be found in The Crenshaw Grille which offers an early-bird breakfast, lunch and dinner next to the Crenshaw and Coore Course Clubhouse.

Other Awards: Barton Creek has received Mobil's 4-star rating, the American Automobile Association's 4-diamond rating and Meetings and Conventions Magazine's Gold Key, Gold Tee and Gold Platter Awards.

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 the 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. Proceed to the Executive Conference Center (third building on the left) for guest check-in. See website for other directions.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment