Old Brackenridge Park Golf Course is better than ever in San Antonio

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- In nearly a century of existence, Brackenridge Park Golf Course has never looked this good.

Brackenridge Park Golf Course - 10th Hole
A recent renovation brought back the glory of Brackenridge Park Golf Course in San Antonio.
Brackenridge Park Golf Course - 10th HoleBrackenridge Park Golf Course - ClubhouseBrackenridge Park Golf Course - 1st Hole
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Brackenridge Park Golf Course

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One of the all-time classics of Texas golf, Brackenridge Park was designed by the venerable A.W. Tillinghast in 1916, and is the oldest public course in the state. Whether it's the old limestone starters shack, the commemorative plaques that date the course, the stories of the old tourneys played hereor the massive, museum-like, Tudor rock clubhouse, this course must be played by every Texan golfer.

18 Holes | Municipal golf course | Par: 71 | 6243 yards | ... details »

This centrally located gem, which played host to the Texas Open from 1922 to 1959 (with the exception of a couple of years) was brought back to life in 2008 with a $7.5 million renovation. Even before the redo, it was the jewel of municipal golf in San Antonio, but with new greens, bunkers, irrigation and turfgrasses, old "Brack," as they like to call it, is the pride of the Alamo City.

The renovation also included the restoration of the old clubhouse, massive trimming of its numerous large oak and pecan trees, as well as other building work that is currently taking place on the grounds. Brackenridge Park also is now the site of the re-opened Texas Golf Hall of Fame.

Forget history: Brack is just plain is fun

It's easy to get caught up in Brackenridge Park's place in Texas golf lore. After all, the names that have competed here are legendary: Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Arnold Palmer, just to name a few. What's really important is that golfers in San Antonio have a rare opportunity to play an A.W. Tillinghast classic.

Tillinghast, of course, is the same guy who designed great venues like Winged Foot, Bethpage Black and Baltusrol Golf Club, to name a few. And when Colligan Design Group restored Brackenridge, it did so with great care to preserve both bunker shapes and green complexes. Using old routing plans transposed over modern aerial photos, John Colligan and design associate Trey Kemp worked to bring back the original look of most of the holes. Unfortunately, they couldn't bring back the original holes 15-18 because those holes were moved a few decades ago because of road project.

"If we do our job," Colligan said, "no one would know we were involved. They will think that Tilly had just finished the project."

Well, not exactly, and we have modern technology to thank for that. New mini-verde grass on the greens assures better putting surfaces. High-grade sand does the same for the bunkers, and the old common Bermuda in the fairways was replaced with a modern Tif-sport Bermuda.

Back from the old days, however, are the flat-bottom bunkers with steep grass faces, rectangular-shaped greens and straight lined fairway mowing patterns.

The greens are also small, so a good short game is a must at Brackenridge Park Golf Course. If you manage to hit the greens, though, there are lots of birdie opportunities.

Lots of interesting holes at Brackenridge Park

While the golf course is less than 6,300 yards, it's by no means a pushover. Good scores, however, are attainable by those who think their way around. Some holes, like the par 5s, reward controlled aggression as they are, by in large, reachable in two by most good players. Other times, it's best to lay up off the tee, like on the short par-4 fourth, to avoid large, troublesome fairway bunkers.

Brackenridge Park also has a nice collection of par 3s. Growing up, Ben Crenshaw, who used to play junior tournaments at Brack, said the par-3 10th, which plays over water, was one of his all-time favorite holes. And the course also ends with a par-3, the 180-yard 18th, which also plays over a pond.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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