Brackenridge Park Golf Course in San Antonio: Old 'Brack' is back

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

SAN ANTONIO -- San Antonio is often associated with the battle cry "Remember the Alamo," but this year the call to arms for local golfers will be "Old Brack is back."

Brackenridge Park Golf Course - No. 14
No. 14 at Brackenridge Park Golf Course is a short par 3, just 130 yards from the back tees.
Brackenridge Park Golf Course - No. 14Brackenridge Park Golf Course - No. 18Brackenridge Park Golf Course - No. 4
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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 »

San Antonio's historic Brackenridge Park Golf Course, an A.W. Tillinghast design from 1915, has reopened after an extensive renovation that closed this municipal course for more than a year.

Original host to the Texas Open in 1922 - and where Texas' most illustrious players have teed it up throughout the years - Brackenridge was significantly modified when Highway 281 was built along its south and west borders in 1968.

The golf course was hardly remarkable in the following years, but when the city drew up plans for a $7.5 million renovation and new Texas Golf Hall of Fame, old Brack was finally going to get its second life.

The Colligan Design Group, based in Arlington, Texas, was commissioned to redesign 15 holes to Tillinghast's original specifications. Trees were trimmed (there are over 6,000, many of which you'll be hitting if you use driver too much) and some were removed; the turf was reseeded tee-to-green. Six of the greens were also restored to a rectangular shape. The bunkers, 30 of which were added, were given the Tillinghast signature flat bottom, with some deepened.

On just over 113 acres, the golf course was lengthened in some places. This is most evident on the par-4 fourth hole, where the back tee box was built in the parking lot. Yet the course stretches to a championship yardage of just under 6,300 yards.

Brackenridge Park Golf Course will play longer for a variety of reasons, though. First, raised greens are effectively on every hole; bump-and-runs won't get you very far here. Secondly, fairways are very tight, framed by trees and savvy bunkering, so driver isn't the smart play for most golfers.

"I would recommend to players who haven't been here to hit their 220-230 clubs off most of the tees," says Assistant Professional and San Antonio native Topher Beard. "I usually only hit two drivers a round here."

Indeed, you may use every club in your bag off the tee boxes alone, from a sand wedge on the 100-130 yard 15th hole, to a mid-iron off the risk-reward par-4 17th, to driver off the back-to-back par 5s on No. 12 and 13.

Also, several holes are much longer than their yardage might indicate, none more so than the par-4 16th (one of the three holes that isn't the original Tillinghast design thanks to the highway). Thanks to well-placed trees and a perpendicular creek, chances are you'll be hitting two long irons to get all the way uphill to the green, despite a yardage of just 390 yards.

Brackenridge Park Golf Course: The verdict

Golfers with a soft spot for course design from the game's "golden era" or architecture will savor a visit to old Brackenridge Park Golf Course. Those who like long-bombing, wide-open golf courses will probably want to head elsewhere. This is a course for the ages: the Society of Hickory Golfers would probably love teeing it up at old Brack thanks to its modest yardage and traditional design. No one is going to overpower this golf course.

Weekend, peak season fees with a cart for non-city residents are $85, though weekday, walking and twilight rates are cheaper. As you'd expect with a course built in the early 1900s, it's extremely easy to walk (at least when the Texas summer sun isn't beating down on you).

Though the golf course is now fully operational, it is working to build a new restaurant and facility that will host the once-defunct Texas Golf Hall of Fame. There is no driving range here, just a practice putting green.

Stay-and-play in downtown San Antonio: The Grand Hyatt

If you want to stay downtown, the new Grand Hyatt hotel is in the center of the action. Guest rooms are spacious and complete with modern amenities, from exceptional bathroom fixtures to LCD flat screen TVs, while beds are all new and plush. You're right on the River Walk here and can get picked up for a dinner cruise if you wish. On site there are also multiple bar and dining options. If you're staying here and haven't booked tee times, the concierge will help schedule a round at any area course during your stay.

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

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