Hill Country Golf: Cedar Creek, Alamo City

By Kyle Dalton, Contributor

SAN ANTONIO, TX -- San Antonio is known for many things including the historic Alamo, The River Walk, some of the best Tex-Mex food around, and the Texas Hill Country. The Texas Hill Country?

If you doubt it, play just one round at the City of San Antonio's Cedar Creek Golf Course northwest of the city. This is Texas Hill Country golf at its finest.

Cedar Creek, a 7,150-yard par-72, was designed by Finger Dye Spann, Inc. of Houston, opened in 1989 and is operated by the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. It is one of, if not the most undulating public course in the San Antonio area, bar none. While the main road to the course is a good indicator of the terrain that awaits, your first sense of the landscape occurs when you set foot in the clubhouse, which sits high atop a bluff. Inside, the pro shop and restaurant offer an incredible view of the surrounding geography including the back nine and miles and miles of Texas.

"What impresses people the most about our course is that it is so scenic with the variety of panoramic views," said head professional Richard Hocott.

If you needed any further evidence of the Hill Country, head over to the driving range. That's right, the driving range.

Most golfers enjoy any hole on a course where you can launch your balls from an elevated tee to the fairway or green below and watch the flight of the ball as gravity pulls it back down to earth. That is essentially the Cedar Creek driving range. Multiple flags wave in the distance and are approximately 75 to 100 feet below the tee area. Even if you aren't successful fine-tuning your swing before you head off to the first tee, it's still worth it to get a bucket of balls and hit a few rockets.

While the driving range is unique to say the least, the course, which plays host to 50,000-60,000 rounds a year, provides for some spectacular and challenging holes.

One of the most picturesque holes is the first, a par 4 of 395 yards. Located just a few yards from the driving range, No. 1 is similar to the warm-up area as it provides a launching pad from the tee box to a fairway approximately 75 feet below. The area's indigenous trees - mature live oaks and cedar elms - sporadically guard both sides of this fairway and most fairways throughout the course. The Bermuda 419 fairway slopes slightly to the right so a good shot will need to land left of center.

Finishing out the front side is another "Hill Country Special." No. 9 is a par 5 and the longest hole on the course - tied with No. 4 - at 565 yards. Truth be known, it plays closer to 500 yards as it is downhill including your tee shot from the elevated tee box that offers another spectacular view of the surrounding landscape. A good drive is crucial to have any chance of firing at the green in two. While length might quell any thoughts of going at the green on your second shot, so might the small pond that sits to the left of the green.

While the back side also offers tee box vistas including the par-3, 210-yard No. 17 and signature hole, it's one of the flatter holes that is most intriguing. No. 15 is a par 4 of 380 yards. Sounds relatively harmless on the surface. In fact, on a straight line from tee box to green, it's probably only 280 yards. However it's that 100 yards or so in the form of a hard dogleg to the right that makes the hole. You can try and cut the corner over the trees with the hopes of avoiding the bunkers and the thick brush to the right, or you can play it safe and stay left. Either way, your second shot is to a green that is protected by a small pond to the left.

The dogleg is a common design feature incorporated throughout Cedar Creek (five holes including the double-dogleg on No. 14) and adds to the continual challenges of Hill Country golf of uneven lies and blind shots. However, one unwelcome challenge on Cedar Creek is poor conditions on and around some of the greens.

The three-tiered Tifdwarf Bermuda greens fit Cedar Creek to a tee with as many ups and downs as the surrounding terrain or "The Rattler" roller coaster at nearby Fiesta Texas. "Shot selection to the green is very important so you need to know what tier the flag is on," Hocott said. "A premium is also placed on putting."

Unfortunately, some of the greens are "chewed up," literally. Development of subdivisions on nearby land is flushing wild hogs out of their native habitat. The golf course seems to be their refuge of choice as they scramble for water and grub worms. Consequently, these "tilled" areas are filled with sand, which can create problems when trying to putt and chip on to the putting surface. Wild hogs are rarely seen on the course, but other native wildlife are more human-friendly including wild turkey, deer, roadrunners and rabbits.

In addition to the sand on the greens, the sand bunkers themselves are also not what you would expect from a quality layout such as Cedar Creek. The facing on some of the bunkers has begun to collapse and grass has overtaken portions of some traps.

All things considered, including the torrential floods in this area this past summer, Cedar Creek is a quality municipal golf course. Yes, there are some areas for improvement, but that can be said of most any golf course. The foresight of the architects and actual implementation of the design on such rugged terrain are impressive to say the least and make Cedar Creek an enjoyable experience.

Awards and Honors: Ranked in 2002 as one of Top 25 Public Courses in Texas by the Dallas Morning News. Host of the Texas Open Qualifier on September 23.

Directions: From San Antonio, take Loop 1604 to the Kyle Seale Parkway. Turn onto Kyle Seale Parkway. The Cedar Creek Golf Course entrance is up the hill 2.5 miles on the left.

Kyle Dalton, Contributor

Since graduating from the University of Texas in 1992 with a degree in journalism, Kyle Dalton has been a writer and editor for a variety of national publications in various fields.

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