Some decent golf and great BBQ combine for worthwhile weekend roadtrip to Lockhart
LOCKHART, Texas - J. Hess knows people don't come to play golf in Lockhart. They might travel there to camp or fish or enjoy the Texas Hill Country. Most likely, though, they come to Lockhart to eat - unless they're vegetarians.
Many would swear on the grave of Ima Hogg (the late daughter of former Gov. Jim Stephen Hogg) that Lockhart, which sits an hour and a half or so northeast of San Antonio, is the barbecue capital of the state. Heck, maybe the world.
Hess just wants golfers who come to Lockhart for the barbecue to know that there's a golf course there, too. Nothing fancy, but one worth playing. After all, you'll want to work up as much appetite as you can.
Hess is the parks superintendent at the Lockhart State Park and Golf Course. The 3,000-yard, nine-hole course was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and was leased to a country club until 1948 before the state took over and made it public. But while the golf is nothing special, it's not bad either - especially considering the $10 weekend all-day green fee ($8 on weekdays) and the fact that Lockhart is the only course in the state maintained by state employees. Considering the possible pregame and postgame meals, it's an unbeatable combo.
Between Hess, his assistant and a few volunteers, they do a pretty fair job of maintaining a playable track.
"We want the word to get out on the golf course. A lot of people don't even know we're here," Hess said. "We've really done a lot of work on it the past year."
And by that, Hess means the fairways are better defined with first and second cuts of rough, the common Bermuda greens run at a reasonable and smooth pace and the course is generally free of weeds and disease.
Did we mention the part about the green fees being just $10?
And it's not exactly a pushover either. Play it twice and it's a par 70 at around 6,000 yards. Most of the par 4s are short, but the greens are nestled into corners, making you think a little off the tee.
The par 3s aren't easy either, with the sixth playing 210 yards and the ninth a 156-yarder uphill over Plumb Creek through an opening in the trees.
Plus, the 518-yard second is a tricky par 5 with a grove of trees to negotiate on the second shot (off the tee for long hitters) and the par 4s aren't without interest. The eighth is only 325 yards, but there's a small pond about 230 yards off the tee that can come into play.
And then there's the barbecue. As parks volunteer and longtime resident Mitchell Parker puts it, "if you stub your toe, you'll fall into a barbecue pit around here."
About 30 years before the golf course, Kreuz Market was born and it's pretty much the same as it was back then. Cooked all day over oak pits, the brisket, ribs and sausage there are so flavorful and tender, they don't need sauce. (Trust me, this is coming from someone who will ask for A-1 at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, but wouldn't even consider barbeque sauce in Lockhart).
Kreuz Market was founded in 1900 by Charles Kreuz as a meat market and grocery store. As the story goes, to prevent wasting meat by letting it spoil, many markets would cook the better cuts on barbecue pits and use the lesser cuts to make sausage.
The meat was served on butcher paper and customers would buy some items from the store to go with it. They used a pocketknife and their hands - no forks, which is a custom still observed today. That's also why you won't find items like salads on the menu.
Charles Kreuz passed the business to his sons and son-in-law, who ran it until 1948. Then, Edgar Schmidt, who had worked there since 1936, bought the market from the Kreuz family. In 1984, Edgar Schmidt sold the business to his sons, Rick and Don Schmidt and they ran the increasingly popular establishment until Don's retirement in 1997.
In 1999, as a result of a family rift, Rick moved his business to a bigger facility about a quarter mile north. What remained at the original location is now Smitty's Market, which is owned by family members Nina and Jim Sells, along with Nina's sons, John and James.
You get pretty much the same awesome barbecue at both locations, although Kreuz offers pork chops, ham, German potato salad and sauerkraut on top of sausage, pork ribs and brisket.
Smitty's, which is slightly lower in price, only offers its pork ribs on weekends, but they're so popular that it's not uncommon to see the likes of Denzel Washington or Robert Duval make the trek just eat them off the brown butcher paper like thousands of locals have done for decades before them. Smitty's has also added to the menu Grandpa Smitty's secret beans recipe, which has proven to be most popular.
Considering how good the food is, you might want to spend a weekend at the state park.
If you've got a trailer, you could hitch up right next to the nine-hole course for $10 or $14 a night, play golf, eat barbecue for lunch, play golf, eat dinner at another barbeque joint and repeat the pattern the next day. There's a pool there, too. It's a weekend well spent.
Green fees at the course are $8 and $10 (weekend), $15 per cart for 18 holes, $10 for nine. Admission to the park is $2 per adult, unless you have annual state parks pass ($60).
Places to stay
Plum Creek Inn
2001 S. Colorado, Lockhart
Phone: (512) 398-4911
1207 S. Colorado, Lockhart
Phone: (212) 398-3479
Lockhart State Park
4179 State Park Road
Phone: (512) 398-3479
Places to eat
Here's the rundown of Lockhart's barbecue:
Established in 1932, Black's (215 N. Main St., (512) 398-2712), which is known for its spicy homemade sausage, is the oldest barbecue restaurant in Texas that has been continuously owned and operated by the same family. President Johnson once had Black's cater an affair at the U.S. Capital grounds. Unlike Smitty's and Kreuz, you can get a BBQ sandwich, a full compliment of sides and cobbler or banana pudding for desert.
Chisholm Trail's (1323 S. Colorado, (512) 398-6027) cafeteria style serving line includes salads and side dishes to go along with the sausage, brisket, ribs, turkey chicken and fajitas. Fried catfish is offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Don't ask for sauce at KreuzMarket (619 N. Colorado St., (512) 398-2361). They don't have it. And the barbecue, which is sold by the pound on brown butcher paper, doesn't need it. The new location is much larger than original. Bring your pocketknife.
In a sense, Smitty's (208 S. Commerce, (512) 398-9344) is very much like Kreuz' Market was 20 years ago. The family has expanded its capacity, but it's old-school all the way. You can even get glass-bottled sodas to complete the nostalgic feel.
In August of 1849, the Battle of Plum Creek between Texas militia and Comanches was fought a few miles north of the park.
July 18, 2005