New additions to Central Texas make 2002 picks difficult

By Kyle Dalton, Contributor

AUSTIN, Texas -- For years there have been rumblings throughout the golf community about the development and future construction of new courses in Central Texas. In 2002, those rumors finally came to fruition and somewhat reduced the problem of overcrowded courses and limited tee time availability. While the added courses are a relief to local golfers, it makes for a tough selection in the "Best Of" entry for "Best New Golf Course" for 2002. The same can be said for all the other categories in this year's list. That's not a bad problem.

With that said, here goes.

Best New Golf Course: Teravista Golf Course in Round Rock - Teravista opened later in the year and could have fallen by the wayside because of a lack of publicity and playing time for the general public. Teravista, however, fared much like a late-release movie before the Oscars and made a big impression on those few who played it. Set atop a ridge just east of IH-35, the Troon Golf-operated course overlooks the scenic Texas Hill Country and offers a variety of panoramic views of the surrounding countryside as well as a challenging yet playable course. Views and playability aside, Teravista, like any Troon Golf Course, provides you with much more than golf. It's an experience from the time your first arrive to the time you drive out of the parking lot and one you won't soon forget. For that Teravista was a slam-dunk choice this year.

Best Golf Course: Barton Creek-Canyons - It's hard to argue with this choice considering Canyons regularly has ranked in various top 5 lists since it opened a couple of years ago. What's not to like? The Tom Fazio-designed course features plush fairways, lightning-quick greens, and some of the most spectacular views of the Texas Hill Country. Although it is also one of the more challenging courses in the area, it likely won't be the high score that you remember but the well-designed layout and near-perfect course conditions.

Best Municipal Course: Roy Kizer - While most of the courses in the area including the munis feature a great deal of elevation change and lots of trees, Roy Kizer is the exception. Kizer also sets itself apart with holes that are consistent in both playability and appearance. Built on the site of a former wastewater treatment plant, designer Randy Russell converted the property into a superb links-style layout that features wetlands that provide a habitat for a variety of species including turtles, egrets, blue herons and ducks. It's a sight to see and play and even more amazing when you understand the former condition of the land.

Best (and only) Celebrity-Owned Course: Pedernales Country Club - Around Central Texas the Pedernales Country Club is known by a few as the Cut 'N Putt, which is the name printed on the scorecard. However, most of the locals just refer to it as "Willie's Course." Willie Nelson has owned the course since 1979 when he purchased the property, which included the course and a recording studio. Because of Nelson's affinity for the game, it is not uncommon to see the living legend playing the nine-hole course when he's in town. If you do play the course, make sure you inquire about the "Willie Rules," which were created for your benefit. If you do have a brush with greatness and play with Nelson, don't worry because you'll know the rules by the end of your round.

Best Overall Golf Experience: Teravista Golf Course - Although Teravista is the "new kid on the block," you would never know it.

This facility is the full package from the course to the incredible service. Like all the courses in the Troon Golf family, Teravista strives to provide you with the "country club feel for a day." They do it. From the time when you first arrive and the Teravista staff retrieves your bag and places it on your cart, to the time you leave and the same staff washes down each one of your clubs, you feel like you are the only one that matters. It's truly a unique experience. Needless to say, Troon Golf has entered the Central Texas market and done so with a bang.

Best Greens: Bluebonnet Hill Golf Course - Putting is the one facet of the game where any golfer - particularly amateurs - can make up strokes during a round. This is even more true on a course with quality greens because it decreases the chance of the ball rolling offline and increases the golfer's confidence on the green. At Bluebonnet Hill confidence is plentiful on the greens because every putt is true, smooth and rolls at an ideal pace - the latter of which is crucial with so many greens today running so ridiculously high on the Stimpmeter.

Best Golf Holes: Par-3, 4 and 5 - This is far and away the toughest "Best Of" category to select with plenty of competition from the more than 50 courses in the area. Par-3 - The 15th at ColoVista in Bastrop is 191 yards with 120 feet worth of drop from tee to green. It's nothing short of spectacular. Par-4 - 13th at Barton Creek-Canyons and its elevated tee across a canyon to an elevated fairway is incredibly picturesque and challenging. Par-5 - No. 18 at Barton Creek-Canyons is incredibly beautiful and demanding. The elevated tee on the 561-yard hole offers incredible views of the Texas Hill Country as you hit to the fairway and hole almost 200 feet below.

Best Practice Facilities: Golfsmith - Need to work on your driver, long irons, short irons, putter, sand wedge? No problem. Golfsmith has it all including a covered driving range with more than 100 hitting stations, a large putting and chipping green, and a separate green strictly for bunker play. All set with unparalleled enviro-scaping including small streams and waterfalls, the Golfsmith complex offers a place to work on your game in a serene environment.

Best Golf Radio Show: The Golf Show on AM1300 hosted by Jim Apfelbaum. This call-in talk show is not your ordinary sports call-in show. Sure, Apfelbaum with his uncanny knowledge will answer most any question posed, but he also regularly brings on guests including touring PGA pros, sports psychologists, and any other person involved with the game. On Saturday mornings, it's a good way to get you prepared for your mid-morning tee time.

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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