Nine reasons for San Antonio golfers to be thankful

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- It's no secret this city has become a great golf destination, but beyond golf, the Alamo City has plenty to offer in entertainment, sports, culture and dining.

The Alamo - San Antonio
You can't go to San Antonio without visiting the Alamo at least once.
The Alamo - San AntonioSan Antonio River WalkAT&T Canyons Course at TPC San Antonio - No. 18Brackenridge Park Golf Course - clubhouse
If you go

With the holidays fast approaching, it's natural to reflect and take inventory of the reasons to be thankful. And just like on Thanksgiving, often celebrated in the early afternoon, there's enough time to get in a quick nine holes.

Fortunately, the south Texas weather in late November usually works well for a quick nine. But more than great falls and mild winters, here are nine things for which San Antonio golfers can express gratitude before sitting down to feast and watch football.

The JW Marriott and TPC San Antonio

Sure, the 36 holes of the TPC San Antonio are impressive, but the 2010 opening of the 1,004-room JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and golf courses does more than just earn a spot on the best new golf-course lists. The completion of the PGA Tour project signaled that San Antonio is a serious national player in golf tourism. With the Greg Norman-designed AT&T Oaks Course and Pete Dye's AT&T Canyons Course, the city now boasts several world-class golf resorts, including the Westin La Cantera and the Hyatt Hill Country Resort, as well as numerous quality daily fees. Plus, the Valero Texas Open now fits on the PGA Tour's prestigious spring schedule as a result.

Mexican food

If you love Mexican food -- Tex-Mex in particular -- there's no better location than the Alamo City. From hole-in-the wall establishments to San Antonio institutions like La Fogata and Rosario's, there exists no shortage of great enchiladas, fajitas, puffy tacos, chalupas, carne guisada and chile rellenos. San Antonio is a city where it's almost impossible to find a bad Mexican restaurant: It's in the DNA.

The River Walk

The River Walk has always been special, but with its recent development -- a $274 million development project continues through 2014 -- visitors enjoy hundreds of shops, great restaurants and bars as well as luxury resort hotels. The river barges remain a must for first-time visitors. You can even schedule a dinner cruise. Guided tours are offered, but the best way to enjoy the River Walk is to grab a map and spend a day or evening on foot over its 13 miles. Sipping a margarita on a riverside patio never gets old.

Theme parks: Fiesta Texas, Sea World

San Antonio really boosted its image as a tourist city as it landed two major theme parks in the past 25 years. By becoming the third U.S. location for Sea World in 1988, San Antonio instantly began to attract middle-of-the-country tourists who might find it easier to drive south than to visit San Diego or Orlando. Six Flags Fiesta Texas, which opened in 1992, ranks as perhaps the best-kept park in the company's portfolio. Plus, with its local flare, you'll find Texas hospitality and culture. And for a real kick, play golf next door at the Resort Course at the Westin La Cantera Resort, which affords several great views of the roller coasters and attractions.

The Alamo and San Antonio missions

There aren't many landmarks more recognizable than the Alamo, the topic of movies and books and a symbol of Texas independence, though the Texans lost the 1836 battle. The Alamo is actually one of five missions established by the Spanish along the San Antonio River, and they're all preserved and worth visiting. They also help give San Antonio its unique character and flavor.

The San Antonio Spurs

There's only one professional sports franchise in San Antonio, and, to say the least, it has represented the city well. The Spurs have won four NBA championships and are a perennial playoff contender. Over the past couple decades, the players have also served as great ambassadors for the city. Former all-star and Navy graduate David Robinson is a San Antonio institution, and current stars such as Tim Duncan, Mano Ginobili and Tony Parker make the Spurs one of the more likable teams in the NBA.

The Texas Golf Hall of Fame

After a 13-year hiatus, the Texas Golf Hall of Fame is back and running with big plans. Now located at historic Brackenridge Park Golf Course, the hall includes a walk of fame, a stand-alone museum at the historic Borglum Studio next to the clubhouse and an outdoor pavilion. Visitors can access Brackenridge Park and the Hall of Fame from the River Walk.

Brackenridge Park Golf Course

Speaking of Brackenridge Park, San Antonio golfers got a real gift when this A.W. Tillinghast gem reopened in late 2008 after a $7.5 million renovation. Colligan Design Group of Arlington, Texas, not only restored the golf course to resemble the original Tillinghast design and feel, including the old bridges, they incorporated modern standards with new green and bunker construction and new turfgrass. Although the golf course measures only about 6,200 yards, it's a challenging play with plenty of mature oaks and pecan trees, water and sometimes tricky greens complexes. Still, you get a feel for the history of place, whether you're in the clubhouse or on the golf course, featuring the old days of the Texas Open and legends like Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan.

San Antonio gets FBS college football

The Roadrunners may not rival the Texas Longhorns, but San Antonio has a college football team at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Led by former Miami (Fla.) coach Larry Coker, the team competes in Conference USA and plays in the 65,000-seat Alamodome.

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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