New JW Marriott resort and TPC San Antonio will be big for Alamo City golf, Texas tourism and the PGA Tour

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Nothing about the new JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa currently under construction is modest. There are two big golf courses with a huge clubhouse, a 1,002-room hotel, a 30-room spa and even a jumbo water park.

TPC San Antonio - Bunkers
Norman uses dramatic bunkering throughout the TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks Course.
TPC San Antonio - BunkersJW Marriott San Antonio HotelTPC San Antonio - 16th Green
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Of course it all comes with a huge price tag as well. The resort alone, not including the golf course, will cost an estimated $500 million. The golf courses at the JW Marriott's new TPC San Antonio are expected to be nearly $50 million by the time they are scheduled to open in January 2010. Then, just a few months later, one of the courses, the AT&T Oaks Course, designed by Greg Norman with input from Sergio Garcia, is slated to be the new site of the Texas Valero Open.

Jimmy Terry, director of business development for the TPC San Antonio, said the new resort isn't just big; it's big for San Antonio tourism and golf.

"This will be good for everyone," said Terry, a PGA member with vast experience developing golf courses and facilities in Texas. "I think this will really promote San Antonio as a first-class golf destination."

Even as it is being built, you can already see how immense this project is. Just a little more than a year out from its scheduled opening, the 1,002-room hotel was well under way with the infrastructure around the courses and hotel already filling in. The courses, both of which will be more than 7,500 yards, were already being grassed.

Courses on track for 2010 opening

The Norman-designed Oaks Course was probably the furthest along a year out from opening. Norman's large bunkering was evident everywhere, including on the 16th, where there's a bunker in the middle of a large green, reminiscent of Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.

Pete Dye, with player consultant Bruce Lietzke, designed the other golf course - the AT&T Canyons. Both courses, with plenty of views of the Cibolo Canyon countryside, have been blasted out of the rocks, then built back up and sand-capped for optimal drainage. Both courses also have Champion Bermuda greens and Emerald Bermuda tees. The Oaks Course also has Emerald Bermuda collars and approaches, which give it a nice contrast. And to make sure conditions are always at a premium, certified superintendent Tom Lively, who spent the past seven years as superintendent at Medinah Country Club near Chicago, was hired to oversee course maintenance. Medinah hosted the 2006 and 1999 PGA Championships. Terry said the new TPC will be a great home for the PGA Tour as well as corporate outings and memberships.

"One of the things TPCs do well is host events and challenge the best players in the world," said Terry, whose experience includes a GM post at the TPC of Tampa Bay.

The Oaks Course should also be a little easier for golf fans to walk during the Valero Texas Open than the current site of the PGA Tour event, the Resort Course at La Cantera, which has played host to the event since it opened in 1995. La Cantera has some fairly dramatic elevation changes and distances between greens and tees. Most of the walking at the Oaks Course will be downhill, Terry said, plus the treks between holes are not as long.

The TPC courses also will have a 42,000-square-foot clubhouse, with men's and women's locker rooms, as well as an extensive practice facility and range.

You can look for larger rooms at the Marriott as well. The average room there will be 460-square feet, complete with flat screen high-definition TV monitors, which are computer compatible. A typical room at most resorts is about 320 square feet, according to company officials.

There also will be 140,000 square feet of meeting space, six restaurants, including a "high-velocity sports bar," and a 26,000-square foot spa with 30 treatment rooms. The water park will include a "river" experience and water slides.

PGA Tour convinced the city

The JW Marriott Resort and PGA Tour's TPC San Antonio is actually the second large project that was proposed in the Alamo City in the past decade. A PGA Village, proposed by the PGA of America, fell through a few years ago amid environmental concerns.

What made the PGA Tour's deal more attractive apparently is the less invasive nature of the project. The original PGA Village could have included up to three golf courses, one of which was also to be designed by Dye, as well as a learning center, hotels and several thousand residential units. In the agreement with the PGA Tour, just 15 percent of rocky Hill Country site will feature "impervious cover," a term referring to structures and pavement. In the old proposal, 25 percent was to be used for such a purpose.

The new golf courses also use a closed irrigation system. Using clay or a synthetic lining, the system allows the course to recapture at least 85 percent of its irrigation water and reuse it. Chemical runoff into the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, which supplies the majority of San Antonio's drinking water, and water conservation had been sticking points with environmental groups. The closed system addressed both.

The TPC golf course in San Antonio will be the 28th facility that the PGA Tour currently owns or operates. The most recent is the private, Arthur Hills-designed TPC at Treviso Bay in Naples, Fla.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, 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 20 years in the golf industry. Before joining the TravelGolf Network team in 2008, he held positions at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Read Mike's golf blog here and follow him on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.


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