Best Signature Holes in Central Texas
AUSTIN, TX -- Signature holes are like cowboy hats - they come in all shapes and sizes. In Austin and the surrounding area, where you might see a cowboy hat or two, signature holes are as varied as the Texas landscape. From the "traditional" par 3 signature holes that feature spectacular views and picturesque backdrops, to the Texas-sized par 5s with numerous twists and turns, Central Texas has some of the best signature holes in the country.
Starting closest to downtown, Lions Municipal Golf Course has a signature hole that is probably the most unique in Austin if not the entire state. The distinctiveness of this hole is not because of its physical appearance, but rather its history, and more specifically, an appearance by a golfing legend at the course back in 1950.
The spring day was perfect for an exhibition match. More than 1,000 spectators turned out to a "Muny" to watch future legends Harvey Penick and Ben Hogan team against Ed Hopkins and Texas golfing legend Morris Williams Jr.
After an inauspicious start on the first hole in which Hogan stumbled around feigning that he had been out too late the night before, Hogan and Penick eventually pulled away and won the match. Before the men finished the round, Hogan stood on the No. 16 tee box (No. 7 at the time) and muttered words that are still repeated today. "Where's the fairway?" he asked.
Hogan was referring to the par-4, 381-yard hole that featured a mound in front of the tee that made for a blind tee shot. What was visible beyond the small hill was a large tree to the right. In addition, there was, and still is today, a cluster of trees on the left that jut out into the fairway. On your second shot you have to go around the trees and over the small pond to an elevated green, which features a considerable slope on the right.
Head professional Zack Fleming said since the time Hogan played the course, the tree on the right has died and the mound in front of the tee box has been removed. He said the slope to the right of the green has also been lessened to give players a chance of missing slightly to the right. "Before, it was a drop-off on the right and the ball was lost over there." As a result of Hogan's comment on that day, No. 16 is referred to as "Hogan's Hole."
Although Hogan's Hole is different because of its history, it is very similar to the other quality signature holes in Central Texas because the hole not only offers exceptional scenery, it also offers a considerable challenge. According to several local experts, the degree of difficulty is a key ingredient in making a successful signature hole.
"It needs to be scenic but difficult from each tee," said Kevin Gomillion, director of golf at the Roy Kizer/Jimmy Clay Golf Complex. "It must be a challenge for whatever level of golfer you are, from whatever tee box you hit from, and you should have to go through a thought process on each shot, whether it's your tee shot, second shot or putting."
Bluebonnet Hill head professional Jeff Wilson agrees. "A signature hole is definitely more than just beauty. It has to be difficult too and offer a variety of ways you can play it."
No. 11 at Roy Kizer, another municipal course in Austin, is a perfect example of this as it offers several different ways to attack its treacherous layout. The par 4, 468-yard hole is named "Teeth of the Wind" because tee shots are hit into the prevailing southeasterly breeze. If the wind does not pose enough difficulty, the hole also features wetlands and several steep-banked sand traps to the left and a small pond off the tee and numerous rolling mounds in the fairway on the right.
The best play from the back tees on this tough hole is to hit a solid 250- to 270-yard tee shot that carries the water and some of the sand, leaving about a 200-yard shot to the green. If you're feeling gutsy, you can try to coax a 320-yard tee shot out of your driver and carry all of the sand and water.
"It's a hole where bogey is really not a bad score," Gomillion said.
When it comes to the more traditional signature holes found on par 3s, Central Texas is loaded. One of the most picturesque and challenging is No. 17 at Bluebonnet Hill, just northeast of the city.
This par 3 measures a relatively harmless 195 yards. That's only what the scorecard indicates. What it fails to identify is of those 195 yards, 180 are over water. To make matters more challenging, wind speed and direction can fluctuate from each swing of the club.
With the usual gusting crosswind and a putting surface sloping back to front, club selection is crucial. Depending on wind direction and speed, it can require anything from a 6-iron to a wood. Even with the proper distance control, the angle into the green is no easy chore. Strong wind can toss the ball several yards off line, and when it turns into the player's face, a visit to the drop zone is probable.
If you think you can just blast it over the water and your worries are over, think again. Being long on this hole is almost as bad as several mounds protect the back portion of the putting surface with tall grass lurking behind, making a chip shot very difficult. Anything on the back of the green makes for a slippery downhill putt, which has been host to a few three-putts through the years.
Moving further to the east in Bastrop is one of, if not the crown jewel of signature holes in the state. ColoVista Golf Club, which was rated the top public course in Central Texas by the Austin American-Statesman, also features one of the most incredible holes in the area.
Two words best describe the par-3, 191-yard No. 15 - launching pad. The120-foot drop from tee to green allows for some incredible views of the ball flight with the Colorado River in the background. "It's just spectacular," said Bluebonnet's Wilson. "And the green is difficult." To reach the challenging green, which features two bunkers in front, requires anything from a wedge to a long iron. Like No. 17 at Bluebonnet Hill, wind speed and direction are vital in club selection on this hole.
The final of the par 3 signature holes can be found at Crystal Falls, a smaller public course located approximately 25 miles northwest of Austin in Leander and the Texas Hill Country. This location and topography allowed for designer Jack Miller to create an incredible hole that is similar in elevation and setup to the signature hole at ColoVista.
The par-3, 192-yard No. 11 at Crystal Falls features a slightly greater difference in elevation with the green located approximately 200 feet below. This allows you to view the entire flight of your ball until it disappears beneath the forward tee boxes. The hole and the Texas Hill Country are truly a sight to behold atop this tee box.
Finally, the list of top signature holes in Central Texas wouldn't be complete without a par 5. Delaware Springs in Burnet has just the hole and it doesn't take long to find it.
No. 1 is not the longest of par 5s measuring in at 504 yards. It is, however, a thinking golfer's hole. If you're not sharp when you step on to the first tee, you'll know it when you head off to the second. Like every par 5, you think it should be an easy par but that's only if you listen to the locals and play smart.
Off the tee you must hit a short wood or iron to a fairway that slopes left-to-right and avoid one of the many trees that line both sides of the fairway. Aim to the left side and your ball should find the landing area just short of Delaware Springs creek.
Your second shot is around the dogleg to the left and over the creek to the green that is protected by trees on the right. With its undulation, water, and trees, it is Hill Country golf at its finest wrapped up into one hole.
With such a variety, you can't go wrong if you play just one of these courses and their fine signature holes during your visit to the Lone Star State.
Bluebonnet Hill Golf Club
9100 Decker Lane
Austin, TX 78724
Phone: (512) 272-4228
ColoVista Country Club
100 Country Club Drive
Bastrop, Texas 78602
Crystal Falls Golf Course
3400 Crystal Falls Parkway
Leander, Texas 78641
Telephone: (512) 259-5855
127 East Jackson Street
Burnet, Texas 78611
Telephone: (512) 756-8471
Lions Municipal Golf Course
2901 Enfield Road
Austin, Texas 78703
Phone: (512) 477-6963
Roy Kizer Golf Course
5400 Jimmy Clay Drive
Austin, Texas 78744
Phone: (512) 444-0999
August 19, 2002