This is the first post in our Golf in the U.S.A. blog series. This series will round up the best public-access golf courses in music's biggest cities, so you can play some licks and swing the sticks on your next golf trip.
Golf in Austin, TX : The Live Music Capital of the World
What do you and Willie Nelson have in common? For one, you’re bored and looking for a break from the routine. For two, you both love golf. Sounds like you need to follow Shotgun Willie to Austin, TX.
Nelson and pal Waylon Jennings grew tired of the streamlined country sound spewing from Nashville during the ‘70s. The pair, among others, began to wrestle with record labels to take ownership of their music, the style of songwriting they performed, and the producers they wished to work with. Austin became the informal capital of the “outlaw country” scene, and it’s remained the gritty counterpoint to pop country ever since.
The good news for you is that local golf has grown significantly, and headline festivals such as SXSW and Austin City Limits have made Austin a musical must. Up for a buddy trip?
Here are some public-access courses to plan around, and some performers you better put on the playlist if you’re trying to get that rock & roll golf vibe rolling.
Austin, TX Golf Courses
Barton Creek (Fazio Foothills & Fazio Canyons)
The Barton Creek Resort cemented itself atop the Austin public golf scene by giving Tom Fazio the keys to the resort’s crown jewels. The Faz is a guy known for Vegas flash, but he tempers that glitz with a degree of naturalism here. Rather than use a bulldozer to build challenge, he lets Texas hill country speak for itself. Plenty of creek crossing (and waterfalls) bring shinier Fazio to the fore. The Par 5 closer at Canyons requires multiple creek crossings, and how aggressively you play those crossings will demonstrate both your confidence and your desire to avoid buying post-round drinks by winning the match. Foothills is a little less flashy than Canyons , but it’s all relative; try to keep your eye on the green and not on the waterfall fronting it at No. 16.
These are the city’s premiere publics, and two of the city’s premiere guitarists make for a good pairing. The Foothills course has a more natural feel in its approach to the Texas clay, and there’s no more natural sound to come from an electric guitar than the blues, so crank some Gary Clark Jr—the current king of Texas blues (and arguably modern blues in general). The Canyons and Eric Johnson’s guitar work in onomatopoeia; the instrumentalist’s fingers nimbly flies across notes like your ball flying (theoretically) across the many forced carries in play.
Barton Creek Palmer Lakeside
Fazio gets top billing, but those on a lower budget—and a higher handicap—can still find good times at Barton’s Coore Crenshaw and Palmer Lakeside courses. Playing about 500 yards less than either Fazio installation, those driving West to find Arnold Palmer’s Lakeside course will find all the same resort appeal as the pricier models closer to downtown. Consider the forced carries on every Par 3; The course’s signature hole is 183 yards and wrapped by a rapidly-flowing creek, but No. 14 deserves mention for its emphasis on shot placement. Don’t get spooked by the ravine; instead, focus on landing the short 136-yard shot on the right section of this 40-yard long green.
You’ll be a literal stone’s throw from the Colorado River at this point, and a metaphorical stone’s throw from Willie Nelson’s 800-acre ranch. If you like a cigar after a round, you may want to swing by Willie’s place...we hear he smokes nothing but the best.
Teravista Golf Club
All very nice courses over at Barton Creek, but maybe you should warm up before hitting courses with those kinds of slope ratings. Teravista is also a good option for those in town for something aside from a killer live music scene...something such as University of Texas athletics. Unfortunately, the home club at Jordan Spieth’s alma mater is private. Teravista, however, is a quick drive north from campus. It may be cheaper than the local Fazios, but that’s not for lack of yardage. Tigers will get more than 7,000 yards from the back tees.
The club claims those thematic rolling hills of Austin offer views of up to 30 miles. Look West, like another famous Longhorn alum: Janis Joplin may have made her name in San Francisco, but she headed there from the University of Texas (Gary Clark would attest those soulful vocals came from somewhere). So hook ‘em Horns. Don’t hook ‘em drives.
Grey Rock Golf and Tennis Club
It’s going to be a while before anything replaces outlaw country as Austin’s signature subgenre, but there was music prior. If you thought “keeping Austin weird” was a new phenomenon, consider the city’s rockers were quick to adopt LSD into its influences. The result was the term “psychedelic rock” and bands like the 13th Floor Elevators. A group often overlooked in the wake of a similar San Francisco scene, the Elevators are among the most underrated in alternative rock, and worthy of your playlist attention on the way to Grey Rock Golf and Tennis Club.
Jay Morrish is a guy who also didn’t get enough respect, generally because partner Tom Weiskopf’s name overshadowed his on course projects. Morrish and Weiskopf guaranteed a drivable Par 4 at every course they designed, and Jay kept that theme when he designed Grey Rock solo. Nos. 9 and 15 are both within reach for big hitters, at 295 and 301 yards, respectively. Remember: This is a golf trip, not the Ryder Cup. You are legally required to go for it.
Wolfdancer Golf Club
Maybe you’ve noticed that the rolling hills of Austin are a theme during this trip. Keep it rolling at Wolfdancer, an Arthur Hills-designed resort club on the East side. The back nine takes full advantage, and you’ll be treated to incredible views at holes like No. 12, a Par 3 near the property’s peak. From the tees you’ll be able to see the rest of the course, the Colorado River, and the great big Texas sky. The atmosphere in that view is the stuff that feeds the huge studio atmosphere of Austin post-rockers Explosions in The Sky. Granted, if you lose too many Pro V1s into those vistas, or the aforementioned Colorado, the post-rock guitar in your head might quickly start to sound like local cult noise rockers The Jesus Lizard.
Played any of the courses we recommended in this post? Did we hit it pure, or do you think we’re out of our damn minds? Either way, let us know your opinion in the comments below, and also let us know what music city you want to see featured next in Golf in the U.S.A. Stay tuned!