Barton Creek Resort and Spa – Austin, Texas Hill Country Gem

Barton Creek Resort and Spa is one of Texas’ top rated golf resorts and for very good reason. This beautiful property, just minutes northwest of downtown Austin, lies in the rolling wooded Hill Country of Texas and boasts access to four great golf courses. Two Tom Fazio designed championship layouts anchor the golf experience and are backed up with a Ben Crenshaw track and an Arnold Palmer designed course as well.

Just outside the front door of the resort lie the Tom Fazio Foothills course and the Ben Crenshaw Cliffside layout. Just a 5 minute free shuttle ride away is the second Fazio gem named the Canyons. A bit further out is the Arnold Palmer Lakeside course along beautiful Lake Travis. Combined, these four layouts provide an ever changing and challenging test for golfers of all abilities.

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This trip I played the Foothills, Canyons and Cliffside courses which share the rolling landscape of the Barton Creek area. This wooded and hilly terrain is reminiscent of the interior holes of Spyglass Hill near Pebble Beach as well as the mature northern forests of Minnesota’s Grand View Lodge or the amazing Lake Tahoe layouts of Coyote Moon and Schaffer’s Mill.

Tom Fazio Foothills and Canyon gems

The Fazio Foothills and Canyon courses feature remarkable elevation changes, fairly tight fairways, lightning fast greens and an array of hazards whose beauty belie their danger. Dry creek beds, running water, arroyos, canyons, limestone cliffs and caves, waterfalls and ever changing terrain are just some of the natural challenges Fazio has incorporated into his layouts.

While the two Fazio tracks share similar feel and terrain the courses play quite differently. Head Golf Professional Justin Kutz probably explained it best when he said “The fairways of the Canyons course tend to fall off on the sides while those on the Foothills course tend to filter the ball back onto the fairway.” I found this to be exactly right. Wayward shots on the Canyons course often rolled off the short grass and down into canyons, creeks, trees or worse. The Foothills layout was more forgiving in this regard but I found the fairways felt a bit narrower.

Both tracks featured numerous greens fronted by water requiring all or none carries to the safety of the putting surfaces. These watery hazards took the form of small running creeks, deep natural gorges cut from limestone and even distracting waterfalls tumbling alongside the greens. Two of my favorite holes were the 8th and 9th on the Foothills.

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The Par 5 eighth hole starts at an elevated tee high above a fairly wide fairway protected on the left by a large pond and on the right by the ever present woods. From here the hole narrows considerably with a creek running down the entire left side and trees pinching the right side all the way to the green. If you have safely made it this far in two, your approach shot to the green must avoid the deep chasm left of the green where the creek falls into a deep abyss. This is a great golf hole. The Par 3 ninth is probably the signature Par 3 of all the courses. Again, an elevated tee gives you a great view of the hole and its many challenges. A smallish green angles away from you and is guarded on the front and left by a waterfall that tumbles into the same chasm that guards the eighth green. Amazing!

Crenshaw Cliffside course

The Crenshaw designed Cliffside course could not be more different than the Fazio layouts. Here the fairways are very wide with generous landing areas and fewer hazards. It is more of a links style. Yet, whatever advantage is gained off the tee is taken away by some of the largest and most undulating putting surfaces you will ever play. Finding the wrong part of these greens makes two putting heroic, three putting common and four putts not out of the question.

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The Resort

Besides the four golf courses, Barton Creek Resort and Spa features every amenity you would expect from a world class resort. A full fitness center with an indoor pool, running track and exercise rooms are a great way to start your day. The full service spa offers treatments of every kind. In addition, there are numerous dining options, an excellent tennis center, nature trail, miniature golf and first class rooms and service. Be sure to give Justin Kutz and his golf staff a warm hello and tell them I look forward to seeing them again soon.

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Published: February 04, 2012

Author: Gordy Ginsberg

Gordy Ginsberg

Gordy Ginsberg

Gordy Ginsberg is a Minneapolis based freelance golf and travel writer who has visited many of the top resort and tour locations throughout the United States, Mexico and Hawaii. His course reviews are based on personal travel to each location and bring a clear sense of what to expect when you go. In addition, Gordy provides timely, and often humorous, commentary about our love/hate relationship with the game of golf. He calls golf the most difficult sport ever invented and has turned to his love of dogs and gardening (instead of the more expensive Psychotherapy) to cure his depressionary frustrations and addictions to the game he so loves.
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