Few people realise the golfing pedigree which has hailed from Texas. The lone star state is the birthplace of some of the world’s greatest golfers, including Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Lee Trevino, Justin Leonard and the late Payne Stewart. Fred Couples also now lives in Texas.
There are plenty of upmarket resorts including the Westin La Cantera Golf Resort. Offering six pools, three hot tubs and a golf academy you’ll find it difficult to leave. Playing 665 yards from the back tees, the par-5 first hole at San Antonio’s La Cantera Golf Club has to be one of the world’s greatest ego-boosting holes.
The vertical drop from tee to green is 125 feet, and with rock-hard fairways and a following wind, the ball never wants to stop.
Built into the side of an old limestone quarry, La Cantera plays just under 7,000 yards from the back tees with sharp changes in elevation and dramatic tees perched on top of steep quarry walls.
Like many things in Texas, La Cantera is big and brash but a lot friendlier than it first appears. However, the excited screams from the riders of a theme park roller coaster, which adjoins the par-3 seventh green – The Rattler – proved to be a severe test of concentration.
Designed by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf, the course has hosted the PGA’s Westin Texas Open and was recently voted among America’s top 50 resort courses by readers of Golf Digest. Arnold Palmer has designed a second 18-hole course, adjoining the Westin La Cantera Resort.
Best known for the historic battle of the Alamo, San Antonio is fast becoming a popular golfing destination as resorts and stylish public courses are developed in the surrounding hill country. There are 67 courses in the region.
Close by is the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Golf Club, designed by Arthur Hills in 1993. With some narrow fairways flanked by menacing Texas live oak trees, fast greens, tight doglegs and tough bunker placements, some holes have a distinct resemblance to those at Valderrama.
A 45-minute drive into the hills you take you to Bandera, self-acclaimed cowboy capital of the world, where ten-gallon hats, snakeskin boots and wide-buckle belts are standard attire for the locals.
Just a mile beyond the honky-tonk two-step dance halls and Country music bars of Main Street is the Flying L Ranch, which offers some of the best value golf in Texas. Green fees start at £15 a round for this 6,700-yard parkland course, which brings water into play on seven holes as it winds its way around the paddock and stables of this 542-acre guest ranch.
Horseshoes mark the tee positions and old covered wagons provide shade for essential drinking water stops in countryside where temperatures regularly top 38C in the dry summer months. There’s a range of budget accommodation on offer, including golf apartments and outdoor pool.
Around the campfire cookout at night, cowhands entertain guests with rope tricks so intricate it makes the golf swing look simple.
Dallas is the city where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a snipers bullet – a stigma that remains with the city after almost 50 years.
While remnants of the TV soap opera image still remain Southfork Ranch is still a popular visitor attraction. Today Dallas is more Silicon Prairie than oil-baron power struggles.
Heading out to the vast and windy prairies that surround the urban sprawl, it seemed that well-heeled Texan cowboys are becoming obsessed with the game of golf. New public courses and resorts are springing up between the dude ranches and rodeo schools.
And for those hardy Brits that love to feel the heat, Dallas courses are playable year round at relatively reasonable green fees.
Tenison Park is a public course where Lee Trevino learned to play. It is rich in golf history and the legendary home of some notorious hustlers and big money games.
Among the most scenic new courses are Castle Hills, a daily fee course designed by Jay Morrish, featuring attractive elevated tees and water hazards.
Within 40 minutes drive of the downtown Sixth Floor Museum, which recreates the Kennedy assassination in gory detail at the exact spot where the assassin fired is the TPC Four Seasons Resort at Las Colinas.
The course hosts the annual Byron Nelson Classic, which is said to attract the second highest attendance – after the Phoenix Open – of any golfing event in the USA.
Enormous mansions overlook the fairways and some rather ugly office buildings come into view as a stark reminder that downtown Dallas is not far away.
But course designer Jay Morrish has ensured that this immaculately maintained par-70 course, playing 6,900 yards from the back tees, is no easy walk in the park.
The course has some narrow fairways lined with Cottonwood and Mesquite trees, endless water hazards and well-placed bunkers. Thankfully, for resort play the rough is kept pretty short, making the course quite playable for the average club golfer.
At the Byron Nelson Golf School, pupils taking individual or group lessons have the use of their own clubhouse and an enormous practice range covering 88,000 square feet.
Just for fun it’s also worth taking a visit to 8718 Amen Corner, the official address of Tour 18, a course that has tried to recreate signature holes from America’s top courses, including Augusta, Sawgrass, Cherry Hills, Pine Valley and Oakmont.
The Tribute, is a nod to Scotland. Each of its 18 holes replicates a notable hole in Scotland and over a million gallons of water a day are used to irrigate the course in order to simulate an “authentic” Scottish golfing experience.
The clubhouse has been designed to closely resemble Muirfield and includes several guest bedrooms, all furnished with authentic antiques from Scotland.
Golf architect Tripp Davis has used the wide and windy open prairie land, surrounded by the waters of Lake Lewisville, to create an effective illusion of links golf with thick grasses, sand dunes and deep bunkers.
The fifth hole has been sculpted to resemble the par-3 Postage Stamp at Royal Troon and the ninth is a reasonable copy of the par-5 ninth at Muirfield.
Other holes have been copied from Turnberry, Royal Dornoch, Carnoustie, Prestwick, Moray, Nairn, Machrihanish and Western Gailes.
The concept has been such a success with corporate groups and societies that tee times need to be booked well in advance at peak times.
A second 18-hole course, the Old American, is inspired by the ‘Golden Age’ of golf course architecture between 1911 and 1937. The Old American’s natural contours, hazard styles, native grasses and green shapes were influenced by such masterpieces as Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links, Prairie Dunes and Crystal Downs. Only in America!
American Airlines operates twice daily from London Gatwick to Dallas with connections to San Antonio.
Renting a car is essential in Texas as there are long distances between courses.
When to Go
Courses are open throughout the year in Texas but the best playing conditions are in spring and autumn with pleasant temperatures and abundant wildlife. The summer months from June – August can be extremely hot with temperatures often reaching 38c.