AUSTIN, Texas -- In Texas' capital city of Austin, where hipsters, techies, hippies and rockers all live harmoniously, the golf scene is similarly diverse.
Affordable, well located municipal courses serve those living in central Austin, while lavish country clubs fight for University of Texas boosters, and top PGA Tour pros such as Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite can be found on the town's perimeter.
Those visiting Austin in search of a destination-worthy golf experience with luxury hotel amenities will do just fine, too. Here's where to stay-and-play on an Austin golf vacation:
Omni Barton Creek Resort
Established in the 1980s, Barton Creek Resort set the tone for golf course community and resort golf in the emerging capital city. Recently acquired by Omni Hotels, the advantages to a stay-and-play at Barton Creek are numerous: It's a five-star golf experience set on dramatic Hill Country terrain, and yet it's the closest resort to the nightlife of downtown Austin, about 10 minutes away.
That means guests get the best of both worlds: Two Tom Fazio designs as well as a Crenshaw course (plus an Arnold Palmer design, the Lakeside, located to the west on Lake Travis), with the live music, barbecue and nightlife of downtown Austin right around the corner.
Resort offerings, however, make it tough to want to leave. Guest rooms are spacious and newly updated. A spa, fantastic dining options and a world of other recreational activities, such as hiking along Barton Creek, make this private club and residential community/resort combo property set on about 4,000 acres all-encompassing.
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Hyatt Regency Lost Pines and Wolfdancer Golf Club
Hyatt Regency Lost Pines, located east of Austin, is in a way, the antithesis of Barton Creek. It's expansive acreage is equally impressive, yet there isn't a home out here: a low-lying hotel tucked beneath mature trees and 18 holes at Wolfdancer Golf Club spread out across some of the most interesting land located along the Lower Colorado River east of Austin.
Barton Creek is certainly a showy property, but Lost Pines, while still providing luxury in line with the Regency arm of Hyatt, offers family-friendly, outdoor-centric relaxation, from nature walks to horseback riding and other excursions.
The course, designed by Arthur Hills, features three different playing environments, from exposed, open prairie land to rolling, forested hills and, finally a low-lying finishing stretch along the river. It's probably the Austin area's best, most natural piece of land for a golf course.
Even better, you don't need to stay at the resort to play here like Barton Creek, and green fees, while still on the high end for Austin compared to other daily fees, are quite a good value, often times less than $100.
Horseshoe Bay Resort
Three Robert Trent Jones Sr. designs plus a wealth of boating and other outdoor activities welcome those who make the one-hour drive west from Austin to Horseshoe Bay Resort, set along the shores of Lake LBJ.
While Ram Rock earns infamy as one of Texas' toughest resort courses (though I would argue Wolfdancer is tougher), Apple Rock is the most scenic of the bunch, highlighted by a stretch of holes that play above and eventually along Lake LBJ. Slick Rock, meanwhile, is the most benign of the three championship courses, though resort guests shouldn't miss a round on Whitewater, an all-grass, lighted putting course.
It's worth mentioning that guests who are more well connected through their home clubs shouldn't miss Summit Rock, an exclusive new Jack Nicklaus signature design that makes for one of the Hill Country's best private facilities.
Lakeway Resort & Spa
Set overlooking Lake Travis, Lakeway Resort & Spa blends Austin style with lakeside relaxation, complete with an outdoor pool, several dining options, villa and guest room accommodations. True, the resort is not an official "golf resort," but it has preferred playing privileges and golf packages at four nearby courses, three of which are private. That makes Lakeway ideal for those who want the intimacy of a smaller property but with accessible and very good golf nearby.
Playing privileges at the Hills of Lakeway Country Club start at FlintRock Falls, designed by Nicklaus Design and a private members-only club. Nearby Falconhead Golf Club is one of west Austin's finest daily fees, designed by PGA Tour design. Rounding out the options are Lakeway's Live Oak and Yaupon Courses, not as spectacular as FlintRock and Falconhead but more for your laid-back, country club-style round.