SAN ANTONIO -- For more than a century, the debate over the most important club in the golf bag has raged on. Is it the putter or the driver? More and more golf experts these days will tell you that it's the driver, because it sets the tone of the entire hole.
While many golfers might think that the putter is more important because it's the quickest way to shave strokes, one thing all of us can agree on is that the driver might be the most thrilling golf club in the bag. While making a long putt for a skin can be exhilarating, for most players it doesn't hold a candle to launching a drive 300 yards with four or five seconds of hang time.
But you can't do that on all golf courses in San Antonio. Many courses are tight, requiring plenty of course management off the tee. But some are bombers' paradises. What follows are five San Antonio golf courses that encourage you to grip it and rip it:
Westin La Cantera's Resort Course
There are 36 holes at the Westin La Cantera Resort, but the former home of the Texas Open is definitely the more driver friendly of the two courses. From the very beginning, the Resort Course at La Cantera encourages you to rip it with a downhill 600-yard par 5 that's actually reachable for many players. Fairways are wide, for the most part, and designers Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish didn't forget to include one of their signature drivable par 4s. In this case, it's the 335-yard par-4 seventh, which plays from a highly elevated tee. There's a lake on the right that bumps up next to the green, so there's plenty of risk. But with the roller coasters of Six Flags Fiesta in the background, laying up just doesn't seem right.
Bandit Golf Club
The Keith Foster-designed Bandit Golf Club still remains somewhat of a secret to those outside of the Austin-San Antonio area. But those who have played it know that they're going to get significant airtime on some of the tee shots, especially on the back nine, which features several elevated tees.
The course, which is located outside of New Braunfels, winds in and around Long Creek and Lake McQueeney. Add some wide fairways and great risk-reward par 5s, such as the 18th, and you have a recipe for fun. The finishing hole is a 558-yard dogleg right with a creek that runs along the right side and divides the fairway as you get closer to the green. Hit a big tee shot and you have a chance to reach the green in two, but it will require a gutsy long approach over a ravine and hazard to a sloped green with a hill to the right that sometimes kicks shots back to the green and sometimes doesn't.
What was once a cement quarry has been turned into one of the most unique golf courses in Texas. Architect Keith Foster created sort of links-style front nine that's certainly enjoyable, but it's the back nine that everyone remembers at The Quarry. The holes are carved out of an old quarry that closed down in 1983. Right away, you get an opportunity to blast the driver at the 474-yard 10th, but it's the setting more than anything that encourages players to blast away. The crack of a good tee shot reverberates throughout the manmade canyon. Plus, if you do happen to spray it on certain holes, a lucky bounce off the limestone can sometimes bring it back to the fairway. Also, there are a couple of short par 4s that entice golfers into attempting to the drive the green.
The Golf Club of Texas at Briggs Ranch
Designed by none other than Lee Trevino, The Golf Club of Texas at Briggs Ranch is a links-style layout with generous fairways and plenty of opportunities to hit the driver. At more than 7,000 yards from the tips, you'll also need it, but there are some holes where a good drive will certainly pay dividends. One of them is the ninth, a 543-yard par 5 that's reachable for most players if they play the right tees. The nice part is that even if you miss the wide fairway to the left, you'll wind up in the first fairway, so the risk on letting it fly isn't that great.
AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio
Greg Norman has always been a great driver, and his design of the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio reflects his strength as a player. But while the Oaks Course, which player consultant Sergio Garcia provided input on as well, puts a premium on hitting the ball long off the tee, it also emphasizes accuracy. It's not that there isn't ample room in the fairways; it's just that you don't want to miss them. Just ask the PGA Tour players who found it difficult to break par in the first couple of years of the Texas Open. Still, no matter what set of tees you play on this 7,522-yard par-72 golf course, driver is a necessity. There are two par 5s on the front side that are more than 600 yards and four par 4s more than 450 yards. The course finishes with a 591-yard par 5 that requires a carry past a creek to a green that is flanked by bunkers. Hit the driver big like Norman, though, and you are faced with a true risk-reward decision.