AUSTIN, Texas - This fast-growing state capital is known more for its music and film scene than its golf, while nearby San Antonio - because of resorts like La Cantera and the new TPC San Antonio - has developed into a nationally recognized golf destination.
The smallest of the Texas Triangle major cities, Austin features none of the professional sports franchises as nearby San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. With a metropolitan population of approximately 1.7 million, Austin boasts the University of Texas Longhorns and major music events like Austin City Limits each fall and the South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Conference each March.
And although t also doesn't host a PGA Tour event, make no mistake, though, Austin is a golf city that rivals the rest of Texas for the locals and the travelers alike.
And during South by Southwest this spring, it hosts a major event on the Golf Channel Am Tour, March 20 and 21 at Barton Creek Resort's Crenshaw Cliffside Course. Click here for more information on the event.
There's an Austin golf course for every golfer, from the exclusive private settings and resorts to bargain and casual golf courses.
Golf resorts around Austin
The best game in town is at the Barton Creek Resort and Spa, home to three golf courses just west of Austin in the Hill Country. Tom Fazio built two courses here, the Foothills and the newer, bolder Canyons course. One of the first designs by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the Cliffside showcases some of the area's largest and most perplexing greens. Even Gentle Ben reportedly can't master them.
Wolfdancer Golf Club at Hyatt Lost Pines sits just east of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Highway 71, about a 30-minute drive from downtown. The Arthur Hills design features three types of topography - forested ridgeline, wide-open prairie and the Colorado riverbed.
A bit further from Austin, head west into the heart of the Texas Hill Country for Horseshoe Bay, home to three championship Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf courses. Ram Rock is considered one of Texas' most difficult plays, while Apple Rock ranks as the most scenic of the trio above and around Lake LBJ.
Austin golf: Top daily-fee courses
Every Austinite golfer knows about Golf512.com, the online booking service that offers last-minute tee times at steep discounts. If you're not too picky about where you play, use it.
West of town in the Hill Country, Falconhead Golf Club opened in 2003 and boasts tour pedigree. Laid out by the PGA Tour design firm, Falconhead hosts its own two-day Golf Channel Am Tour event in August 2010.
To the south, Grey Rock Golf Club is an upscale, semi-private golf course set among heavy oak trees in the Circle C residential development. It's also just 10 miles from the famous Salt Lick in Driftwood, so pack a cooler of beer and grab some of the Hill Country's best barbeque after 18 holes.
About a 20-minute drive north of downtown Austin, the sprawling suburbia of Round Rock ranks as one of America's fastest growing cities of the past decade, thanks to its heavy tech influence, including Dell and IBM.
Top Round Rock golf courses sprout up within residential developments. Two of the best, Forest Creek Golf Club, another World Am Tour host, and Teravista Golf Club, offer easy access off northbound Interstate-35.
Austin municipal and casual golf
Austin features a very good municipal golf-course system. The nine-hole Hancock Golf Course dates to 1899 as Texas' oldest standing golf course. The all-encompassing, 36-hole Jimmy Clay/Roy Kizer facility south of town offers two styles - Clay's more traditional parkland look and Kizer's wide-open golf with wide fairways. The complex includes a huge practice facility and practice course.
Another storied municipal, Lions Golf Course sits just west of downtown Austin. It's locally adored and a spot visited by many of the game's great players, like Ben Hogan.
Stuck downtown and looking for a relaxing nine holes with some folk who don't play well? Swing by a local institution, Butler Park. It's a small, par-3 layout with the longest hole at about 120 yards, and it's ultra-casual with regular sixsomes. Bring your dog, beers or smokes, though you might need a helmet, too; stray balls whiz by at all times.
And if you're a fan of Willie Nelson, head out to casual Pedernales Golf Club, just "eight songs from Austin." Check out his nine-hole Cut 'n Putt, overlooking the Pedernales Valley, where you're encouraged to bring your own beer - or anything else.
During South by Southwest, who knows which of Willie's musician friends might visit.