SAN ANTONIO -- Golfer or not, you've got to give the developers of the new Quarry Golf Club and residential commercial complex some serious props.
Once a working limestone quarry mine just north of downtown San Antonio dating back to the turn of the 20th century, this is where they supplied materials for many of the state's landmarks, including the capitol building.
It finally closed in 1983. Within a decade, Keith Foster's team was constructing the golf course, and residences and fashionable shops were being built around it.
Suddenly an abandoned eyesore becomes a trendy neighborhood full of shops and apartments - with an 18-hole golf course as the centerpiece.
That's Urban Renewal 101.
The golf course, while on small acreage in the heart of San Antonio's northern suburbs, delivers one of the area's top daily fee rounds.
The front nine, across the street from the back nine and clubhouse, has nothing to do with the quarry, other than some refurbished smokestacks as a backdrop. This nine is more rolling and green, with many small ponds and loads of heather lining fairways. The par 3s are especially exciting, with water coming heavily into play on both.
But few urban golf courses can deliver the kind of back nine the Quarry can, all in just 86 acres. After the 10th hole (named "Jack's Hammer), the longest par 4 at a tour-worthy 474 yards uphill from the championship tees, golfers enter the quarry in dramatic fashion. From one of the course's highest points, an elevated tee shot on No. 11 plays sharply downhill into a fairway cut along a steep rock wall to the right.
This begins Quarry Golf Club's best three-hole stretch. The par-3 12th, especially from the championship tees, demands a long carry up to 200 yards over the "Alcatraz" pond and wetlands. No. 13 is a par 4 that doglegs left around the pond, forcing a decision on how much you want to cut off the dogleg on your drive.
The 17th, however, is the hole that gets your attention. It's named "Reload" for being so difficult off the tee. Miss left here, and your ball is gone. That said, the hole isn't overly long, so it's not the best idea to be aggressive off the tee. In fact, the fairway is narrow enough that it probably makes sense to leave driver in the bag if you're a longer hitter. Just hit your most reliable tee club at the 150 stake.
The Quarry Golf Club in San Antonio: The verdict
Given the course's small acreage, the Quarry's shorter, placement-style design by Foster was a necessity. The course is under 6,800 yards from the championship tees, and the slope is just 128, so mid-handicappers with decent length shouldn't feel too intimidated back there (the only exceptions being both back nine par 3s, including a 248-yard, uphill 16th).
There is a driving range and golf school on site, plus a good restaurant overlooking the quarry back nine. The Quarry Restaurant serves meals all day and attracts golfers and locals.
While we've given the developers their just due, the greenskeeper deserves his own salute, as conditions during this mid-May round were excellent. The bermuda greens rolled firm, consistent and quick. The rough was not overly punishing, and the tall, thick heather areas in most cases are pretty well off the fairway, so you shouldn't have to fish for too many balls in them (the course marks its heather as lateral hazards, by the way, so no need to hit provisionals off these holes).
Green fees peak at $89 and include a golf cart and bag of range balls (that said, the course is quite easy to walk). During the summer months, check for twilight and afternoon specials starting at 11 a.m.
Stay-and-play in San Antonio: The Grand Hyatt
The new Grand Hyatt hotel is in the center of downtown San Antonio and the River Walk. Guest rooms are spacious and complete with modern amenities, from exceptional bathroom fixtures to LCD flat screen TVs, while beds are all new and plush. You're right on the River Walk here and can get picked up for a dinner cruise if you wish. On site there are also multiple bar and dining options. If you're staying here and haven't booked tee times, the concierge will help schedule a round at any area course during your stay.