AUSTIN, Texas -- Live music capital, barbecue mecca, hipster haven.
And also an events powerhouse. There seems to be a festival or event of some kind every weekend these days, and during the fall especially.
But Austin is a darn good golf town, too.
The PGA Tour's Texas Swing has bypassed Austin for too long, but that's about to change when the WGC Match Play moves to Austin Country Club in the spring of 2016, where it will begin a four-year contract.
Austin has so many festivals, including this fall's Austin City Limits Fest, that there's always a reason to visit. South by Southwest (SXSW) and the Formula 1 race at the Circuit of the Americas bring in international audiences. Oh yeah, Longhorns football games pack in 100,000 fans six or seven Saturdays each fall as well.
Being a resident of Austin, I'd say the best part about the golf scene is that you can really name your price for a round. There is a very solid collection of municipal courses, plus some good daily fee/semi-privates, a handful of golf resorts, and a collection of exclusive privates for those with hookups.
Here are some top places to play golf on your Austin visit this fall for Formula 1 and ACL Fest or any of the other myriad of reasons to come to the capital city of Texas.
Wolfdancer Golf Club at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines
Currently the top Austin-area course as rated on Golf Advisor, it doesn't take long into a round at Wolfdancer to realize why.
This resort course east of town near Bastrop (very convenient for F1 visitors) shows off Texas topography unlike anywhere else in the state. There are holes playing high and exposed, then forested holes along a ridgeline and finally low-lying holes along the Colorado River. Unlike most of the courses on the west side of town, there isn't a home in sight when playing on this expansive piece of acreage, just a couple holes that play near the resort compound.
At over 7,200 yards, Wolfdancer is tough for a resort course, that's for sure. The previous owner of the land, local legend Marjorie "Tiny" Leach (a state amateur champion), wouldn't want it any other way.
Omni Barton Creek Resort
The resort's foursome of courses, including two in Golf Digest's top 100 public list, and a luxury hotel and a location just minutes from Zilker Park and downtown Austin make Barton Creek a favorite for visitors who want to sneak in a round or two of golf. It also recently launched a Golf Channel Academy for those interested in lessons.
This is a private club and residential community that only offers outside play to guests of the hotel. But that's certainly not a bad thing, as the resort, recently acquired by Omni, is excellent. Start at the two Fazio courses, the Foothills and Canyons, and then play local legend Ben Crenshaw's design at the Cliffside.
There is a fourth course that is part of the resort located just west, the Palmer Lakeside, which can round out your stay.
Top public and semi-private courses around Austin
River Place is a local favorite that offers windows of public tee times on most afternoons. You can get a similar topography to Barton Creek in the outcropped limestone hills west of town without the three-figure green fee and mandatory hotel stay. They recently renovated their greens and reviews have been very good, jostling with Wolfdancer for the top spot on Golf Advisor.
Right behind are a handful of semi-private, residential courses that are all pretty similar in standard. In my preferred order: Star Ranch (which has an all-inclusive green fee including lunch and space-available replays), Falconhead, Teravista, Avery Ranch and Grey Rock.
If you don't want to go far from the city, check out one of Austin's six municipal layouts. Jimmy Clay recently reopened with brand new greens (Jordan Spieth won a high school state championship here) and next door Roy Kizer is also a solid play. My favorite is Morris Williams (which was extensively redesigned in 2012) east of town near the University of Texas. The course closest to downtown is Lions Municipal Golf Course, the beloved "Muny" that at just 6,000 yards, requires plenty of shot-shaping and local knowledge to score well.
Go west into the Hill Country
One of my favorite ways to mellow out and escape the big-city madness is to spend a day or two in the nearby Texas Hill Country. There are some really good golf courses out here too, many of which are casual and affordable in nature. I detail my favorites, including Lighthouse and Delaware Springs, in this story.