The long, par-4 finishing hole on La Cantera's Arnold Palmer Course is as picturesque as it is challenging. (Courtesy of the Westin La Cantera Resort) The par-3 fourth hole at the Westin La Cantera's Palmer Course plays entirely over water. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor) The 10th on the Palmer Course at the Westin La Cantera is an uphill, dogleg-right par 4 that's blind off the tee. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor) From an elevated tee, the par-5 16th at the Westin La Cantera's Palmer Course heads back uphill and to the right. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor)

Ten-year-old Arnold Palmer golf course at the Westin La Cantera has come into its own

SAN ANTONIO -- Although the Texas Open is no longer played at the Westin La Cantera Resort, the association still remains intact. Of course, the PGA Tour event event was played on Westin La Cantera's Resort Course for 15 years, but the other course at this Texas Hill Country resort, the Palmer Course, isn't suffering from an identity crisis.

In 2011, Westin La Cantera's Arnold Palmer Course celebrated its 10th anniversary, and according to Director of Golf Steve Shields, it's been gaining in popularity in recent years. So much so, in fact, that play is almost even between the two courses, though outside guests who stay at the resort still want to play where the pros play.

"But the better players really like the Palmer Course," Shields said. "Among the locals, it's probably about 50-50 between the two."

The Palmer is a shotmaker's course

The Resort Course, which was designed by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf, has more generous landing areas than the Palmer, and it's also a little easier on and around the greens.

The Palmer Course has more dramatic elevation changes (though the Resort Course has plenty of those as well) and certainly more blind shots, which can throw first timers for a loop.

Fortunately, the golf carts are equipped with GPS, which not only gives players a good idea of where they need to hit the ball but shows other carts on the golf course as well.

Still, the star of the Palmer Course is the elevation changes and the views. Nowhere in San Antonio are there more panoramic shots. In fact, the Westin La Cantera sits on the highest point in the Alamo City, and even though the Palmer Course is separated by a quarter of a mile from the resort, it shares the vistas.

One of the best views can be had on the 10th green of an uphill, dogleg-right par 4 that wraps around a deep ravine. The view off the tee is a little more obstructive. Players just need to know to keep the tee shot left, because anything to the right will find said ravine.

You'll also find dramatic views on the ninth and 18th, both of which wind up in front of Palmer's separate clubhouse. The ninth is another dogleg right that plays over a cascading creek. The 18th is a long, downhill par 4 that drops some 200 feet and plays to a green over a series of ponds and streams.

Westin La Cantera's Arnold Palmer Course: The verdict

The Resort Course at La Cantera has a good bit of elevation change, but it's nothing compared to the Palmer Course. The 6,926-yard par-71 Palmer Course has hundreds of feet of rise and fall, affording great views of San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country.

The layout puts a premium on accuracy, and there are some holes where length is important, too. In short, the Palmer is definitely more difficult than the Resort Course. Not only do you have to pull the right club, but you must negotiate some blind shots, miss greens on the correct side and be patient.

But the best thing about the Palmer Course is that it's totally different than La Cantera's other course. It even has its own clubhouse, a magnificent stone structure that overlooks the scenic 18th and ninth holes. And hanging out at the Palmer Grille, where you can dine on a great menu after your round, is highly recommended.

Jul 18, 2011

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Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.