Having been founded in 1899, Austin Country Club is the oldest organized golf club in Texas and one of the oldest in America. ACC also happens to be home to one of the greatest teaching professionals to have ever lived, Harvey Penick. Like many golf professionals of days gone by Penick began his lifelong work in golf as a caddie. In 1912 eight year old Penick began caddying at Austin Country Club and quickly advanced up the ranks until he became head professional at the ripe young age of nineteen. He then proceeded to spend the next 50 years of his life dedicating himself to golf, Austin Country Club and its members. During his tenure at ACC Penick played an instrumental role in developing the golf games of two time Masters winner Ben Crenshaw and U.S. Open winner Tom Kite. Late in life Mr. Penick also became a best selling author with Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book which is widely considered the very best instructional golf book ever written. I’m not big on reading golf instruction, but this is the one book I believe every golfer should own. The pages are filled with great tidbits of golf wisdom that we all need reminders about sometimes.
In its 113 year history there have been three locations for Austin Country Club. The original location was in service from 1899 to 1949 before moving to a new spot that lasted for the next 35 years. The club moved to its current location in 1984 and hired renowned golf course architect Pete Dye to design the new golf course. In true Pete Dye fashion he turned the property into a stern test of golf featuring forced carries, uneven lies and menacing bunkers that are sure to challenge even the very best golfers.
The photo below was taken from the tee of the 2nd hole which is a par 3 that we played from 167 yards. The first time we played I hit 3 balls into the water. The second time we played I only lost one ball and managed to find dry land with my second attempt. Its really not that hard of a shot, it just got in my head.
Here is a view looking back up the hole. This is the spot from which I watched my playing partners who actually hit the green finish the hole.
Below is a photo taken from the tee of the 3rd hole. This is a 511 par 5 that runs straight downhill. The bunkers on the right are in play off the tee, but to reach the water I believe one would have to hit a PGA Tour length drive.
With the water running along the left side of the hole it is imperative to hit the ball straight on the layup and approach shot. Although I am sure there are players capable of reaching the green in two, but they are going to attempt they had better have excellent aim. As can be seen in the photo below there is nothing but water to the left of the green and some pretty severe bunkers to the right. Note the Pennybacker Bridge in the background which is one of the famous landmarks of Austin.
The 7th hole, pictured below is a 504 yard par 5 that runs straight uphill. The more a player chooses to bite off of the bunker on the left side of the fairway the shorter the approach shot into the green will be.
Below is a look at the pitch into the green. It’s straight uphill and there are very deep bunkers around the green to punish players who miss the green when trying to reach the putting surface in two.
The 8th hole is another dramatic Pete Dye par 3. This one plays just 126 yards and has a ravine running down the left side which really comes into play when the hole location is on the far left side of the green.
Below is a look at the 8th hole from the 9th tee box. This photo illustrates how with a left hole location this becomes a heroic carry over the ravine.
The 11th hole, pictured below, is a tough par 4 that we played from 400 yards. The hole starts out with a forced carry over a ravine to reach the fairway.
Once in the fairway an accurate approach into the green is a must. Any shots going to the left of the green will be gone forever.
At the 13th hole we have another par 3 with a forced carry over a ravine. The green is big here and there is some room to be short so it is not quite a “do or die” shot.
The 17th hole is a short par 5 that we played from 458 yards which is clearly reachable in two for a great many players. The photo below is of the green. Not the extremely penal bunkers waiting to catch shots that miss the green. These can make for some difficult up and downs.
The 18th hole is a long par 4 that we played from 438 yards. A good tee shot will favor the left side of the fairway with a little fade on it. A well struck shot will pick up extra yardage by rolling down the hill where the fairway falls off in the photo below.
Pete Dye gives players one last chance to lose a ball here on the 18th hole. As can be seen in the photo below most approach shots into this green are going to require some kind of carry to reach the green. If you haven’t already lost a ball, this is a really good opportunity to do so.
To sum up, the golf course at Austin Country Club is tough. It is loaded with heroic carries and very tough bunkers. To shoot a good score here requires very accurate ball striking and the guts to take aggressive lines. It’s one of the tougher courses I have played and definitely a true test of golf. We played the course from a 6,292 and I can say that even at that relatively short length it is all the golf course the average player can handle. That said, it’s still a lot of fun and there are a bunch of really great shots to be made. My recommendation to the average golfer (like me) is to make sure you’re not taking your game to seriously when you play there and just have fun!