The Itinerant Golfer

The Itinerant Golfer's Take on Austin Country Club


Austin Country Club

Architect: Pete Dye
Year: 1984

4408 Long Champ Drive , Austin, Texas 78746
(512) 328-0090

driving range available
motorized golf carts and caddies available


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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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.
 
Austin Country Club
 
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!

  • Greg

    Just found this website in the last few weeks-love it. I live in Austin, and am bummed that I didn’t find the site before your visit down here. Would love to play next time you are in town.

    Love ACC. Not a member, but have played it about 10 times or so. It definitely is a beating.

  • Ken

    From your trip to Austin and the Hill Country, which course would you pick as your favorite?

    • The Itinerant Golfer

      I loved Spanish Oaks. The course is on great land and is very fun and playable. A great vibe to the club as well.

      • Ken

        There definitely is a great vibe at Spanish Oaks, aided by a small membership and limited play. For me, it might be the best of the area if shopping centers and apartments hadn’t agressively spoiled some of the views.

        • The Itinerant Golfer

          It’s certainly understandable to be disappointed that some of the vistas were compromised on a few holes. It actually didn’t bother me because I hadn’t seen it before the development so I had nothing to compare it to. It did remind me of some of the great urban courses I’ve visited that have had similar types of development pop up around them. Unfortunately, its difficult to control some of those external factors!

  • Ken

    Do you mind sharing what you shot at Austin Country Club as an 8 handicap with zero course knowledge?

    • The Itinerant Golfer

      My game was a struggle in Austin and I was certainly not playing to my 8 handicap I ended the season with last year. I shot a smooth 93 at ACC. Not exactly what I had hoped for!!

      • Ken

        All things considered, that score is not too far from what I would have predicted. There may be one or two holes that do not give the player an easy opportunity to find either water, canyon, or OB. The course’s saving grace for the average golfer — and a huge one at that — is its beauty. Nearly every hole is memorable and a handful are simply stunning.

        • The Itinerant Golfer

          I agree. It’s beautiful and there are a bunch of really good golf holes there . . . they just happen to be really tough too!

  • Gregory

    Great to see that you had a good golf trip to Austin and got to play Austin C.C. Definitely one of the harder courses around. And Spanish Oaks also. Lots of good golf in Austin.