By the middle of March in Virginia the golf season starts to slowly come out of hibernation. The bermuda grass begins greening up and we start catching mid-60 to 70 degree days, but it’s still largely a tease because the golf courses don’t really start to hit their stride until mid to late May. In addition to the slow move out of dormancy there are also spring maintenance issues like greens aerations to deal with. It’s a tough time of year with the golf itch flaring up and good weather on the forecast, but not having the courses in their prime.
Knowing that I still had a couple of months before Virginia courses would be at their peak I happily accepted an invitation from a Andy, one of my fellow golf nuts, to come down and see what Texas golf was all about. The hill country courses in Texas are a few months ahead of Virginia so they would be in ideal shape for my trip in early April. I was pretty excited to hit balls off of actual grass for a change. It also didn’t hurt that the trip dates coincided with The Masters. I always love being on a golf trip for the majors so I can play in the morning and lazily watch the coverage in the afternoon.
As the time for the trip drew near I left all the planning in Andy hands. We would play at the two courses where he is a member and then figure the rest out on the fly. There are tons of options available in the Austin area and I had never played golf in the Texas hill country so anything would be new to me. Upon my arrival Andy and his buddy A.C. picked me up at the airport mid-morning and then after a stop at his house to drop the luggage we drove out Andy’s club Spanish Oaks.
Spanish Oaks Golf Club is located in Bee Cave, TX which is just on the outskirts of Austin. The club is all about golf which means no swimming pools, tennis or other facilities often found at “country clubs”. The course was designed by Bobby Weed and opened in 2006. I’d heard some really good things Bobby Weed and specifically about Spanish Oaks so I was looking forward to seeing the course.
There are no tee times at Spanish Oaks so once we met up with Andy’s friend Paul and our caddies we hit a couple of range balls and wandered over to the 1st tee.
There are four tee options at Spanish Oaks with the two longest being 6,954 yards and 6,462 yards. With my golf game still coming out of winter hibernation I was glad that the shorter option was suggested. Below is a photo taken from the first tee. From our gold tees this hole is a 554 yard par 5. There is plenty of room to the right and trouble for balls that miss the fairway left of the tree.
The photo below is of the first green which is a two tiered affair. The lower hole location in play today seems to be a little more forgiving in my opinion. I’m a big fan of the furry edges on the bunkers as well.
The 2nd hole pictured from the tee below is a great par 4 that we played from 405 yards. Despite the fairway being incredibly generous I managed to jack my tee shot left into the junk both times we played here. The fairway dips down in front of the green so approach shots that come up short of the green can leave a difficult to gauge pitch to the green.
At the 3rd hole we have a nice mid-length par 3 of 160 yards with a large green. The photo below shows a swale in the middle of the green which makes for a tricky putt back to the hole if it is cut in the front like today.
Below is a photo taken from the 4th tee which is a 430 yard par 4 from the gold tees. This hole is fairly long so a good drive here will go a long way towards making par.
The photo below is of the 4th green. Note the hazard running across the fairway. This really shouldn’t come into play, but I can attest that it can be a problem if you have to chip out of the junk back into the fairway.
I had to include the below photo of the “comfort station”. This is a popular feature at clubs in Texas. Its not quite a halfway house, but it is loaded up with self service snacks and drinks. With the summer heat in Texas I suppose it pays to stay hydrated.
The 5th hole, pictured below from the tee, is a moderate length par 4 that we played from 385 yards. Anything in the fairway here will yield a good approach into the green. That said, one of the players in our group sliced his drive way down to the right of the fairway into the thick stuff. His caddie managed to find it and he made an all world bogey from DEEP in the weeds.
I loved this green site for the 5th hole. The prevailing slope is from left to right and for this hole location it is imperative to hit the approach to the left of the flag. Anything to the right has a good chance of rolling all the way off the green. Even shots that land off the green to the left will have a good chance of kicking down onto the green.
At the 6th hole we have a nice little short par 4 playing 290 yards from the gold tees. By this time in the round I was well aware that I wasn’t swinging my best and I was happy to be able to hit a utility club off the tee instead of my driver. A 200-210 yard shot will land about even with the front bunker by the two caddies and leave a shot pitch to the green. On the tee Andy commented that he sees a lot more double bogeys here than birdies. I took note of that and because I’m such a gracious guest I went ahead and made double from 90 yards out in the middle of the fairway just to prove him right.
The photo below was taken from the 9th tee. This is a 385 yard par 4 where the landing area for the drive is blind. There is a lot more room up there than it seems and players shouldn’t be afraid to let it rip.
Below is a photo of the 9th green. Once the drive is hit up the hill this hole flattens out and leaves a level approach into the green.
At the 10th hole we have a nice 375 yard par 4 hole. The photo below was taken from the tee box and the green which sits at the bottom of a hill is not visible from the tee. Players who can hit a draw will fare well here with a line up the right side of the hole.
The photo below shows how the green is situated at the bottom of the hill. The approach shot into the green will play downhill and may be a club less than the yardage.
Here we have a closer up photo of the green. This putting surface has two tiers and when the hole location is up top its can require some very delicate short game shots to get it close to the hole. Putting from the wrong tier is an easy way to 3-putt this green.
The 11th hole is a dogleg left 495 yard par 5. With a good tee shot this hole is reachable in two for long hitters. A draw would be the ideal shot shape off the tee for this hole.
Below is a photo of the 11th green. Note the bunkers that are 20-30 yards off the green and span virtually the entire length of the fairway. I’m quite certain these were placed there just for the enjoyment of golfers who thought they could hit the green and two and came up short.
At the 12th hole we have another par 3 and this one plays a stout 189 yards. Most tee shots that miss to the right are likely going to find the creek that runs down that side.
The 13th hole is a long par 4 that we played from 445 yards. The hole plays a touch down hill so that helps to shorten it a little. I should also note here that the conditions at Spanish Oaks were fairly firm and there was additional yardage to be had once the ball hit the ground which I am certainly a fan of.
Below is a photo of the 13th green. It is fairly large and I had some really long putts on this one in both the rounds I played here.
Finally at the 14th hole we reached a short little par 3 of 139 yards. The photo below was taken walking up to the green so it doesn’t show that the hazard was much more of factor from the tee than it appears it would be from this photo.
We have another short par 4 at the 15th hole which played 310 yards. Again, I was happy not to have to hit driver here which greatly increased my chances of finding the fairway. A 200-220 yard shot on a line to the left of the caddies will set up a short approach into the green.
Below is a look at the appraoch shot into the 15th green. If a good drive is hit, the approach will be no more than a wedge. Its important not to be short here.
The fifth and final par 3 (Spanish Oaks is a par 71 course) is at the 16th hole and it is the longest of the group playing 207 yards from the gold tees. The strategy here is hit a long shot and get it on the green.
We played the 17th hole as a 518 yard par 5 from the gold tees. The photo below was taken from the tee box and the best line for the drive is up the right hand side with a draw.
Unfortunately, my photo of the 17th green is not really in context of the hole. All along the left side of the hole are bunkers and a water hazard. This photo was taken from as far left as possible. The fairway would be off to the right side of this photo.
The final hole of the course is a very long par 4 that plays 460 yards from the gold tees. The photo below was taken as we were walking off the tee box. The ideal line is just to the right of the tree in the distance. The fairway falls off so the approach shot plays down hill and helps to shorten the hole a bit.
The photo below was taken from the 18th fairway and illustrates the downhill fall off in the fairway.
I had played very little golf in Texas before this trip . . . three rounds to be exact. Within the first six holes at Spanish Oaks my entire perception of golf in Texas had been changed. Andy had warned me that hill country golf was much different than the rest of the state, but it was still difficult to really know what to expect. What I discovered was a terrain unlike anything I previously thought existed in Texas and was incredibly well suited for golf. At Spanish Oaks Bobby Weed did a great job sculpting the land into a fun and walkable golf course that features a lot of really interesting holes. One of my favorite things in this golf travel adventure is to have my expectations exceeded and Spanish Oaks accomplished that in spades.