San Antonio thrill rides: Golf courses in the Alamo City have no shortage of exciting holes
SAN ANTONIO -- Beyond the seventh hole on the Resort Course at the Westin La Cantera golf resort is the unmistakable backdrop of the Rattler roller coaster at the Six Flags theme park of Fiesta Texas.
The proximity is appropriate, and for golfers, it's a good debate. Which is scarier? Trying to drive the green on the steeply downhill seventh with water all down the right side or zipping up and around the rickety Rattler, hoping you're not too sore when the ride is over to play golf. In both cases, there's an element of trust. You could lose a golf ball or two on the Resort Course or you could lose your hat on the Rattler. And both are fun.
If you like roller coasters and thrill rides, Six Flags Fiesta Texas is your kind of place. Including the rides in the water park portion of the park, Fiesta Texas has 18 attractions it would classify as thrill rides. Of those, more than a half dozen are roller coasters, and then there's something called "Scream," a harrowing tower that drops its victims more than 20 stories.
There's nothing on the golf courses in San Antonio that will make you scream, but appropriately enough, there are plenty of courses that have adventurous holes with plenty of twists and turns. Here's a sampling:
Westin La Cantera Resort
While the downhill seventh hole on La Cantera's Resort Course is the most obvious thrill ride hole here, harrowing holes with plenty of steep drops and great views are a theme on both courses at the resort. In fact, La Cantera's Arnold Palmer Course has more elevation changes and steeper grades than the Resort Course, but both are extremely fun.
The Resort Course, which was home to the PGA Tour's Texas Open for 15 years up until 2010, gives golfers all sorts of risk-reward options with drivable par 4s and downhill, reachable par 5s. Elevated tees are common throughout both courses, but none is as pronounced as the long, downhill, par-4 18th on the Palmer Course. If it were a ski slope, you could jump a row of buses where the fairway levels out, only to reveal another 100-plus-foot drop to the green and surrounding water below. If you've ever dreamed of hitting a 200-yard 7 iron, this is your chance.
The Bandit Golf Club
A little under the radar to outsiders, locals know about the Bandit Golf Club, a Keith Foster gem located just outside of San Antonio in New Braunfels.
This reasonably priced, daily-fee course has all manner of holes, but most memorable are the holes with elevated tees and dramatic outcroppings of rocks and streams. There's also the Redan sixth, a par 3 with a very interesting green.
While there are several holes with elevated tees, the 18th probably sums up the course best. This 552-yard, risk-reward par 5 gets extremely interesting with a big drive. The green is located on the right side of a deep creek that divides the second half of the hole in half.
The green, perched just on the other side of the creek, is flanked by a steep slope on the other side that can help players trying to reach the green in two. If it hangs up on that hill to the right of the green, however, all bets are off for par -- or perhaps even bogey.
Olympia Hills Golf & Conference Center
Owned by the San Antonio suburb of Universal City, the Olympia Hills golf course is a terrific Baxter Spann design that features plenty of thrill ride holes. In fact, there are seven holes that drop more 50 feet from tee to green.
The nearly 7,000-yard layout has all kinds of natural undulation, plus a few man-made mounds as well, to form one of the San Antonio area's favorite daily fee courses. Elevated tees rule from the third through eighth holes, then it picks back up on the 11th and 13th. There are also hundreds of mature live oaks to get in the way of errant tee shots and create a number of interesting angles back to the greens.
Quarry Golf Club
Quarry Golf Club is, quite simply, a San Antonio institution. While the front nine is an enjoyable, rather flat, links-style layout, the back nine couldn't be more different.
Cut out of an old limestone quarry, the majority of the holes are framed by 50- or 60-foot rock walls that sometime aid players on errant shots. It’s not uncommon to get a bounce back to the green or fairway, but it's more common to find your ball among the rocks if you hit a wild shot.
Beyond the uniqueness, you'll enjoy all the holes on the Quarry. No two are alike, and all are memorable, especially on the back nine on this wonderful Foster design.
The best time to play The Quarry is spring and fall, because it can get a little hot during the summer. If you play it in the heat, just make sure you tip the course's helpful cart girls. You'll need them.
The Republic Golf Club
Just 10 minutes from downtown, you'll love the views and the feel of the topography of the Republic Golf Club. The course follows Salado Creek, winding through the trees with plenty of room off the fairways, which always makes a course fun.
Where this course really sends you for a ride is on the par 5s and the sloping greens. Designed by Art Schaupeter, a former Foster associate, you can make hay on the par 5s by taking a little risk. There is also a drivable par 4, the 16th -- although a lake and a pot bunker in front of the green stand in the way.
Operated by the same folks who run The Bandit -- Foresight Golf -- the Republic was voted San Antonio's No. 1 daily-fee course several years running.
AT&T Canyons at TPC San Antonio
Although it might seem odd, the Pete Dye-designed AT&T Canyons Course at TPC San Antonio is the more playable of the two layouts at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort, and it's definitely the most fun.
The latter is not surprising since the Greg Norman-designed AT&T Oaks Course, host of the Texas Open on the PGA Tour, might be the toughest in Texas.
The Canyons Course, which was co-designed by Bruce Lietzke and is the new home of the Champions Tour's AT&T Championship, has better views, more forgiving fairways and a lot more elevation change. With more of a links-style feel, the Canyons Course has a ton of movement, including a few blind shots.
The par 3s are particularly good. The eighth is short but uphill to a raised green; the 16th plays over a deep arroyo to a green perched some 200 yards away.
May 10, 2011