By James McAfee
After spending three days at the newly-renovated Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, secluded on 4,000 acres in the rolling hills of Austin, Texas, in April, 2022, it’s easy to see why it was named among the top five resorts in the Southwest by Conde Nast Traveler and the top five resorts in Texas by Texas Travel + Leisure World.
It’s the perfect place for a vacation for golfers because you have the opportunity to play any of the four courses designed by nationally known architects like Tom Fazio, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore and Arnold Palmer and enjoy the luxurious accommodations along with members of its private club.
The Fazio Canyons, ranked third in the state among courses that are open to the public by Golfweek, re-opened in the fall of 2022 after a major $5 million renovation that included the addition of new tees, allowing the course to be lengthened to 7,433 yards–long enough to handle major events with players hitting 300+ drives. Getting input from members of Barton Creek, new forward orange tees were also added, shortening the length for short hitters to 4,600 yards.
The re-do also included a new state-of-the-art practice facility. Rufus Brijalba, the Barton Creek director of golf, believes the addition of Toptracker Range technology that allows members and resort guests to track data about their shots along with the Barton Creek Golf Academy and Barton Creek Fitting Center will make coming here a “one-stop destination for game improvements.”
Fazio Canyons, located two miles away from the resort, offers plenty of awe-inspiring views of the roller-coaster ups and downs facing players with scenic holes framed by Red Oaks and Sycamore trees plus limestone cliffs. Short Springs creek adds to the challenge when playing risk-reward chances. The course was the first one in the state certified as an Audubon International Signature Sanctuary. The new Canyons Clubhouse sits at the edge of the driving range.
Most golfers feel the Fazio Foothills, ranked eighth in the state by Golfweek, is just as dramatic and many feel places even more premium on shot-making. It offers elevated tee boxes and equally thrilling up and down roller-coaster rides to the fairways and greens that are protected by cliffs, creeks and waterfalls. It plays only 7,087 from the back tees, but played host to the Legends of Golf event on the Champions Tour back in 1990-1994 and more recently the 2022 PGA National Championship. It will be closed from June 2023 until Oct. 1 2023 for more renovations.
The Coore-Crenshaw Creekside course, ranked 10th in the state by Golfweek after being renovated in 2017, features wider sweeping fairways lined with plenty of trees. It’s shorter than the two Fazio courses, but it’s the large greens that will give players the most problems. First-timers will have more three-putts and even an occasional four-putt if they do not get on the correct corners.
Guests of the resort can also drive 45 minutes to play Palmer Lakeside, located on a secluded hilltop overlooking Lake Travis, offering dramatic elevation changes with panoramic views of the lake. It also was being renovated, but will re-open Oct. 1.
The last hole on the three courses near the resort all offered lasting memories for our group of four seniors that included my cousin, Eldon Tarver, a starter-marshall at the resort who was our host.
The 18th on the Foothills heads back up the hill toward the resort hotel, making it longer than the 560 yards listed on the scorecard. A few of the long hitters might have a chance of getting home in two, but most will layup short of a penalty area where they can hit a short iron over a natural limestone cave and a bunker.
A word of caution: take a little more club than you think you need even if the flag is on the front. It’s easier to make par that way than ending up in the penalty area. Trying to play out of it isn’t easy as our opponents that day discovered.
The 18th on the Canyons is a double dogleg par 5 of 562 yards carved through bunkers with a stream just short of the green. Getting home in two is possible, but most will need three shots. After the trees on the right side caught by second shot, I could not get over the creek on my third shot. My partner and I thought we might still have one last chance, but an opponent’s ball headed for the stream actually bounced off a rock and onto the green.
The 18th on Cliffside is a 393-yard par 4 with a wide-open fairway where you need to definitely be a little longer off the tee or be faced with a very difficult approach over a running creek to a green that appears to be etched into the hillside. My partner and I ended up in the penalty area and never had a chance as our opponents avoided the creek.
In addition to golf, Barton Creek Resort, which has 493 rooms and suites, also is an ultimate retreat for those who want to relax under the care of an experienced massage therapist in the world-class 13,000-square-foot Mokara Spa or swim in three heated pools and work out in the 35,000-square-foot fitness center.
If you can find the time, there’s plenty to do in Austin, “The Live Music Capital of the World.” With 76,000-square-feet of meeting spaces, it also hosts many weddings and conventions. Plenty of dining options are available at the Blind Salamander Kitchen and Bar, Bob’s Steak and Chop House, Nopales, Crenshaw’s Bar and Eatery, Jim Bob’s Lobby Lounge, Travis Pool Bar and Grill, Velvet Joe’s Coffee House and Canyon Grill.
It’s definitely a place where you will have memories to last for a long time or until you can return!