If you’ve ever had to entertain out-of-town guests, playing just one round that perfectly typifies golf in this uncommonly hilly region, Barton Creek’s Fazio Foothills and Fazio Canyons courses surely made your short list. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the convergence of humbling native panoramas and equally awe-inspiring luxury residential communities, the resort is a local icon. In the ritzy West Lake Hills community filled with mansions on hills, Barton Creek is THE Mansion on the Hill.
Through the years, the Resort and Country Club have grown and expanded their offerings to cement Barton Creek’s reputation as one of the most versatile resort properties in the state. Golf is this Central Texas destination’s calling card but the 309-room resort also does brisk conference and wedding business. The renovated Three Springs Spa is garnering buzz as one of the best centers for wellness and rejuvenation in the area.
“The energy never really stops when you have a marquee resort and a large, active country club operation,” says Director of club management Mike Sizemore. “Day or night, you could come here and get a taste of what people love about being in the Hill Country. There’s a connection to nature and always a social or entertainment event going on that’s just true to the Texas experience.”
The Crenshaw Cliffside and Arnold Palmer-designed Lakeside (a half-hour’s drive from the resort) courses have more than their share of unforgettable holes and spectacular views and are must-plays in their own right, but the duo of Tom Fazio designs are consistently ranked among the very best public-access (open to guests of members and the resort) in the state. The Fazio Canyons Course is Texas’ top-ranked ‘course you can play by Golf Digest, GOLF Magazine and The Dallas Morning News. Should you need further validation, our recent playing partner, a taciturn 16-year-old, characterized the Canyons layout as “ridiculous” and the conditions “completely sick.” Say no more, you say? Don’t worry. He didn’t.
While the Fazio Foothills course undergoes a large-scale restoration, the Fazio Canyons has the opportunity to shine. With spectacular views of plunging Hill Country landscapes, limestone-bed creeks meandering throughout the property and mature oaks and native vegetation guarding the fairways, this 7,153-yard, par 72 layout presents a four-hour commune with unspoiled nature.
“It’s easy to put the Canyons course in same conversation as some of the best courses Mr. Fazio has ever designed. The design fits the land and does an incredible job exposing the property’s best natural features while still keeping pure shot values,” Sizemore says. “Everything’s right in front of you and nothing’s tricked up. The creeks and shelf rock and all that exposed limestone… It’s reminiscent of a hike through the greenbelt. You just escape into the round.”
The Fazio Canyons is a brawny and rugged course that is breathtakingly scenic at every turn. To navigate its landscapes, you will need one of your best ball-striking rounds. “There’s no way to fake it on this golf course. The angles really demand that you play solid tee shots to the correct part of the fairway. The landing areas are generous, but because there’s so much native Hill Country terrain beyond the fairways, missing with your driver can make for a really long day,” Sizemore warns.
Boasting one of the best and most diverse collections of par 4s in the state, this course is all about pacing and knowing when to be patient vs. aggressive. “This course has these little runs or segments that separate tough stretches of holes from the ones where you have really good scoring opportunities. “Early on, holes 2, 3, 4 and 5 present chances to jumpstart your round with good scores,” Sizemore advises.
At 385 and 330 yards, holes two and four give golfers the chance to ease into the round, playing short-iron shots to receptive greens. The second hole plays downhill and doglegs right. Any drive too far right will face a blind approach. The 596-yard fifth (just 516 yards from the middle tees) is an zigzagging three-shot hole and another good chance for birdie.
“Holes seven through 10 can be really challenging,” Sizemore continues, pointing emphatically to the hulking 457-yard ninth that plays slightly uphill with a creek running the full length of the right side of the hole. “You’ve got to connect with two really solid shots to have a chance at par.”
With two short par 4s and a wide-open 545-yard par 5 at holes 12, 13 and 14, Fazio provides another chance to gain momentum in your round while taking in views of the surrounding nature preserve.
The round finishes with one of the most memorable par 5s in the region, winding 561-yarder with a creek crossing just beyond the landing area on the tee shot (or in it for the big hitters) and another rippling book crossing the width of the hole just in front of the green.
“A par 5 as your finisher is really the ultimate way to finish a round and this one, like so many of the great ones makes you strategize and plan the way you’ll play the hole in reverse,” Sizemore says. “Your first two shots must be designed to give you a comfortable approach from the perfect distance. With the creek to cross on that last approach, it’s really the perfect way to finish the round, with one last thrill.”
The Fazio Canyons course is also home to a state-of-the-art practice area and the acclaimed Barton Creek Golf Academy which is spearheaded by award-winning instructor Brech Spradley. “It’s a great testament to the quality of practice area you have when local Tour players ask if they can come practice here and that’s something that happens quite often. It’s not unusual to see former (University of Texas) players out here or local guys like Nick Watney or Omar Uresti working on their games.”
A world-class clubhouse is coming soon at the Fazio Canyons Course, giving members and guests a stately new congregation “hearth” and adding to the legacy of an already-celebrated layout.
The Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa recently partnered with YETI Coolers on the “Keep Your Cool on the Course” package which includes a round of golf per adult per day, resort accommodations, one YETI Hopper Flip 12 cooler and one 10-oz Lowball YETI Rambler.
To take advantage of golf packages and other opportunities to discover a golf destination that truly gets better with age, visit omnihotels.com/hotels/austin-barton-creek. www.omnihotels.com/hotels/austin-barton-creek.
By Carl Mickelson
OTL Golf Writer