Now that Super Bowl LIV has seen our hometown team’s return to a championship and the parade is but a memory (and a hazy one for some), thoughts are starting to center on golf. Glimpses of 40s and 50s send cabin fever-ish golfers to the range or the course, ready to get the season started. But many are also looking forward to trips to warmer climates to really enjoy a start to their golfing year.
While many think of Arizona or Florida as prime destinations, some also look to Texas. And we recently spent some time in the Lone Star state and submit for your consideration, San Antonio. At the time of this writing, its hovering in the mid-30s here in KC, while the Alamo City is enjoying a high of 77 with sunny skies. In other words, it’s perfect for golfing.
While San Antonio has a wide range of golf courses, we’ll focus on a pair of golfing gems that lie north of the airport: Canyon Springs Golf Club and TPC San Antonio.
Canyon Springs Golf Club
When Canyon Springs opened in 1998, it immediately garnered a lot of attention – and it still does. That year, it was named as one of the top new public golf courses in America by both Golf and Golf Digest magazines. The exceptional Texas Hill Country course can play as short as 5200 yards up to 7000 yards. It is impeccably maintained and a great layout with varied challenges all along the way, including the double-fairway on #6 which leaves you plotting and planning before you pull the trigger on the tee box.
The course is under the care of GM, Chris Fink, who used to manage a number of Kansas City’s top courses before moving to Texas a few years ago. “We focus on the experience here,” he said, “whether that means our top notch golf or the numerous weddings and other events we host every year.”
The course opens up with a very manageable dogleg par four. The perfect start to a round of golf with a bit of interest in the dogleg while providing a generous fairway. From there, the course continues on throughout the natural terrain with few houses and lots of natural beauty. It all culminates on the eighteenth green backed by a massive waterfall cascading down natural cliffs into the river below. The site is popular as a wedding site because of all its beauty, and the facilities on-site for hosting such events does not disappoint.
And there’s a bit of history there too. The springs and cool river make for somewhat of a natural oasis that once was a stagecoach stop, with the old buildings still standing and a definite feel of Texas complete with a couple of longhorns in a pen near the clubhouse with horns that stretch over six feet. Add all that up, and blend in a very reasonable green fee (a fraction of what you’ll pay at the courses we talk about next), and Canyon Springs is a must visit when in San Antonio.
TPC San Antonio
As lifelong Marriott points earners, we stayed at the resort that annually hosts the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open. This resort is a vacation in itself with an on-site water park and two nationally recognized golf courses. The AT&T Oaks course plays host to the PGA tour event each year, while the AT&T Canyons holds its own as the “other course” at TPC San Antonio.
If you’ve watched the tournament on TV, you know a bit of how it plays. First, it can play long, stretching to over 7400 yards. There are four other sets of tees though, so you can pick your poison from 5500 yards on up. Designed by Greg Norman with help from Sergio Garcia, it provides a natural look with rugged bunker edging and a routing that blends in well with the Hill Country terrain.
Tee to green, the golf course is not overly difficult, partly owing to a lot of bail out areas that later become green spaces and grandstands for the PGA tour event. But the green complexes are it’s main defense. Difficult bunkering and tiered, fast greens make for a good challenge that don’t discriminate much based on how far you hit it.
The AT&T Canyons course is a much different golf course, which makes a stay there so enjoyable. It is much more hilly, winding up and down the scrubby Hill Country terrain. The course requires a lot more strategy from tee to green, but the green complexes are more manageable, at least for us they were. The Canyons course is no slouch in terms of its history and challenge, having previously hosted PGA Champions tournaments.
The resort itself has numerous on-site dining options, an expansive workout facility, plenty of room and maps for a long run, spa amenities and more. Frequent guest Carl Jackson shared his thoughts, “Our whole family loves this place. The kids enjoy the lazy river and water slides while I get a chance to play some world-class golf. The staff is awesome, and I think our favorite thing of all is the brunch!”
Insider Tip from Jill Faulk: “Get to the waterpark early during summer months and claim your spot – it can fill up quickly. But if you go in the shoulder months like in April or May or later in September or October, you’ll have far fewer crowds to deal with and plenty of warm weather.”
Visiting the Area
Of course, San Antonio has a lot more to offer and a lot more golf courses. Bring your appetite, the food is excellent at both Canyon Springs as well as at the JW Marriott and TPC San Antonio. But if you venture into the city, you’ll find lots of excellent Tex-Mex choices like the famous Mi Tierra. For a wide range of cuisine and a bit of fun, make sure to visit the Pearl District too. And for other sites and attractions, always remember the Alamo.