Warm Winter Weather Golf Trip: TPC San Antonio

TPC San Antonio lies deep in the heart of Texas’ Hill Country, utilizing the surrounding terrain and year-long golf weather to provide two excellent golf course experiences. The Canyons Course is the more player-friendly, although you wouldn’t want to call the Pete Dye design necessarily “easy.” The Oaks Course is home to the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open and is a stiffer test of golf skills. The two courses complement each other well with the Oaks featuring more tree-lined fairways and little elevation changes, while the Canyons course utilizes the elevation changes to lay out interesting views and hole designs as it winds through the Cibolo Canyons nature preserve.
Both courses feature Bermuda grasses, rugged bunkering, and, if a ball strays too far from the fairway, native areas throughout. While no means a predominant feature, water comes into play on a few holes as well.
Anchoring the entire golf experience is a first-class clubhouse and practice areas adjacent the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country resort. The clubhouse features a full pro shop and restaurant. Rental clubs are available and GPS enabled carts make for a relaxing round. The practice area features an expansive driving range and short game areas. Anyone wishing to work on their game will enjoy the availability and variety of putting and chipping areas.
TPC San Antonio
As mentioned, just up the hill, at the resort are a number of other dining options and guests staying there will enjoy an on-site water park complete with water slides, pools, and a lazy river encircling it all. For a more tranquil experience, the spa offers many relaxing and restorative treatments as well. And, don’t forget this is San Antonio which offers incredible food, music, and culture.
But – back to the golf. Only members and guests at the resort can get on, and tee times at each course rotate daily, with access available only to one of the tracks each day. The somewhat exclusive access makes for a country club feel and an easygoing round. When we played near a busy holiday weekend, the pace of play remained excellent all day with very few waits and no one pushing us either. With no homes or other on-course development besides the resort, we were in our own world for most of the day.
The Oaks Course
The Oaks was designed by Greg Norman with the help of player consultant, Sergio Garcia. It’s the course you see on TV when the PGA Tour comes to San Antonio. It stretches to over 7400 yards for the pros, but don’t worry, with five sets of tee boxes, there is sure to be one that fits your game.
The course opens up with what seems to be a pretty straightforward par 4, but don’t let the look from the tee fool you. The green is large, but narrow with bunkering that can swallow a wayward approach. Once on the green, there are subtle undulations to the green that make it tough to find the right line.
TPC San Antonio - Cibolo view
From there the course often plays downhill into the prevailing winds and uphill with the wind behind you. The finishing holes are perhaps the best known to viewers and offer some unique challenges. Number 16 will be perhaps one of the most unique green complexes you’ll ever tackle. The mid-length par three green has bunkering around and IN the green with a deep pot bunker in the center and a tiered putting surface. Moving on to the 17th brings up, for some, a driveable par four. It plays anywhere from 250 – 350 yards with a steep bank and bunkering right and a dropoff left to more bunkers. Golfers can lay up to a wider landing zone and a good yardage in, but a drive down the middle will experience a lot of rollout, extending a well hit shot up to or onto the green. Rounding out the round is a par 5 with a tee shot that looks tighter than it is. From there, the latter part of the fairway is diagonally bisected by a creek which poses more than a couple of decisions: go for the green, lay up short and left, or aim up the right and have a simple pitch across the creek. However you decide to play it, don’t forget to enjoy the scenery along the way.
The Canyons Course
The Canyons course is a Pete Dye design and if you’ve ever wanted to tackle one of his layouts, this might be the one to try first. It played host to a PGA Tour Champions event for several years after its opening and extends to 7100 yards, but again, with its five sets of tees, any golfer can feel at home.
The opening hole plays alongside the resort, just beside the spa and is a great opening hole to get your feet under you for the rest of the round. It plays uphill and maxes out around 350 yards. There are some bunkers to avoid, but generally it is a nice straightforward start to the round.
TPC San AntonioFrom there the course runs through the hill country terrain with fairly generous fairways and lots of elevation changes that provide great views of the course and the native hill country it occupies. Club selection along the way is important with holes playing up and down hills and yes, canyons. The primary challenge to the course lies in both the bunkering (there are 115 that dot the course) and those elevation changes with more than one fairway bordered by a steep dropoff into thick rough and native areas with rocky ground and numerous live oaks and other native vegetation.
The eighth hole is the highest point on the course offering views of the surrounding area that are worth taking a moment to soak in. The ninth plays downhill to a green that sits not far from the halfway house where some quick refreshment can be had before taking on the back nine. The views continue on the tenth hole as golfers prepare to hit their second shots are treated to a wide view of the canyons backstopped by the resort on the opposite peak.
Throughout, the excellent greens are fair, quick, and can be a challenging read. The sand is heavier and coarser than on the Oaks course, probably owing to the latter’s need to pop on the small screens on tournament week. Regardless of the reason, make sure to hit a few bunker shots while warming up from the proper sand to get the feel and be ready when (not if) you need it.
The Experience
A final word is in order about the entire experience at TPC San Antonio. When we played, we noted the excellent service provided throughout the day. Staff members seemed to always be there when you needed them and kept out of our way when not. They even went out of their way to find a rangefinder left behind by one of our group. That all just makes TPC San Antonio a great place to play and a wonderful vacation perfect for those of us that live in cooler climates in fall, winter, and early spring. Where else can you get eye-popping views, great golf, top-notch service, and a fun, inviting resort all in one place?