As the sun goes down, a dozen deer surround the eighteenth green at the Fazio Foothills course in Austin, Texas, but you're focused on avoiding the bat cave in the middle of the fairway. Overhead, the sky hangs in a soothing, purple shroud that pioneer Texans named the Violet Crown. Soon you'll be heading out for some Texas cooking--rattlesnake cakes and smoked quail at Hudson's on the Bend or family-style sausage, ribs and brisket at the Salt Lick. Then it's on to hear a few Texas tunes--Willie Nelson singing under the stars at the Backyard or nine-time Grammy winners Asleep at the Wheel, who'll be packing 'em in at Antone's. Combine all that with fifty golf courses within a fifty-mile radius, and this former groovers paradise for hippies and college kids has turned into one of the best golf and nightlife destinations in the world.
The sixteenth-largest city in the U.S., Austin has a regional population of more than a million people who are served by the brand new Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Fly nonstop from thirty-five U.S. cities (including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Newark, San Jose and D.C.), then rent a car to make the half-hour drive to Barton Creek Resort or to downtown hotels.
Take your weekend warm-up round on the Fazio Foothills course at Barton Creek Resort. In a dramatic Hill Country setting, Fazio's first Austin masterpiece calls for accurate drives and creative shots. Woods, water and dramatic elevation changes make this course a visual delight. The 275-yard par-four twelfth provides a drive-the-green birdie opportunity but is followed by a 477-yard par four that calls for a "Hail Mary" drive. Each side closes with a classic: nine, a great par three with a ball-eating waterfall; and eighteen, an uphill par five with a lake awaiting your tee shot, a mid-fairway bat cave obstructing your second and a ravine guarding the green on your approach. You won't find a prettier or harder closing hole in Texas.
And your weekend just gets better, because the new Fazio Canyons course (also at Barton Creek) both outshines and outplays its older sister. Routed through a series of deep limestone canyons, the track has water on most holes, along with native grasses, wildflowers and thick woods. The challenge on these gorgeous holes is to concentrate on every shot. Crossing the same creek twice, eighteen is another incredible closer that requires a booming drive, a smart layup to the right of a tall tree that guards the green and finally a delicate wedge. If you shoot your handicap here, it's a cause for celebration.
Barton Creek also boasts the Crenshaw Cliffside course, a unique marriage of Texas hills and Ben Crenshaw's traditional-design approach that calls for the golfer to shape his shots to the lay of the land. Barton Creek's fourth track, overlooking Lake Travis and a half-hour drive from the main resort, is the Palmer Lakeside course, with ample fairways that beg for big drives.
The Barton Creek Golf Advantage School is a state-of-the-art facility with a double-ended range, extensive short-game practice areas and a computerized video system that will let you view your swing side by side with Tiger's. But don't blame the computer for what you see.