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Texas Tee, Austin-Style

Away from the resort, the Golf Club at Star Ranch is Austin's newest daily fee jewel. Wide open and seven thousand yards from the tips, this is grip-it-and-rip-it golf with gorgeous rolling terrain. First-class amenities include carts with onboard Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems and a ranch-style clubhouse with a restaurant and lounge that overlook the course. During the baseball season you might run into Nolan Ryan or his son Reid, who own and manage the Astros' double-A team, the Round Rock Express. The team's new stadium (box office: 512-255-2255) is conveniently located on the way back to town. If you haven't checked out minor-league ball, this is the place to do it--top-notch players grace the field and every seat feels like the front row.

Other celebrated courses include the ColoVista Country Club, which runs through the Lost Pines of neighboring Bastrop. And nothing quite compares to a round at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Golf Club, a rocky, rolling nine-hole track that is open to the public, even when Willie's playing one of his trademark thirty-six- or forty-five-hole rounds.

If you want to play any of the four top-notch courses at Barton Creek, you'll have to stay at the Barton Creek Resort, which is fifteen minutes west of the city. With a recent expansion to 295 rooms (the suites are exceptional), a new pool and several restaurants, it has leapt to the forefront of Texas golf resort accommodations.

Closer to Austin's famed downtown nightlife, the Four Seasons overlooks the scullers on Town Lake, and the way-hip Hotel San José is where fifties Austin meets the postmodern martini crowd.

Just outside the city or on the way back to town from playing Pedernales, stop for margaritas and dinner at The Oasis or the Iguana Grill, two Mexican restaurants with outdoor decks that offer thirty-mile vistas of Lake Travis's sparkling blue waters. Both places are often jammed with a young party crowd. Also at Lake Travis, owner and chef Jeff Blank's Hudson's on the Bend may be the best wild-game restaurant in America. The signature "Mixed Grill" includes antelope, rabbit, venison sausage and buffalo, each in its own distinctive sauce. Finger-licking barbeque is everywhere, but you won't regret making the half-hour drive to the Salt Lick. For Tex-Mex, try the roasted-green-chile enchiladas at Chuy's; or you can try Güero's, where the homemade corn tortillas are worth the price of the whole meal.

With five hundred live acts playing country, rock and roll, blues and jazz almost every weekend, it's hard to dispute Austin's claim as the live-music capital of the world. The Backyard and Antone's are local favorites presenting a mix of Texan and national acts. Follow the crowd in the nightclub area around Fourth and Colorado and you'll end up at the Bitter End Bistro & Brewery or the rooftop bar at a prohibition-style hotspot called Speakeasy.


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