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There's Golf In Them Thar Texas Hills

At night, after a life-restoring massage at the spa, head into town for the state's best nightlife--beginning with dinner. Austin has a number of new, well-regarded restaurant options. Indeed, the town's become something of a mecca for itinerant "foodies." If you're under twenty-five, you already know about Sixth Street's music bars and honky-tonks. If you're over forty, it won't kill you to learn what your kids and grandkids are listening to. Antone's for blues. The Broken Spoke for country (and dancing). La Zona Rosa for whatever's newest, hottest, loudest. TheChronicle, a free newspaper that comes out on Thursdays, tells you who's playing where.

You'll also need to find a couple of hours in your Hill Country golf vacation for a round at the Pedernales Country Club and Cut 'N Putt, Willie Nelson's nine-holer. You wouldn't go all the way to the Hill Country just to play here, but you can't go all the way to the Hill Country and not play here. Just be respectful at all times of Willie's rule to "leave the course in the condition in which you'd like to be found. And if your ball ends up in an unplayable or merely unpleasant lie, local rules permit--some say require--you to pick it up and stroll to a more agreeable location for a free drop."

THE BEST TIME TO PLAN A DEEP-IN-THE- heart-of-Texas golf trip is in the spring, when the Hill Country is in full bloom. Fall is also nice, with warm days and crisp nights, but wildflower season--mid-March through early May--is Mother Nature's pride and joy. Winter's a bit riskier, but the mean high temperature is 60.5 degrees Fahrenheit, so you don't need to worry about frostbite.

There's one hazard of Hill Country golf that you must avoid at all costs: late-afternoon spring and summer thunderstorms. Even if you're in the middle of a career-best round, head to the clubhouse at the first distant rumble. Texas weather can turn violent in less time than it takes a full wedge to come down, and when it does, you will want something sturdier over you than the top of a golf cart.

Summer?Sure, if you don't mind playing under a noonday sun hot enough to set your head covers on fire.

But whenever you decide to go, do remember to tip your visor on the first tee to the nongolfer whose abiding love for the Texas Hill Country made the next eighteen holes of your life possible--Lyndon Baines Johnson.•

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