In the 2022–’23 season, Texas is home to five PGA Tour stops, including two tournaments in March, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Valero Texas Open. While several of the host venues for these events are private, others offer the public a chance to tee it up, with the opportunity to walk in famous footsteps.
Texas’s sheer size and diversity of landscapes yield fistfuls of tremendous public-access tracks. Joining that roster in May are the two new courses at PGA Frisco, Fields Ranch East and Fields Ranch West, designed by Gil Hanse and Beau Welling, respectively. We’ll reserve judgement on those layouts until the proper time.
For now, here are the 12 best courses you can play in Texas.
Omni Barton Creek (Fazio Canyons)—Austin
Newly renovated in 2022, this 7,433-yard, 23-year-old Tom Fazio creation sits two miles from the resort. However, it’s well worth the short ride to sample holes that are handsomely framed by oaks and sycamores, especially those that tangle with the Short Springs Branch, a limestone creek bed that adds beauty and menace.
TPC San Antonio (Oaks)—San Antonio
Home to the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open since 2010, this Greg Norman design (with Sergio Garcia consulting) is open to guests of the next-door JW Marriott. Occasionally, the course can be inhospitable to your scorecard—just ask Kevin Na, who made a 16 on the par-four 9th in 2011. Small, severely sectionalized greens, heavy contour around the greens, and a bunker jabbed into the middle of the 16th green are among the design gambits that vex the pros. If those traits don’t get you, the slender fairways, steep-lipped bunkers, and abundant oaks will.
Ninety miles southeast of Dallas sits this 20-year-old Jay Morrish design carved from a dense pine thicket that tumbles over Pinehurst-like natural sandhills. Combine Jay’s signature design schemes, such as option-laden, short par fours and risk/reward par fives, with his son Carter’s affinity for big, bold bunkers and you have a handsome challenge in an unlikely East Texas locale.
The Rawls Course at Texas Tech—Lubbock
Out on the high plains of the West Texas panhandle, scholarly architect Tom Doak transformed a 268-acre, tabletop-flat former cotton field into a heaving, tumbling, brilliantly bunkered final exam in golf. The wind howls here, so Doak wisely sculpted ultra-wide fairways and moved sufficient dirt to create peaks and valleys that mimic the canyons south and east of Lubbock, resulting in superior shotmaking variety.
Omni Barton Creek (Fazio Foothills)—Austin
Tom Fazio’s on-site 1986 design helped quickly establish Barton Creek’s reputation as the state’s premier golf resort owing to holes that plunge into dense woods and emerge from deep valleys. The 110-foot drop from the 10th tee to fairway landing area is memorable, as is Texas’s most famous closing hole (and a favorite of former President George W. Bush), a 560-yard par five that features a natural limestone cave.
Black Jack’s Crossing at Lajitas Golf Resort—Terlingua
This 2011 design from Lanny Wadkins took its cues from a pre-existing layout on the site from 2006 called the Ambush that featured an optional par-three green located in Mexico, with its tee in Texas. Today’s 7,413-yard par 72 course didn’t retain the gimmick, but as befits the Wadkins style, boasts plenty of risk/reward holes. It also possesses the rugged grandeur of its Big Bend National Park setting, along the edge of the Rio Grande.
Texas Rangers Golf Club—Arlington
Texas Rangers, unique as an MLB-themed layout, was designed by John Colligan and Trey Kemp in 2019. It replaced a 36-year-old muni on the site called Chester W. Ditto. This trade definitely worked out. The 7,010-yard par 72 spread features wide, mildly concaved fairways, imaginative bunkering, and large greens. It’s also conveniently situated to many of the region’s top entertainment options, but with holes such as the 605-yard par-five 9th, which features cascading streams of water, all the entertainment you’ll need is right here.
The Tribute—The Colony
Located in the northern suburbs of Dallas, this Tripp Davis design is comprised of homages to Scotland’s greatest links holes. Having played most of the real versions, I’ll say that architect Davis nailed these homages. The St. Andrews holes are skillfully reproduced and the lesser-known gems (tributes to Nairn, Moray, and Western Gailes) are seamlessly integrated. Artfully placed bunkers and breezes off very visible Lake Lewisville add to the authenticity.
The only NFL-themed golf complex in existence, Cowboys scores a touchdown with its presentation and its design. Architect Jeff Brauer built a strong test amid Hill Country-type elevation change, with just enough ravines, lakes, Texas-sized bunkers, and contoured greens to hold your attention at every hole, notably at the par-four 4th, which features a blue Dallas Cowboys star in the middle of the landing area.
Old American—The Colony
The nearby sibling to Tripp Davis’s design at The Tribute, Old American features a design collaboration between Davis and Dallas resident Justin Leonard. It has played host to an LPGA Tour event, The Ascendant LPGA Benefiting Volunteers of America, since 2018. Located on the edge of 23,000-acre Lake Lewisville, Old American emphasizes width and angles, amid strategic bunkering, calling to mind American Heartland classics from the 1920s.
This Depression-era creation from John Bredemus, who also authored fabled Colonial in Ft. Worth, played host to 14 of the PGA Tour’s Houston Opens from 1947 to 1963, when winners included Arnold Palmer, Jackie Burke Jr., Cary Middlecoff, and Bobby Locke. Current home to the Cadence Bank Houston Open since 2020, Memorial Park benefited from a 2019 remodeling by Tom Doak, with Brooks Koepka consulting, which resulted in a more open course, with only 19 bunkers. However, it proved newly testing at 7,292 yards, with heightened risk/reward opportunities (especially down the stretch) and greens marked by steep falloffs and short grass surrounds, placing a premium on accurate approaches and creative recoveries.
Golf Club of Houston (Tournament)—Humble
A modern bomb-and-gouge track by Rees Jones (with David Toms consulting), the 7,622-yard par 72 layout played host to the PGA Tour’s Houston Open from 2006 through 2019. During most of those years, it was set up at tournament time in the spring to mimic Augusta National, which helped it draw strong fields, with winners that included Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, and Ian Poulter. Formerly known as Redstone, this wide, yet watery layout closes in big-boy fashion, with a 484-yard par four. A lake left and a bunker right squeeze the landing area, though even if you split the middle, liquid disaster still lurks for the pulled approach—just ask 2014 victim Matt Kuchar.
What are your favorite golf courses in Texas?