Whether or not you agree with the venerable tourism slogan that it’s like a whole other country, there’s an argument to be made that Texas is really five different states: Dallas/Fort Worth, West Texas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio. El Paso would likely insist it’s unique enough to be the sixth—no arguments here. The advantage of this realization, though, is knowing that you’re not just “going to Texas” for a getaway or a vacation; you’re going to a part of Texas with very distinct demographics, topography, amenities and activities.
This is true of golfing in Texas, as well, and while it’s clear that golf courses all have a basic level of sameness to them—rolling hills, lots of trees, water traps, bizarrely green spaces in the middle of cities, etc.—the difference in surroundings does show, especially in the various Texases. We visited three Texas “states” to check out the golf, so if you’re there for shopping, sports, wine, music, dining or outdoor adventures, take an opportunity to golf Texas, too.
The Rawls Course is the official course of Texas Tech University—Golfweek ranks it as the third best campus course in the U.S., and Golf Magazine has it as a top 5 in Texas. Just this year, Rawls was the venue for the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship. This cotton field-turned-links course, 7,349 yards and par 72 from the back tees, is open to the public with very affordable rates.
Blake Berry, a former scholarship golfer at OCU and UCO, has played the course many times. “Rawls is very unique,” he said. “It’s a links course with a Western vibe. Because it’s a competition course, it has very complex greens that can be tough, and the Lubbock wind feels like it’s always blowing 30 mph. I love the 18th especially; it’s a par 5 over water, and it’s a beautiful, dramatic way to finish a round.”
Where to Stay: If you’re feeling festive, the Cotton Court Hotel is a retro courtyard-style stay with live music, a pool and an on-site bar. The host hotel for the NJCAA championship this year was the DoubleTree by Hilton, a mile from campus and blocks from Lubbock’s redeveloping downtown.
Where to Eat: The Nicolett is one of the best dining experiences in Texas, a modern American menu with stellar cocktails, stunning outdoor dining and excellent food. The West Table in downtown is upscale casual with a more festive vibe, outstanding wine list and delicious, chef-driven food.
Meadowbrook is an affordable municipal course with beautiful views of Fort Worth’s skyline. A renovation in 1962 turned this nearly century-old course into a short, challenging round, with some of the most difficult play on the fifth hole. The fairways are tight and greens true, and some of the uneven fairways contribute to the challenge of keeping the ball in play. Still, it’s a solid good time with enough difficulty to keep experienced golfers engaged. Meadowbrook is a 6,363-yard par 71.
Where to Stay: The beautiful Sinclair Hotel is a short 10-minute drive up I-30. The remodeled art deco building is now one of the most tech-forward properties in the state, with state-of-the-art electronics in the room, including the ability to regulate shower temps. Located adjacent to Sundance Square, The Sinclair is perfectly situated for great golf and great nightlife.
Where to Eat: The Wicked Butcher inside the Sinclair is a brilliant chop house with delicious steak and seafood, and an excellent wine list. Grab a cocktail at the bar upstairs—or sneak over to Thompson’s Bookstore (there are no books) for a speakeasy experience. For more regional fare, Reata is a short block from the hotel and features Southwestern cuisine in a ranch vibe.
Westin Stonebriar Golf Resort & Spa
Art Stricklin, president of the Texas Golf Writers Association and author of The Art of Golf, said of the course at Stonebriar: “The Tom Fazio-designed golf course is available to anyone staying at the hotel or those at adjacent Stonebriar. The course showcases Fazio’s real ability as a good architect, because, while just about anyone can design a great course on the side of a mountain or next to a thundering ocean, the acclaimed architect took basically an overgrown Frisco wheat field and turned it into a very challenging and playable layout.
“The main feature is a large lake, which comes into play near the nine hole turn and plays through the first half of the back nine. Also featured are large greens, deep bunkers and enough challenge and entertainment to come back for more.”
Where to Stay: The Westin at Stonebriar is designed with the golfer in mind, so there’s no need to look elsewhere. Many of the rooms face the course, and Juliet balconies open to great views. For bad weather days, the hotel is outfitted with a full-swing simulator on the ground floor. Rooms are comfortable and well appointed, and the excellent staff know how to cater to golfers’ schedules.
Where to Eat: Beans & Barrel on site has everything from Americana-style breakfast in the morning to massive bone-in ribeyes for dinner. The chef-driven eatery avoids the hotel restaurant cliches, and serves up creative, delicious fare, from small bites—like white bean hummus—to regionally specific dishes like chili and Southwestern-inspired entrees.
The complete redesign of this popular municipal course led to its ranking of 49th in the U.S. for municipal courses by Golfweek in 2012. The old-growth oaks make for a stunning backdrop for a course that is now the best of the old and new. All the carts are outfitted with GPS—if that’s your thing—and they come in handy on the rolling greens, sharp curves and dramatic elevation changes. The course is challenging enough for experienced golfers, and the addition of junior tees makes it accessible to all skill levels. The highlight is definitely the view of the Dallas skyline from the 15th tee box.
Where to Stay: The Thompson Hotel is in downtown Dallas, just four miles from Stevens Park. The newly opened hotel is a breathtaking combination of modern appointments, maximalist decor, old world charm and excellent amenities. The pool deck alone is reason enough to choose The Thompson, but you’ll want to get a cocktail at Catbird, one of the city’s hottest lounges.
Where to Eat: Catbird is excellent for bites and booze, but you’re in the same building as two Michelin Star Chef Danny Grant’s Kessaku and Monarch, the former a deep dive into where sushi is headed, and the latter a taste of old-school Chicago elegance with fresh pasta, steaks and seafood. The hotel does not make reservations for Grant’s restaurants, and they are booked well in advance, so reservations are a must before your trip.
Located on the shores of Lake Travis, this resort offers access to multiple courses including the championship quality Falconhead. The course is a combination of the beauty of the Hill Country—oaks, cedars, water, and rolling hills—combined with the exacting specifications of the PGA tour design architects who laid it out.
Where to Stay: Accessing the courses means staying at Lakeway Resort and Spa, but the good news is that the accommodations are amazing. A stunning view of Lake Travis, outstanding pools for all ages, and access to Austin proper and wine country tours make this an easy yes.
If you are staying in Austin proper, the Lone Star Court provides a festive atmosphere and rustic but very comfortable accommodations with easy access to the highways. Rooms look out onto a courtyard with tables for eating and drinking and a swimming pool. Live music in the evenings brings a little more of the Austin vibe into your trip, and the Water Trough Restaurant serves up delicious margaritas and south Texas fare.
Where to Eat: Austin’s famous restaurants are convenient to Lakeway, but be sure to stop into TR Restaurant on site. The comfortable yet elegant vibe encourages slow meals. The menu is loaded with Texas comfort food, as well as prime steaks and healthy options. With its beautiful decor and back bar, view of Lake Travis, a nice wine list and excellent liquor selections, the Back Porch Lobby Bar is the perfect place to end the day.