Public golf courses require no membership for use and are an ideal option for casual golfers who do not play often enough to warrant a monthly fee for tee times at a private club. Golf is ubiquitous with a relaxing day outside, and rolling fairways in the hill country sunshine offer a mini-retreat for those looking for a break from the busy days and nights of Austin’s business and arts scenes. Below are a few public course options available to Austinites, including a local landmark in the world of miniature golf.
Avery Ranch Golf Club
Avery Ranch Golf Club is located northwest of Austin, just past Jollyville along Brushy Creek. This 7,121 yard par-72 distinguishes itself from other Hill Country courses with its relatively flat and rocky terrain, dense oaks, and trickling creeks. Reservations range from moderate to pricey for a public course, at $33-$85 per round.
Blackhawk Golf Club
North of Austin in Pflugerville, Texas, just east of Highway 35, is Blackhawk Golf Club, a links-style course built on land that was previously a working farm. Opened in 1990 and designed by Charles Howard, this 7,072 yard par-72 features multiple water hazards and bunkers and rewards both accuracy and distance, depending on the hole. Reservations range from inexpensive to moderately priced for a public course, at $17-$42.
Blue Lake Golf Club
A hidden gem for Austin golf enthusiasts, Blue Lake Golf Club can be found on a small peninsula off Lake LBJ. It’s a bit of a drive from the Austin area, but the scenery along Highway 71 through the Hill Country makes for a pleasant trip. While Blue Lake is a 9-hole course, players may play all day once paid, so an 18-hole round requires the player to play through twice. At 18 holes, the course runs 4,322 yards and is a par-64. It was designed by Joe Finger and opened in 1962. Tee times range from $12 up, and while the course is open to the public, members receive preferred tee times, among other benefits.
Bluebonnet Hill Golf Club
Bluebonnet Hill Golf Club is located near Walter E. Long Lake towards Manor and offers links-style play. A short par-72 at 6,590 yards, this course rewards accuracy over distance, and while there aren’t many trees to avoid, the fairways can be narrow. The course opened in 1991 and was designed by Jeff Brauer. Rounds range in price from $20-$41.
ColoVista Golf Club
Just past Bastrop in the Lost Pines area, the ColoVista Golf Club ranks among the best public courses in Texas. Playing along the Colorado River, the course offers spectacular views along with challenging play. The Les Appelt-designed 7,021 yard par-72 course opened in 1997 and is known for its immaculate fairways and true greens. Play is reasonably priced at $20-$42 per player.
Crystal Falls Golf Course
Crystal Falls Golf Course can be found northwest of Cedar Park in Leander and features spectacular Hill Country vistas south towards Lake Travis. Well-known for its scenery, the course also offers a few signature holes, including the 192 yard par-3 11th, with its precipitous drop to the green. The 6,654 yard par-72 was designed by Jack Miller and opened in 1990. Reservations range from $33-$55.
Delaware Springs Golf Course
Another Hill Country favorite, Delaware Springs Golf Course is known for possessing some of the truest greens around. The scenic 6,891 yard par-72 plays alongside the Highland Lakes and through the springs from which the course gets its name. The course was designed by Dan Proctor and Dave Axland and opened in 1992. Tee times are inexpensive, at $13-$35 per player.
Falconhead Golf Club
Falconhead Golf Club is located just west of central Bee Cave, a short drive from Austin. With well-maintained fairways and greens, as well as challenging play, this is one of the highest rated public courses in Texas. The course was designed as a PGA Tour Signature Course by PGA Tour architects Chris Gray and Ron Garl and opened in 2003. The 7181 yard par-72 plays through scenic Hill Country terrain, with many elevated tee boxes offering panoramic views. It has a rating of 75, and reservations range from moderate to pricey for a public course, at $39-$89.
Forest Creek Golf Club
Named “Best Public Golf Course in Central Texas” by Golf Digest, Forest Creek Golf Club is a highly rated public course located north of Austin in Round Rock. The 7,147 yard par-72 incorporates narrow fairways and a creek into play and features a few long par-4s. Opened in 1992, this challenging course was designed by Dick Phelps. It offers a backdrop of manicured fairways and Hill Country foliage and also includes a practice range, an event center, and a grill. Rounds are moderately priced at $22-$52 per player.
Grey Rock Golf Club
Grey Rock Golf Club is a spectacular course in southwest Austin near Circle C, known for its wide open layout, which values distance on the fairways on many holes. The 6,909 yard par-72 also demands accuracy, with many trees lining the fairways, and multiple doglegs. The Jay Morrish-designed course opened in 1992 and has been highly rated as one of the best public courses in Austin. Tee times range from moderate to pricey, at $45-$79 per player.
Hancock Golf Course
The Hancock Golf Course was founded in 1899 by Lewis Hancock Jr., the mayor of Austin from 1895-1897. This early establishment marks the Hancock Golf Course as one of the oldest courses in Texas, and the greens have been walked by historic figures like President William Taft. Originally an 18-hole course known as the Austin Country Club, the course was re-named after Lewis Hancock in 1946 and now offers a par-35, 9-hole course. Located close to the historic homes of Tarrytown, fairways are spread up and down the hills of central Austin and over Waller Creek. Characteristic of the time period in which it was built, the course is relatively short by modern standards. Harvey Penick, notable golfer and former UT Longhorns golf team coach, started his professional career as a caddy at this course when it was known as the Austin Country Club and stayed with the club for 70 years. Tee times at the course are not required, but groups of four can make a reservation. Reservations are accepted one day in advance.
Jimmy Clay Golf Course
Southeast Austin is home to Jimmy Clay Golf Course, which abuts McKinney Falls State Park and Roy Kizer Golf Course. Designed by Joe Finger and opened in 1974, this course runs along Onion Creek and utilizes Williamson Creek as a water hazard. The 6,931 yard par-72 is a part of the Austin Parks and Recreation and is operated by the city. Rates are inexpensive, at $17-$29 per player.
Lady Bird Johnson Golf Course
Out towards Fredericksburg west of Austin, Lady Bird Johnson Golf Course plays through rugged Hill Country terrain. There are a few elevated tee boxes that afford magnificent vistas, as well as fast, sloping greens that challenge putters. This 6,686 yard par-71 reopened in its current incarnation in 1991, and the renovation was designed and overseen by Jeff Blume. Tee times are moderately priced at $22-$48 per player.
Lago Vista Resort Golf Courses
The Lago Vista Resort Golf Courses feature two tracks operated by the City of Lago Vista, and both play along the Colorado River, just west of Lake Travis. The Highland Lakes Course is regarded as the more difficult of the two and is described as “unforgiving”. The 6,529 yard par-72 was designed by Dave Bennett and Leon and Charles Howard and opened in 1978. The Lago Vista Course was the first course at the resort, originally opened as a Leon Howard design in 1971, then renovated by Dave Bennett in 1992. The 6,579 yard par-72 doesn’t have the dramatic elevation changes of its sister course but does feature water hazards. Tee times start at $15.
Lions Golf Course
The Lions Municipal Golf Course, known around town as “Old Muni,” was first established as a public course in 1934, making it the first public course in Austin. This tenure alongside a reputation for well-managed grounds have made it one of Austin’s most played courses. The course was originally constructed by the Lions Club in 1928, and Lions hosted notable golfers throughout the years, including Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tom Kite, and Ben Crenshaw. Later, the course earned a place in history as the first public golf course south of the Mason-Dixon line to racially integrate, in 1951. The course is centrally located, not far from homes in the West Lake Hills neighborhood. Reservations for tee times can be made by phone or online and may be made up to seven days in advance.
Morris Williams Golf Course
Morris Williams Golf Course is operated by Austin Parks and Recreation and is located off Manor Road just past Airport Boulevard. This challenging 7,023 yard par-72 is home to much of Austin’s golf history, being one of Austin’s more venerable courses. Opened in 1964, it is yet another Leon Howard-designed course. Reservations are inexpensive, at $15-$29 per player.
Peter Pan Mini Golf
Peter Pan Mini Golf is hard to miss, with towering statues of everything from Peter Pan himself to a T-Rex that has been keeping watch over the intersection of Barton Springs and South Lamar for decades. This fun course for the young and the young at heart offers two courses to choose from – East and West. Rumor has it that the East course is the easier option, but split-level options will keep even serious miniature golfers on their game. The West course offers the iconic T-Rex and Peter Pan statue as obstacles to make the par. The park is BYOB, making it just as popular with adults looking for a relaxing time, as children drawn in by the life-size statues and fun game. Don’t be surprised if you see teenagers in formal regalia during prom season playing the course!
Pine Forest Golf Club
Pine Forest Golf Club is located in Bastrop, near the ColoVista Golf Club along the Colorado River. While this relatively obscure course plays short, a premium is placed on accuracy, and challenges players with elevation changes and blind corners. The 6,569 yard par-72 was designed by Don January and Billy Martindale and opened in 1979. Rounds are reasonably priced at $20-$38 per player.
Plum Creek Golf Course
South of Austin in Kyle, the Plum Creek Golf Course is a scenic links-style course incorporated into the adjoining Plum Creek residential community. The 6,193 yard par-71 was built on beautiful wildflower pastures and often offers a wide open track for players, although heavy winds can come into play. Designed by Roy Bechtol, Plum Creek opened in 1999. Rounds range from $25-$53 per player.
Quail Creek Country Club
San Marcos is home to Quail Creek Country Club, just a short drive south of Austin along the Blanco River. This 6,312 yard par-72 is a regarded as a beast on the front-nine, with elevation changes over narrow fairways as well as multiple water hazards, but the back-nine offers some respite, with a flatter and more open terrain. Opened in 1967, this public course has long offered reasonably priced golf, at $25-$40 per player.
Riverside Golf Course
Near downtown Austin on the Colorado River is the Riverside Golf Course, a local course with a deep history. It features gently sloping hills lined with majestic oaks, along with a few water hazards. This 6,309 yard par-72 is 100% Bermuda grass and has a reputation for being well-maintained. It was designed by J. Press and Perry Maxwell, and opened in 1950. Rounds are reasonably priced at $17-$35 per player.
Roy Kizer Golf Course
Roy Kizer Golf Course is adjacent to Jimmy Clay Golf Course near McKinney Falls in southeast Austin. This public course is operated by Austin Parks and Recreation and operates in conjunction with the Jimmy Clay course. It was designed by Randolph P. Russell and opened in 1994. This 6,819 yard par-71 is a links-style course, with plenty of water hazards and bunkers. Play is moderately priced at $18-$37 per player.
ShadowGlen Golf Course
Manor, Texas is home to ShadowGlen Golf Course, northeast of Austin. This links-style course has a reputation as the toughest public course in Texas, with fast greens, narrow fairways and meandering creeks. The 7,174 yard par-72 plays long as well, demanding both distance and accuracy. It was designed by Randolph P. Russell and Roy Bechtol and opened in 2003. The fairways are 100 percent TifSport Bermuda grass, while the greens are 100 percent TifEagle grass. Rounds range from $25-$50 per player.
Star Ranch Golf Club
North of Austin, just east of Round Rock, Hutto is home to the Star Ranch Golf Club, rated the 20th best course in Texas in 2016. This highly-rated track built on former pastureland offers spectacular views, as well as well-maintained fairways and greens. It opened in 2001 and was designed by Carter Morrish, Jay Morrish, Roy Bechtol, and Randolph P. Russell. The 7,017 yard par-71 is known as a challenging course, with a few particularly memorable signature holes. Tee times range from $36-$70 per player.
Sun City Golf Club
Near Lake Georgetown in Sun City, Texas, the Sun City Golf Club offers three distinct courses for golf enjoyment. The Legacy Hills Golf Club is a 7,088 yard par-72 designed by Billy Casper and Greg Nash. The course opened in 1996, and its elevation changes and Berry Creek provide challenges and hazards for players. The White Wing course opened in 2001 and was also designed by Billy Casper and Greg Nash. The 6,718 yard par-72 plays long but with narrow fairways, and once again, Berry Creek comes in to play. The Cowan Creek Course is the newest of the three; it opened in 2008 and was designed by Gary Stephenson. The 7,050 yard par-72 is known as forgiving and is well-suited for beginners. Rounds range from $30-$56 per player.
Teravista Golf Club
Teravista Golf Club is located in Round Rock, Texas, just north of Austin. This links-style course is widely known for being “beginner-friendly”, but like any course, offers longer tee box options for more advanced golfers. The 7,039 yard par-72 offers wide open fairways but also features a good number of bunkers and water hazards. It is a Clifton, Ezell & Clifton design and opened in 2002. Rounds range from moderately priced and up, at $29-$69 per player.
Also, read about Austin’s private golf courses.
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