When someone tells golfers to “hook ’em” upon arrival at the University of Texas Golf Club, it’s not meant to suggest they should avoid a fade. That “Hook ’em Horns” phrase is part of the lexicon in Austin and part of the fabric of the golf course, along with the Longhorns logo, plenty of burnt orange and Bevo, the university’s 2,000-pound steer mascot.
Opened for play in 2003 and lengthened and tweaked regularly in the 12 years since to provide more of a challenge for today’s collegiate golfer, the UT Golf Club is located in the Texas Hill Country some 15 miles west of the college’s campus in Austin.
The course – designed by the now-defunct Austin-based partnership of Roy Bechtol and Randy Russell – overlooks Lake Austin and borders the area’s Balcones Natural Wildlife Preserve, offering views that rival the best in the area.
Most golfers know that the University of Texas has a long and distinguished group of heralded golf alumni, including Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Mark Brooks, Justin Leonard, Harrison Frazar, Omar Uresti and, most recently, Jordan Spieth, many of whom advised Bechtol and Russell on the course’s design.
And the results are outstanding. The UT Golf Club plays to a testing 7,412 yards and a par of 71, where it carries a stout rating of 76.7 and a slope of 144. The course hosted the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Regional in May of 2009 and, in 2008, held a NCAA Women’s Regional and will host the men again in 2017 and the women in 2018.
The final four holes here are its most varied and call on every shot in your repertoire. No. 15, a 472-yard par-4, plays right-to-left around a huge tree before tumbling downhill toward Lake Austin, which can be seen in the near-distance behind the green. The 16th is the longest one-shooter at the course and its 248 yards are almost all carry. No. 17, a 400-yard jewel with a narrow, left-listing fairway, requires a precise drive to attack the green, which is toughened with a back-left pin placement. Then the par-4 finisher asks for more brawn to navigate its 517 yards and reach its large, three-tiered green fronted left by a babbling brook.
Behind the green to the left is a huge bronze statue of Bevo, UT’s beloved mascot, which makes sure you don’t forget where you’re playing. While each of the course’s holes is named after a player or significant event or award in UT golf history, the club’s clubhouse can tell a few stories of its own.
On the day after Christmas 2007, the under-construction clubhouse burned to the ground after a fire accidentally started on the roof by workers set the structure (which was about 70 percent complete) ablaze. The building was a complete loss, but no one was injured and quick work by a host of local firefighters kept the fire contained to the construction site.
Just 10 months after the fire, the new 16,400-square foot clubhouse – built at a cost of more than $8 million – enjoyed a lavish, if delayed, opening.
If you’re in Austin (and you know you want to go there), the University of Texas Golf Club should be on your short list of courses to play. You’ll have to wrangle an invitation, and polishing up on your “hook’ems,” and not necessarily your hooks ad fades, could help a little with the process.