Review: TPC San Antonio Oaks

You must play a PGA tournament course
If you watch golf on TV you see impressive courses with impeccable conditions. Then add to that the grandstands and the pressure, it is such a different game than the weekend round at the local muni.  I think every golfer should play at least one round in their life on a PGA tournament course with tournament conditions.  Many of the TPC courses around the country claim to offer that experience, but I think the only way to really truly get that experience is to play a tournament  course right before or right after the event, as close to it as possible. I guarantee it is a totally different experience.
My recent trip to San Antonio was just days before the Texas Valero Open on the TPC Oaks Course.  I was so excited to get my round just before they shut it down for the event.  Most of the grandstands were up and the course had the best conditions of any course I have ever played.  Every tee, fairway, and green was perfect.  It was firm and fast just like you see on TV.

The Oaks TPC is known for its difficult layout and high scores; even from PGA pros.   I didn’t know what to expect, so I just figured I would try to play smart and do my best.  Thankfully my driver showed up to play that day.  I hit 11 of 14 fairways, of the other 3, 2 were in the first cut and the other was a wide right on the one hole that had lots of space to the right (hole 10)

The Front 9 gets off to a solid start with a longer par 4 that has a really tricky green.  The tee shot isn’t too hard, but the elevated green almost surrounded by bunkers was tough.  The next couple holes are all solid with tricky bunkers and elevated greens. The 5th hole is a great short par 4 kind of a risk/reward sort of hole that you can probably drive depending on the tee and wind, but has some deep little bunkers that can trip you up.  The 8th hole is a solid par 5 that you might be able to reach in 2 with some solid shots, but another elevated green surrounded by bunkers makes it tough.  The 9th hole is home to the infamous Kevin Na 16 last year, although it is not really a hard hole.  It has a redan green but I walked away with an easy 2 putt par.
The back 9 is really fun, seems to have just a touch more elevation change, while still fairly flat.  The 10th hole is another easy driving hole(even though I missed the fairway by a mile) but the elevated green with the severe slope short and right can make it tough navigating the bunkers.  The 12th is a cool hole around the green. It has a mini rock wall left of the green side bunkers, it just look really cool.  The 13th is a long par 3.  Some might even have to hit driver if hitting into the wind.  The 15th-18th were some of my favorite holes on the whole property.  The 15th has another well-guarded green.  The 16th is the most famous hole because of the bunker in the middle of the green.  Getting to the proper spot on this green is key.  With the grand stands all in place, I could just imagine how tense that shot must be.  The 17th is a short par 4 that is drivable, just don’t go down to the left, then it can get tough.  The 18th is an awesome finishing hole.  It is all about the 2nd shot on this hole.  There is a creek that intersects the fairway near the green and runs along the right side of the green.  Going for it in 2, could lead to a high score.

When all was said and done I shot a 79  from the tips, which from everyone I talked to said it was a phenomenal score for an amateur, especially their first time.  I was really happy.  The ultra-smooth and slick greens fit my eye well, I putted very well the whole round.  So if you hit fairways and putt well you can score on this course, but don’t expect it to be easy, many walk away very frustrated.

If you haven’t played a PGA tour course under tour conditions, check out the TPC San Antonio to check that off your bucket list, it is worth it.  
Review: TPC San Antonio Canyons
Excellent second option at the TPC
There are many resorts that have 36 holes, but so often they put a lot of focus and energy into one 18 holes, while the other is neglected or clearly a second tier course.  I don’t think you can say that about the Canyons at the TPC San Antonio.  It hosts a Champions tour event in the fall and from a visual standpoint, the Canyons is a much more scenic course.  The conditions were almost the same as the Oaks, just not quite as fast and firm, at least the day I played it, it was raining lightly. 
The Canyons starts off with a much easier opening hole.  I just hit 3-wood and still had a short iron in.  The next few holes are somewhat tame, until you start entering the hills beginning on hole 6.  This par 5 takes you up and over a hill to a lower green.  Then you head back up that hill on 7.  The par 3 8th is a great kind of table top green.  It drops off on all sides.  The 9th is a solid par 4 dogleg left. 

The back 9 continues the “canyon” feel.  Each hole has decent elevation changes, whether it is the hole itself, or the terrain around the hole.  Good tee shots are important for scoring on this courses. Again holes 15-18 are so good.  15 is a strong par 5 that climbs up a hill.  The par 3 16th is mid to long iron over a valley.  The 17th is an awesome short par 4 setting you up for a beast of a finishing par 4.  I scored decent on this course too, but because of a tight flight schedule I didn’t play ever hole, only got in 16 total holes, skipping a couple in the middle so I could finish.

The Canyon course would make a great round just before or after the Champions Tour event.   Even if your round happens to be nowhere near a tournament, you can expect great conditions and a fun challenging layout.

For more information:

Quick Hits
+Tour quality conditions
+Challenging layout
+Beautiful scenery
+PGA tournament stop

–Private, yet accessible to JW Marriott resort guest