Burnt-Orange & 'Horns Aplenty at UT Golf Club

By: Steve Habel

Editor's Note: This is the second of a series on golf courses of the Big 12 Conference. Habel profiled the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in December 2009.

University of Texas Golf Club

It doesn't take a visitor much time to figure out he or she is in Longhorn country once they step foot onto the grounds of University of Texas Golf Club. With all things burnt-orange or bearing the logo of the flagship university of the largest state in the continental United States, this is a place where golfers and 'Horns' fans feel right at home.

Opened for play in 2003 and lengthened and renovated in 2007 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. The club unites superior golf and club amenities with the traditions embedded in the spirit of the University of Texas.

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 and Omar Uresti. Bechtol and Russell worked with each of these players and others to create their final design.

And the results are outstanding. The UT Golf Club plays to a whopping 7,412 yards and a par of 71, where it carries a 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. Club and school officials are hoping that the way the course was showcased in these two events might lead to its hosting the 2012NCAA Championships.

5th Hole at UT Golf Club

"We designed this course to be a stern, but fair, test of golf for all levels of play, and after the regionals we have the idea that most of the things we did at the UT Golf Club were right on target," Bechtol said.

Indicative of other Bechtol-Russell designs, such as The Club at ConCan in South Texas and ShadowGlen Golf Course in the Austin suburb of Manor, you are allowed to ease into your round at UT Golf Club. The first hole, a 370-yard downhill par-4, is a relatively benign introduction while No. 2, a 194-yard par-3 that plays over a deep canyon, puts a premium on the precise iron play you'll need the rest of the round.

No. 3 - a 493-yard par-4 - features mounding right of the tee that makes it look as if there is no room to miss your drive on that side; in fact, beyond the mounding the right side opens up. On the second shot expect to play a mid-iron to a green that slopes from back to front.

After a bit of a breather on the 375-yard par-4 fourth, things get a lot tougher as Nos. 5-8 are considered the toughest stretch at UT Golf Club. The fifth is a 461-yard par-4 that plays downhill then uphill to a putting surface that cannot be missed on the right. No. 6, a 406-yard par-4, sports a blind and uphill tee shot, then a downhill approach over a chasm to a shallow green bordered by mounding and bunkers. Next up is the picturesque seventh, a 462-yard par-4 that turns right-to-left toward a creek that runs toward you on the entire left side of the hole and circles behind the green.

The eighth is a 237-yard par-3 that can bare its teeth under championship conditions. At the NCAA Men's Regional last year the hole played uphill and into the wind, asking the players to hit a 260-yard drive to a shelf on the back-right of the green.

From behind the 7th Green at UTGC

The front nine concludes with a 605-yard par-5, a hole that features a wide fairway and a chance to pick up a shot if you find the elevated putting surface.

On the back, good tests include the 11th, a grip-it-and-rip-it opportunity with a wide fairway and approach area, and - at 596 yards - a par-5 that most the college golfers will try to reach in two. The 12th, at 190 yards, is the shortest par-3 at UT Golf Club. It's followed by the drivable (363-yard) par-4 13th, which can be reached if successfully circumnavigating a huge pond with a creek along the green's left. No. 14 is another par-5 that can be attacked despite its length (562 yards) and a huge bunker that fronts the raised green.

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 massive 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 (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.

The clubhouse at the UTGC features a full-service dining room as well as private dining areas, men's and women's locker rooms and lounges, a 1,400-square-foot golf shop and outdoor patios overlooking the club's water feature and 18th hole. The club's former clubhouse has since been converted into a fitness center.

"This course and the club are indicative of the University of Texas's drive to always have the best facilities and go first-class across the board," Bechtol said. We couldn't agree more.

For additional details or a tee time, visit www.utgolfclub.com.

Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Business District magazine in Austin and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com), which features news on golf and the Longhorns.