Texas Golf News: TPC San Antonio Sells Naming Rights & Nicklaus Course at Horseshoe Bay is Delayed

By: Steve Habel

The PGA and the TPC San Antonio announced last month that AT&T will be the naming-rights sponsor of the two new TPC golf courses, which are located at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. Meanwhile, some 60 miles to the north in Horseshoe Bay, the completion of the Jack Nicklaus Signature course at Skywater Over Horseshoe Bay has been pushed back a full year, from fall 2008 to at least fall '09.

The TPC San Antonio courses - one designed by Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia and another fashioned by Pete Dye with Bruce Lietkze - will be known as the AT&T Oaks Course and the AT&T Canyons Course, respectively. The golf courses and the adjacent 1,002-room resort are scheduled to open in late 2009 (the Norman-Garcia layout) and early 2010. The courses are being designed, constructed and managed by divisions of the PGA Tour. TPC San Antonio will be open to club members and guests of the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. As with all TPCs, TPC San Antonio will be built with the necessary infrastructure to host a professional golf tournament.

"AT&T, a long-standing partner of the PGA Tour, has been a tremendous supporter of this exciting project and has played an important role in bringing the Tour and TPC brand into the fold," said David Pillsbury, president of PGA Tour Golf Course Properties, which oversees the Tour's network of 25 TPCs. "Through its brand and technology, AT&T will very much be at the forefront of creating a unique, world-class golf experience at TPC San Antonio. We're very excited to work with AT&T at TPC San Antonio."

TPC San Antonio will feature 36 holes on 2,800 acres of varied topography. Norman's AT&T Oaks Course will feature rolling terrain and native oak trees, while Dye's AT&T Canyons Course will showcase dramatic elevation changes with views of the surrounding Texas Hill Country. The two courses are being carved out of the oft-rocky Texas Hill Country. Nine holes on the Norman layout have been fully cleared, with Nos. 4-7 - the holes farthest from the under-construction clubhouse - finished with clay capping and complete with the installation of drainage and irrigation complexes.

Though some last-minute tweaks by Norman have required some additional blasting through the stubborn rock, favorable weather has the project on schedule. Each course will use a closed-loop irrigation system to protect the Edwards Aquifer. The focal point of TPC San Antonio will be a distinctive 42,000-square-foot clubhouse, which will overlook the par-5 finishing hole of the AT&T Oaks Course.

At Horseshoe Bay, Summit Rock - which will be the fourth course in the Horseshoe Bay family but the first to wear the Nicklaus signature - has been delayed by a number of factors. The 18-hole, par-72 course received a major plan overhaul when Nicklaus toured the course last fall, suggesting changes to 12 of the holes.

"The recommendations that Jack made were extensive," said Sam Martin, owner and developing partner of Skywater Over Horseshoe Bay. "But we embraced them knowing that Jack's vision of this golf course, with these changes, not only improves the overall course design, but more spectacularly highlights the best features of Skywater - lake and hillside views, rugged terrain and natural creek beds."

The changes also brought alterations to design plans, engineering, programming and permitting. Those modifications, along with grassing schedules, have resulted in the extension of Summit Rock's completion date to fall 2009.

"We wanted to give ourselves an additional six months to complete (the changes) to the caliber this course deserves," Martin said. "Unfortunately because of optimum planting schedules, we cannot apply sod in the fall, but must wait an additional six months to do so in the spring."

All of the changes to the course required re-engineering. Some of the holes entailed looking into acquiring additional property, and the new plans require revisiting drainage and erosion control permits with Lower Colorado River Authority and Texas Commission for Environmental Quality. While these issues are being addressed, excavation, drainage and rough-shaping will continue through this summer, followed by irrigation and final shaping, green and tee construction and the completion of cart paths.

Upon completion, the course and accompanying clubhouse will be owned by Horseshoe Bay Resort, joining the resort's three Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed tracks.

Steve Habel is an Austin, Texas-based journalist. Since 1990, he has traveled around the globe covering news, business and sports assignments for various news bureaus, newspapers, magazines and websites. He also contributes to Business District magazine in Austin as managing editor and is the Texas football beat writer and a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated, the Austin-based magazine for University of Texas sports. Cybergolf's Southwestern Correspondent, Habel also writes a weekly golf column for The River Cities Tribune in Marble Falls, Texas, and is a member of the Texas Golf Writers' Association.