UT Golf Club Gets Facelift

By: Steve Habel

The University of Texas Golf Club at Steiner Ranch, which opened for play in 2003, is undergoing the final stages of a renovation that will affect virtually every hole. It will also expand the current 7,154-yard, par-71 track to play a whopping 7,412 yards with a new seventh set of tees.

The renovations to the course designed by Roy Bechtol and Randy Russell were prompted by comments from the University of Texas's bevy of touring professionals after the course hosted three pro-ams and the Big 12 Women's Golf Championship in 2005. The UT Golf Club has already been named as host for one of the 2008 women's NCAA regionals and it was just awarded an NCAA regional for the spring of 2009. Club officials are also in hot pursuit of hosting the 2012 NCAA Championships.

"Roy helped us gather the outstanding thoughts of minds of our heralded golf alumni, like Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Mark Brooks, Justin Leonard, Harrison Frazar and Omar Uresti," said Steve Termeer, the UT Golf Club's general manager and director of golf. "This was a great and challenging golf course before the renovations, but now we expect it to be even more so."

Also planned is the construction of phase II of the clubhouse at the UT Golf Club, and the work site dwarfs the existing building. The course renovations are set to be completed by September 1, and the ongoing construction of the clubhouse is set to be done by March 2008.

Built in the Texas Hill Country some 15 miles west of the University of Texas campus, the UT Golf Club overlooks Lake Austin and borders the Balcones Natural Wildlife Preserve. Bechtol has long been part of the University of Texas family - he played baseball for the Longhorns and his father Hub was the only consensus four-time football All-America as a receiver in the late 1940s. He considers being associated with the building of the UT Golf Club and the University of Texas on such a high-profile project as "a dream come true."

"The UT Golf Club is one of my favorite places and it has been a very high honor to have been asked to design the course and now its renovation," Bechtol said. "As with every great golf course, tweaks and changes are required from time to time, and I really like all the things we have been able to add to the UT Golf Club with the additions and modifications we have made."

Termeer said the track won't always play tipped out at more than 7,400 yards, because the wind generally blows 20-25 mph. The new length will give officials options to move tees around based on wind conditions and the level of play required in each tournament and event.

"Roy keeps the big picture in mind with how a course and community can live in harmony," Termeer added. "Fortunately his ideas were similar in nature to those of our distinguished alumni and accomplished golfers, and as a result collectively the course and improvements have turned out to be a masterpiece."

At Kite’s suggestion, the green on the par-4 13th was moved behind an expanded pond to capture the beauty and make the hole more challenging. He has also made several of the holes friendlier (especially on approach shots) and added to the par-4 finishing hole to make it even tougher. It will now play a whopping 525 yards from the back tees. That’s what you call a Texas-sized par-4, folks.

"The most significant renovations come on the stretch of holes from Nos. 5-8, which are generally regarded as our version of ’Amen Corner,’ and where the stroke average is very high," Termeer said. "The changes introduced on No. 5 were to level and expand the fairway, provide more layup space and add bunker right of green. On No. 6 we leveled and expanded the right side of fairway and captured a plateau of additional fairway to help the higher handicapper."

The UT Golf Club (www.utgolfclub.com) features a large practice facility that contains a driving range, pitching area, chipping green and putting green, with separate practice areas for use by the University’s golf teams. The club’s current 15,000-square foot clubhouse includes a golf pro shop, cart barn, events pavilion and a snack bar. Phase II will include men’s and women’s locker rooms and lounges, a grille room and lounge, a formal dining room, a golf pro shop, University of Texas trophy and memorabilia display and administrative space.

Upon completion of construction of the Phase II clubhouse facilities, the current clubhouse will be converted to a fitness facility. "The UT Golf Club is a place where I am very comfortable, and I think that most people that play the course feel the same way," Bechtol said. "The owners have made the commitment to create and keep working on a course and a club that reflects all that is best about Austin and the University of Texas. I am very proud to have been able to help them realize their vision."     

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. Habel writes a weekly golf column for The River Cities Tribune in Marble Falls, Texas, and is a member of the Texas Golf Writers' Association.