Review of Brackenridge Golf Course
Brackenridge Golf Course was designed by the noted and colorful A. W Tillinghast and opened in 1916. Old Brack is the oldest course in Texas and it was home to the Texas Open from 1922 (with the largest purse at the time of $5000) to 1959 where several of the greatest golfers played, including Hagen, Hogan, Nelson, Sneed, and others. Brackenridge is one of the 7 San Antonio golf courses that are a part of the Alamo Golf Trail – here is a link to our review of the Alamo Golf Trail.
Old Brack is a typical older design and is best described as a traditional Parkland style course – adjacent back and forth fairways, a variety of towering and stately trees including some palm trees swaying in the breeze, and generally straightforward "what you see is what you get" holes. With 4 sets of tee boxes, a par of 71, and yardages ranging from 5279 to 6243 at first glance you may think you're in for a walk in the park. But beware, the fairways can be a little tight, a creek crosses the fairway on 9 holes on the back, and thanks to a renovation in 2008 there are well positioned fairway bunkers and raised greens guarded by deep greenside bunkers. Old Brack seems to favor accuracy over distance and some par 4s you may get close to the green but you need to avoid the greenside bunkers and your approach needs to be deadly accurate.
The front nine at Brackenridge Park Golf Course is your opportunity to turn in a good score if you can miss the huge fairway bunkers, some that are big enough to hold an 18 wheel tractor trailer and others that are smaller but deeper and some that stretch from one side of the fairway to the other – and most of them are strategically placed to catch you drive or second shot on the par 5s. And then there are the deep greenside bunkers protecting the raised greens, which also means bump and runs aren't very effective. From the tee box you can see the pin, typically stairght ahead, and what you're up against.
Most of the holes on the front nine of Old Brack are similar but some that we enjoyed included:
- #2 is a demanding 210 yard par 3 with two big bunkers to catch short shots and one more on each side of a square green – that's right, a square green!
- the 511 yard par 5 #3 is a minefield of bunkers with 5 fairway bunkers (one of which crosses and covers most of the fairway about 120 out) and 4 more surrounding the green
- #9 is fun – a 491 yard par 5 with a couple nasty fairway bunkers, a tree jutting into the fairway blocking shots on the right side, a slight dog right, and a bunker on the right side of the green
We liked the back nine a lot because it seems a little more demanding, requires some strategic shot making, offers a good risk reward shot, has water on two holes, has a meandering creek that crosses 6 fairways plus there are lots of nasty bunkers. Some holes we liked include:
- the three par 3s are fun and require some target golf to avoid the bunkers and water
- #14, a dog right 446 yard par 4, offers a risk reward shot to try and carry the trees and avoid a fairway bunker to give you a shorter shot at the green
- #16 has a tree that blocks a direct tee shot to the green which means you either lay up and try to miss the woods on the right and the creek that crosses the fairway about 125 out or try to hook it around the tree and carry the creek
When we played in January 2013, the fairways were in very good condition and a joy to play. The rough was also in great condition and very playable. The vast majority of the fairways have another fairway on the other side which means if you spray it and get through the trees, you'll be playing from another fairway. The fairways range from ample to a little tight and are generally flat and straight particularly on the front.
The Brackenridge Park Golf Course greens were also in very good condition – smooth, true, and running at a good speed of around 9. The greens are generally large (plus a good sized puttable fringe) and are a variety of shapes including several that are square or rectangular – which we have never seen on any of the courses we've played! Pin placement can be a killer thanks to slope, contour, and undulation. The majority of the greens are raised and very well guarded.
The bunkers at Old Brack were also in very good condition and very well maintained. The sand is soft and deep and a joy to hit out of. As mentioned earlier, most of the bunkers are huge, several are very steep faced, and some are very deep.
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Practice facilities are good, the pro shop has limited gear, and food is limited to dogs and pre-made sandwiches. The staff is friendly.