The Resort course at La Cantera was the opening shot fired at this San Antonio destination, before Arnold Palmer added his title course five years later. Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf laid out the resort course and did so with the understanding that it would host The Texas Open. It would continue to bring PGA players to the area for 15 years.
As players tee off at the No. 7 par four, they’ll see an appropriate metaphor for Resort: Six Flags Fiesta Texas. The course will play much like the roller coasters on display, with scenic views from the tops of the hills, and adrenaline-inducing tee shots during the descent.
Despite its PGA pedigree, the Resort course did not attempt (or have room, for that matter) to keep up with the maximum distances now required from Tour stops. Thus it plays reasonably for a good golfer, at less than 6,900 yards from the back tees.
The drivable par four that Morrish and Weiskopf supplied at all of their courses is a bit more straightforward than usual here: Do you attempt to carry the significant centerline bunker on the fairway at No. 16, or do you lay up? Depends on just how much of a thrill seeker you are, we suppose.
Typically, I am not a fan of resort courses. La Cantera Resort starts strong with a long downhill par five. Not sure it should be rated the number one handicap hole. The 2nd hole is a bit quirky. The green is technically straight away from the tee box, but you must drive well to the left to a fairway that is a land-locked island. Take an extra club for the elevated green. The 3rd is a long par three. The 4th is a left leaning long par four. The 5th is a good par five with a large landing area but then it gets tricky. Fairway narrows and the green is tucked 90 degrees to the right. Your 2nd shot can go thru the fairway, play it as a 3 shotter. The 6th is a short par three followed by a driveable downhill par four. The hole narrows significantly as you get closer to the green. The 8th and 9th are short par fours and decent birdie oppties, but anti-climatic after the 7th.
The back also starts with a par five, this one is a valley hole. Favor the left off the tee to take out the long right fairway bunker. The 11th is a long par four that leans left with greenside bunkers left and right. The 12th is the number two handicap hole and I disagree with the rating. The hole plays from an elevated tee and yes, there are three fairway bunkers left. Yes, if you go too far right you will have to contend with trees and yes, there is a ravine in front of the elevated green. Two decent shots and you are putting for birdie. The 13th is the shortest and easiest rated hole. The 14th is a reachable par five. Favor the right side off the tee. The 15th reminded me of the 11th. The 16th is a short risk/reward birdie oppty. The large cross bunker starts about 90 yards out and is about 40 yards deep. The 17th is a mid-length par three and the 18th is not super memorable.
If you have a choice play the Palmer or better yet play them both and you can decide which one you like better.
From 1995 thru 2009 -- The Resort Course served as host to the annual Texas Open event on the PGA Tour. The course was a birdie fest for the game's top players -- in fact -- Tommy Armour III fired a four-round total of 254 in winning the Texas Open in 2003. That mark was erased by Justin Thomas claiming the 2017 Hawaiian Open with a 253 total.
The duo of Morrish and Weiskopf created a number of top quality layouts during their partnership. Part of their success was in elevating playability and by including a range of different hole types.
Helping their efforts is a land site that has plenty of movement so constant variety is always possible.
The Resort Course starts off with two good holes. The 1st is a quality par-5 working downhill. The 2nd is a challenging par-4 featuring a rock channel running parallel down the right side. If you miss too far left there are a series of trees which can interfere on the approach. The elevated green is nicely positioned -- a narrow front portion and then widening in the rear area. The course picks up steam with the par-5 5th which played as a par-4 for the Texas Open. The 6th is a quality par-3 hole with a rock channel area just to the left of the green. At the 7th, the usual Moorish / Weiskopf inclusion of a driveable par-4 comes up. The hole starts from an elevated tee and then close in from both sides the deeper the attempt to get to the green is attempted.
The back nine commences with a par-5 -- played as a par-4 for the event -- that plunges downhill before rising appreciably as you get to the green. The most interesting hole from the inward side comes with the 12th -- a par-4 of 415 yards. Again, an elevated tee is where play starts. A series of bunkers guards the left side and if you go too far right you will be impacted by trees. The green is elevated and set behind a creek that awaits the half-hearted play. The green is one of the best at The Resort Course -- plenty of different challenging pin locations with front right being the most demanding.
The remainder of the course features a mixture of holes with the par-4 15th -- playing slightly uphill at 446 yards the best of the bunch.
The Resort Course is immediately near to the main buildings connected to the facility. At just over 6,900 yards the course will permit plenty of opportunities for scoring provided sufficient placement is attained from the tee. When coming to La Cantera you'll have two options for play -- The Resort and The Palmer courses. I asked a number of regular players if they had ten rounds to play how would they divvy up the number between the two? Each person answered no less than 7-8 on The Palmer -- with just 2 or 3 on The Resort. I see no reason to dispute that assessment.
In fairness, The Resort emphasizes fun golf and, at the same time, provides terrain that clearly provides movement and a connection to the Hill Country. Credit Morrish / Weiskopf for their efforts but since the course opened in 1995 the bar for more compelling architectural choices on the golf scene in Texas have clearly emerged.
M. James Ward