The course at The Bandit Golf Club is a 1997 Keith Foster Texas Hill Country production that is located close to New Braunfels. The par 71 layout measures 6,909 yards from the tips, more than long enough for anyone who seeks a solid challenge.
For those driving between Austin and San Antonio and looking for a golf option between the two large Texas communities a round at The Bandit is something to seriously consider.
The course is part of a housing complex and given that reality the quality of the holes ranges from brilliant to boring.
The opening stretch of three holes follows a continuous one-way direction away from the clubhouse and is fairly mundane. When you get to the short par-4 4th things do pick up in terms of interest. Here you play from an elevated tee and with the prevailing wind from the southwest stronger players can entertain giving it a go for the green. Avoiding two fairway bunkers on the left is needed and the shot must scamper between two large trees bracketing the target.
The 5th is one of the 2-3 best holes at the course. This time you hit into a fairway that tapers down considerably as you go further down the fairway. The green is elevated high above the fairway and although there are no bunkers near it the demands are self-evident and quite exacting. The other hole of note on the outward side is the par-4 8th. Here you tee high above the fairway and it's likely a headwind will greet your arrival. The hole moves downhill and has a series of bunker on the left side of the fairway and avoiding them is crucial. The green is then set behind a creek and is appropriately contoured.
The inwards journey starts on a high note with the 10th a fine par-4 commencing from an elevated tee and then turning left in the drive zone. The green set behind a Long Creek, which will be involved with several other holes on the back nine. The approach is played to a green with a narrow front section that widens out towards the rear.
The 11th and 12th are ordinary but things do pick up with the par-3 13th over a fronting pond and sporting a tough target to both hit and putt. The par-4 14th is a seductive short par-4 that will keep your attention. The hole turns right but be forewarned any attempt to play too close to that side can mean a quick reload at the tee. Should you hit down the left side you then encounter two bunkers at greenside to fly over with the approach. Although listed at just 369 yards the 14th provides for a range of decisions to be reached and executed flawlessly.
Things ramp up considerably with the next two holes. The 15th is a very long par-5 and can be even longer when encountering the prevailing southwest wind. Getting the drive in play is essential as Long Creek must be crossed and it will certainly impact 2nd shots if tee shots are not successful. The fairway does narrow somewhat and the 3rd is played to a green set on a diagonal and slightly elevated.
The par-4 16th begins from an elevated tee pad and you descend into the fairway and face Long Creek again. The creek only impacts tee shots hit too long. The smart play is to stay short and then approach the elevated target with a suitable approach club. The par-3 17th is listed at 155 yards but again the approach is generally played back into the prevailing wind and once again Long Creek is faced protecting the front of the green. When the pin is cut tight towards any left side position it will take a good bit of nerve to fire right at it.
The concluding hole at The Bandit is one looking to rob you and end your day on anything but a high note.
Long Creek works its way down the right side of the drive zone and attention to it must be paid. There's also a solitary bunker in the drive zone located on the left center of the fairway. The most ambitious play is to stay as close as possible to the right side. The 18th generally plays into the prevailing southwest wind so only the strongest of players will give thought in going for the green in two blows. Long Creek then splits the fairway and provides for an upper and lower area. Either way can be accessed but the right side provides the better angle for one's 3rd shot to the green. The putting surface is elevated above the fairway and is especially narrow towards the front before opening up somewhat towards the rear. It's a grand closer and, as I said, be prepared to have your pocket picked by The Bandit at the 18th unless you can deliver the goods with your game.
All in all, The Bandit has its moments and those seeking a course option when heading on I-35 between Austin and San Antonio should clearly avail themselves if time and opportunity coincide.
M. James Ward