The Oaks course at TPC San Antonio is the Greg Norman-designed sibling of the shorter Canyons course, a Pete Dye offering that also opened in 2010.
The Texas Open was inaugurated in 1922 and the event has always been staged in the San Antonio area, in fact it’s the longest PGA Tour event to have been hosted in the same city.
A number of courses have held the competition down the years, including Brackenridge Park which hosted the first fourteen stagings. TPC San Antonio has been on the tournament rotation since 2010, when Adam Scott lifted the trophy after triumphing on the brand new Oaks course, which poignantly was fashioned by his Australian compatriot.
The par 72 Oaks course can be stretched out to around 7,500 yards for the Texas Open, but despite its relative youth, the layout balances narrow tree-lined corridors with wider fairways providing strategic angles for approach shots.
The first four holes, which include the 213-yard par three 3rd, add up to a rather brutal 1,750 yards, so you’d better be striking the ball solidly from the get-go.
Not everyone appreciates the uninspiring concrete architecture of the JW Marriott, but if you’re planning to stay and play TPC San Antonio the hotel accommodation is a comfortable option.
This is the venue for the annual Valero Texas Open and the Greg Norman design is certainly the toughest of the two tests at the facility.
However, the terrain is far less in terms of rolling quality as the nearby neighbor Canyons Course.
The degree of difficulty with the Oaks rests on having elevated and angled putting surfaces. You are often hitting into flat non-descript fairways with little to no contour but the key is getting into the fairways and being able to loft approach shots to the aforementioned targets.
The course starts on the demanding side with a long par-4 and a challenging par-5 that follows at the 2nd. Interestingly, the tough par-3 3rd is played from a more forward tee position for the PGA Tour event. Instead of a max of 213 yards over the perilous frontal water hazard the hole plays below 200 yards. With the prevailing wind in one's face the hole is a sheer terror but with the shorter distance it doesn't mandate the far longer club selection.
Of the two sides -- the inward half delivers a bit more hole diversity and creative thought on Norman's part. The par-4 10th starts off the side in fine fashion -- featuring a devilish approach to the elevated and diagonally angled green. The 11th is a fine hole with the split fairway protected by a single center-placed bunker. The 12th and 13th are fairly perfunctory holes but the par-5 14th is a solid hole -- narrowing the landing area for the bold 2nd shots with flanking bunkers squeezing the landing area.
The long par-5 15th is a strong hole -- a narrow green that opens up to rear areas which are equally protected.
At the par-3 16th you get a replica version of the famed 6th at Riviera with the center-placed bunker within the green. I like the hole concept and the range of hole positions and yardages makes for a fun hole. The par-4 17th plays back uphill and often encountering a headwind even though just 347 yards. The closing hole -- a par-5 of 591 yards is a quality closer. For the 2nd shot players have to decide which side of the fairway to secure. There is a split formed by a creek that provides a left and right side. Frankly, I didn't see any real need to play to the more narrower left side as the approach angle from the right can get you just as near to any pin location. The creek that creates the split fairway winds up near the right side of the green. For the strongest of players getting home in two can be done if wind conditions allow.
The Oaks Course, as I said initially, is demanding. Getting near the pin requires a high quality approach game. However, when you finish the round enrapture is missing. the operative word missing. The banalities the land occupies is a major anchor against the course. It's too bad the Norman effort could not have had the land the Canyons possesses.
M. James Ward