Omni Barton Creek Fazio Canyons Golf Course Review
Omni Barton Creek Fazio Canyons Golf Course
Teachers’ Comments: Scenic and Challenging
The top rated public golf course in Texas, Omni Barton Creek’s Fazio Canyons offers a welcome respite from the vast urban and suburban sprawl that is Austin. Meandering through wooded Texas hill country, the fairways of the Fazio Canyons would have been enjoyable as a walk; as a course, I thought the entire experience exceptional.
The book on the Canyons is that it is a very difficult course. My playing partners the next day at Barton Creek’s Coore & Crenshaw course had some pretty firm opinions on that matter. I think, however, that the Fazio Canyons design offers opportunities for a thoughtful and patient golfer.
Fairways at Fazio Canyons are sufficiently generous that I missed just two: I hooked a ball out of bounds right on the twelfth, and just missed on thirteen. That would have been a disastrous plunge into a ravine, but the ball was caught up in the rough at the edge of the slope. Finding the fairway, however, is only part of the battle. Finding the proper side of the fairway is as important as any course I’ve played.
Tom Fazio’s design at Barton Creek’s Canyons is all about the angles. Only two of the holes offer what I would consider straight shots from tee to green. Of the remainder, three are doglegs. Angles on the other holes are created with the length of the fairways running oblique to the tee boxes, and with slanted greens. Two of the par fives actually require zig-zags along the more conservative lines of play. Throughout the round, I always felt as though I was trying to land a ball across the width, rather than down the length of the fairways.
It really helped to have a GPS at the Fazio Canyons. On each hole, I used the device to figure out which lines offered the best mix of risk and reward. Without it, I would have been in trouble. Distances, particularly from elevated tees, were deceptive.
Fazio Canyons in many ways reminds me of The Fazio Premier at Treetops in Northern Michigan. It has that “I found this course in the wilderness vibe,” incorporating natural features in an unforced manner. Creeks, hilltops, rocks, and canyons are all integral to the design.
One of the most dramatic examples of this was in the par three eleventh. That hole played from a teebox projecting from one hillside, across a rocky creek gully to a green on another hillside.
Strangely enough, a couple of the holes also reminded me of ones at Wild Dunes’ Fazio-designed course in South Carolina. Several of the holes at Wild Dunes played up small hills, with bunkering that felt familiar at Fazio Canyons.
It has been hard for me to decide which of the holes at the Fazio Canyons was my favorite. The first is a a nice opener, but a little straightforward: a straight shot to a large green. I birdied it. After that, the course offers a series of almost uniformly great holes.
After some consideration, I have decided that my favorite hole was the finishing par five. It was just a lot of fun. A strong drive from the elevated tee needs to fade a little right, but remain well short of the creek crossing the fairway. From there, the second shot needs to thread the creek on the left and bunkers right. If you choose your clubs correctly, you will end up — like I did — with a pitch over the creek to get on in three. Just don’t follow my lead in playing the shot too delicately, or you will end up — like I did — in the creek. The entire hole is a bit of a roller coaster ride, with a sudden, violent stop.
Another hole I really enjoyed was the par four thirteenth (see the photo at top). This 357 yarder challenges players with a big sweeping curve, bounded by a cliff on the right and ravine on the left. On the tee, players must decide just how much of the left side of the hole to bite off. One of the guys I played with tried to go driver-wedge by hitting the ball over the bunkers left. He failed, and lost his ball in the ravine. The other played it right, and watched his ball kick up to a slope just in front of the cliffs. It was a long second from there with the ball above his feet, and the rock wall menacing anything that drifted right. I tried to play it left, but not so far. I caught the downhill slope to the ravine, but the ball hung up in the rough. A lucky break. The second shot on the thirteenth is to the narrow end of a kidney shaped green, with a fall-off on the left side that one of my playing companions encountered.
Conditions on the late February day that I played were terrific. I had expected to find course that was dormant and a little rough around the edges; it was, after all, February and the off-season. What I found instead was a course that was very well tended and greening up nicely. With conditions like these in February, I think it would be quite the experience in April and May.
One thing to note. At this point, the “clubhouse” is just a trailer, The resort is, however, in the process of putting in a large new, full-services clubhouse, as well as making other renovations to the course.
The Fazio Canyons already has a very nice short game practice area and learning center.
The Omni Barton Creek Fazio Canyons review was first published March 21 from a round played February 21, 2017.
More photos of Omni Barton Creek’s Fazio Canyons course below: