It’s not all cocktails on the Riverwalk or Alamo-spiced history at this sprawling city of three million souls, many of them either part of or working for the U.S. military. The pride of south Texas has its fair share of great golf resorts, too — as well as some very, very cool stand-alone courses including recently rejuvenated Old Brackenridge, an A.R. Tillinghast classic a 10-minute drive from the Alamo’s downtown location.
Start with the La Cantera community northwest of town, where the Westin brand flies high its luxury flag on one of the region’s tallest hills.
With two championship courses — the more well-known Resort Course and the semi-private Arnold Palmer Course — tumbling down from the hotel through tree-topped limestone canyons and back up over rounded rises, the Westin La Cantera Resort was a regular stop for the PGA Tour’s Valero Open for several years. Now that event has moved onto the Greg Norman-authored TPC course north of town — part of the impressive new JW Marriott complex — which leaves La Cantera for the rest of us. The Resort Course excels in variety, playability and just enough strategic heft to keep better players engaged on both very different nines.
Westin keeps piling up the “goods” beyond golf, of course. A few extra bucks will land you on the executive floor with its daily continental breakfast, or go full out and stay in one of 24 suites or 38 oversized rooms in the Casita Village, all of which got a new Spanish Colonial look a few years back.
The Hyatt Hill Country Resort & Spa a few miles to the west, with its 27 holes of Arthur Hills-authored golf, adds an indispensable shade of San Antonio color with its setting on flatter, oak-studded land, more understated ranch architecture (its award-winning Wildflower Spa resides in a barn-like structure) and somewhat more twangy Texas attitude.
Hill Country’s calling cards include a 950-acre water park with popular lazy river and cool restaurants like Antler’s Lodge (wait till you see the chandelier and taste the Tex-Mex cuisine), as well as 500 rooms with private balconies and acres of wide-open spaces, and the golf is classic Arthur Hills: Broad driving lanes mix with semi-sharp doglegs around oaks and water hazards, with greens that tend to be on the large side to accommodate Texas breezes. The Oaks Nine opened in 1993 along with the resort itself, with the Creeks and Lakes nines following in 2005.
Add these outskirt resorts to the bright and bustling downtown zone with the Alamo and Riverwalk, plenty of high-rise hotels and killer restaurants, plus its own brand of solid golf — the aforementioned Brackenridge and The Quarry among them —and you’ve a sweet winter destination in San Antonio.