The Texas Hill Country is always awe-inspiring. It doesn’t seem there are a lot of Texans who appreciate just how infinitely different the various regions of our vast state can be. From the Gulf Coast to the vast, flat red dirt of West Texas, to the mountainous region known as the Big Bend, we have it all. The Hill Country is another perfect example of just how a short, three-hour drive can dramatically change the topography. If you have ever been to Austin and the surrounding areas, you know just how much fun it can be to decompress among the rolling vistas and incredible flora in that part of the Lone Star State.
One of the crown jewels for golf and pampering in Austin is the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa. The resort underwent a $150 million renovation and expansion which was completed back in 2019, but many who were interested in seeing the updated resort were forced to wait when the pandemic shut down most of the country in early 2020. Now that vaccines are rolling out, things are opening back up and we are headed back to our normal lives, the resort is buzzing with activity again. From weddings and guys’ golf trips to weekend getaways with someone special.
The first thing you notice are the gorgeous rolling vistas as you make your way toward the massive Omni hotel. The drive up just screams Texas Hill Country as you make your way to the valet station.
As you head into the hotel, you are greeted by a modern look with simplistic design and no-nonsense, elegant décor. Check-in is simple and easy, as the staff whisks your bags away toward your room. Our accommodations were in one of the Hill Country Studio Suites, which feature panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, a lounge area and spacious restroom with soaking tub and shower. As we entered the room, we were awe-struck by the incredible view of the Foothills course below. We were also greeted with a gift basket with a lovely bottle of MAN Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as a s’mores kit. One of the things I think I enjoyed more than anything about the room was the massive bathtub. Now, I’ve always been a shower man, but having seen the large bath, I knew it would be utilized the next morning after a long first day on property. It even comes complete with an adjustable wooden bath caddy, where I placed my iPad and watched some Mavericks highlights while I was relaxing. This was definitely a bonus, on top of the already wonderful amenities.
If you aren’t planning on being in the room much, then you might go with the simple Deluxe or Premium room. Or if you want something more substantial, you can book the Champions Deluxe with balcony or the Signature Fairway Suites. If you want the absolute best, then the Fazio, Crenshaw or Palmer Suites will make your stay as memorable as it is comfortable. The Palmer Suite is 1,800 square feet with a king bed, in-room coffee bar, a sizable living area and a bar for those pre- or post-round cocktails with your group.
Once the day on the course is done, there are plenty of dining options available for an evening out. Of course, Austin is chock-full of great dining options if you are looking to head off property. But if you aren’t looking to drive and want to stay close, then the Omni has some great spots, whether you’re looking for casual or fine dining.
Omni Barton Creek’s signature restaurant is the Blind Salamander Kitchen and Bar. This option specializes in seafood and features apps like jumbo shrimp cocktail and oysters on the half shell and entrees like yellowfin tuna, Ora King salmon or the jerk-rubbed Texas quail.
Another fine-dining spot is Bob’s Steak and Chop House. Just a short walk from the hotel entrance, this steak house may be familiar to those here in Dallas, as there are multiple DFW locations. Bob’s specializes in steaks, and whether you opt for the prime filet, bone-in strip or the massive Wagyu tomahawk ribeye, you might need to adjust your belt when you leave. Everything at Bob’s is top-notch, and you will want to go back as soon as you can.
For something a little more casual, try out Nopales, which has a selection of street tacos, chips and queso, or the Lomo Saltado, which is a Peruvian steak bowl with Wagyu skirt steak, cilantro rice and black beans. It’s a quicker, more affordable option that will get you in and out if you have other activities planned.
Now, back to that s’more’s kit that was in our welcome basket. After our night out at Bob’s, rather than dessert at the restaurant, the lady and I took the kit, the bottle of wine and made our way to one of a trio of fire pits near the pool. We settled in for a glass of wine and roasted the s’mores over the fire. It was a fantastic end to the day at the Omni and a great way to wind down and prepare for round number two the following morning.
The two Tom Fazio golf courses are as spectacular as they are intimidating. Both are open to those staying at the resort, and for the money, are a couple of the best public tracks you can access in the state. Fazio was brilliant in utilizing the natural topography to design the routing, using Barton Creek and its tributaries to carve a course into the wonderful terrain.
A few of the highlights of the Canyons course include its signature 442-yard 10th. This sweeping, downhill par-4 features a dogleg right that concludes with a dramatic yet tranquil green complex. Those who find the fairway will have a much easier time finding an intimidating green with a meandering water feature up front. Rock outcroppings appear near the following tee, making this a gorgeous view for your approach. Although intimidating, it is absolutely one of the most breathtaking approach shots in the state. And be on the lookout left of the fairway, as often there are deer hanging among the Red Oaks. It’s one of Fazio’s finest efforts on the property.
Immediately following the par-4 signature hole is the long par-3 11th. This hole boasts a tee shot over the same creek that surrounds the 10th. A hill on the right looks to be the miss, as there is a chance balls will get a friendly bounce down toward the large putting surface. The forest backdrop makes club selection tough but stick to the number and enjoy the gorgeous view.
Although the 10th is the signature hole, for my money, the par-4 12th might be my favorite on the property. This elevated tee shot commands your attention as you try to find a sliver of fairway that leads toward a beautiful rock face that serves as a great target point. Favor the right side of the fairway and have a short iron or wedge to a green that is guarded left by a drop-off that means a certain big number if found. It’s nothing short of spectacular and one of my favorite holes over both the Canyons and the Foothills.
The final test of the afternoon is a long downhill par-5 that will really challenge even the best players. This 561-yarder really gives you an appreciation for the elevation changes in the region, as the fairway sits well below the elevated tee box. Favor the right center to leave a great angle and an opportunity to get home in two. A good second shot leaves a nice opportunity to take a stroke or two off your score as you head to the clubhouse.
The Foothills course is equally challenging. Again, the rolling hills really showcase the Hill Country setting on another Tom Fazio design. Trees line the holes and frame them beautifully, with plenty of challenging shots. One of my favorite holes on either course is the picturesque par-3 ninth. This hole plays at 175 yards from the tips, but is a more manageable 155 playing from one tee in. There is water short of the green with a small waterfall to navigate, and a couple of greenside bunkers can make things interesting. But trust your yardage and hit the green to have a chance at a birdie.
No. 10 boasts a huge elevation change from tee to fairway and is a great spot for you and your group to take a photo of the sprawling fairway below. It’s one of the coolest holes on the Foothills Course and one that will challenge your game from tee to green.
One of Fazio’s most clever holes on the Foothills Course is the short par-4 12th. Playing less than 300 yards from the tips, it seems straightforward. But a massive bunker short and right of the green can leave players with the dreaded 30-yard bunker shot and really make this one challenging. It seems like an easy hole from the tee, but be mindful of club selection, as you can find yourself in trouble if you aren’t confident in your ball striking.
The final test at the Foothills is a long par-5 that heads back to the footprint of the Omni. At 560 yards on the scorecard, this one really plays about 40 yards longer due to the uphill second shot. Only the longest hitters can think about going for the green in two, while mortal men must manage their second shot to leave a good wedge number for their third. It’s a great finishing hole, as well as a great way to end a couple days of world-class Hill Country golf.
If you take a weekend to visit with someone special who doesn’t necessarily play golf or want to ride along while you tee it up, there is a massive 13,000-square-foot spa that offers a multitude of services, from massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, and even revitalizing body treatments that include exfoliating scrubs and wraps that will melt the stress of everyday life away.
There are also three pools on property that are heated and open year-round. The adults-only infinity pool and hot tub overlook the 18th green at the Fazio Foothills course and offer lounge chairs to relax and enjoy a tasty beverage in the rays. There are also a pair of family friendly pools, one of which includes a splash pad, which is a great place for the kiddos to tucker themselves out so mom and dad can enjoy a relaxing evening.
There aren’t many places in Texas that can offer the kind of overall experience that Omni Barton Creek does. From top to bottom, it has everything you would want from a top-of-the-food-chain resort. It’s perfect for all groups, whether it be a weekend getaway for an anniversary, a trip with the kiddos or a golf weekend with buddies. It’s also a consideration for those planning a wedding or for corporate outings. It is literally the total package; from the golf to the spa to the dining, Omni Barton Creek checks all the boxes for your next Hill Country adventure.