TPC San Antonio – Valero Texas Open
Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
TPC San Antonio JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa 23808 Resort Parkway San Antonio, TX 78261
Year Opened: 2010
Valero Texas Open – TPC San Antonio
The PGA Tour has been making its annual visit to the Alamo City for the Texas Open since 1922. Over the years, some of the greatest names in the history of the sport have hoisted the winner’s trophy, including Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, and Lee Trevino. Since 2010, the tournament has been held at TPC San Antonio, part of the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa.
Boasting two 18-hole courses, the AT&T Canyons and AT&T Oaks courses (which were designed by Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia), TPC San Antonio and the Valero Texas Open have proven to be a top destination for many of the PGA Tour’s top stars. This is in part due to the temperate weather in San Antonio and the tournament’s spot on the calendar, usually one week before the Masters.
For golf fans in the South Texas area, this is annually the biggest event of the year and usually boasts one of the best turnouts for non-major events. Despite being canceled in 2020 and having limited attendance, this again proved to be the case in 2021, with fans streaming out hoping to see Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth return to the winner’s circle.
Food & Beverage 4
The JW Marriott boasts one of the best restaurants in San Antonio in 18 Oaks, which is a traditional Texas Hill Country-style steakhouse. Boasting a menu of aged, prime cut steaks, locally sourced wild game and sides, 18 Oaks has become a destination restaurant beyond just both visitors and guests of the resort and attendees of the tournament. Normally open for lunch and dinner, the hours are adjusted during the tournament and calling ahead for reservations is recommended.
For fans looking to experience more of a traditional sporting event dining experience rather than having a sit-down meal, the Texas Open has you covered there, as well. Speckled throughout courses are concession booths that offer your traditional food offerings, as well as some very Texas-centric items like barbecue sandwiches and sausages. There are also multiple full-service bars sprinkled throughout the courses. Both the food and drink stands are run by local nonprofit organizations, with portions of the proceeds benefitting them. All of the prices are pretty reasonable, too.
First things first, the TPC San Antonio – both courses – are absolutely gorgeous. With the Valero Texas Open moving to the spring, the San Antonio weather is usually especially great. The courses were designed to take advantage of the native plant life and landscape, so while you stroll alongside the perfectly manicured fairways, just outside of the rough lie native cacti and oak trees.
The tournament also set up covered seating areas described as “cantinas” throughout the course. These are largely purchased by corporate sponsors and large fan groups. They are strategically placed near the greens of key holes. These cantinas have dedicated food and drink concessions booths for fans.
COVID-19 restrictions limited the fan attendance of the 2021 version of the tournament and limited the seating opportunities alongside the 17th and 18th fairways, but there were still plenty of roped off fairway boxes for fans to watch the action of the tournament. While the galleries are smaller than in years past, the energy is still there and that still greatly helps the overall atmosphere of the tourney.
The TPC San Antonio course is on the far reaches of the city of San Antonio’s northside, not very far from the nearby town of Bulverde, Texas. While the resort itself is spectacular, set on 600 acres of prime land, with over 1,000 rooms and amenities ranging from an award-winning spa, to a lazy river, to tennis and basketball courts, it is by and large spoken for during the tournament. Much of the areas are off-limits to visitors due to tour professionals, officials, and sponsors taking up residence on-site for the week.
The resort is also set astride multiple residential neighborhoods; with that in mind, you will have to make a drive off the grounds if you want to do any dining, shopping, lodging, or entertaining before or after rounds of the Texas Open.
However, the nearby Village at Stone Oaks Shopping Center should have most of what you are looking for. This includes an Alamo Draft House movie theater, a Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, a BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, and more. In terms of nearby lodging, the Candlewood Suites San Antonio North – Stone Oak Area is the closest. The resort is also very close to U.S. Highway 281 (more on that in the Access section) and that is a direct pipeline into Downtown San Antonio, which is the tourism/entertainment hub of the city.
While the PGA Tour doesn’t publicize their attendance figures, anecdotally I can say that the smaller crowds for the 2021 edition of the Texas Open, while noticeable, didn’t detract from the overall experience.
The crowds and galleries at the Texas Open – like at most PGA Tournaments – tend to gather and follow the biggest-name players. At this year’s event those crowds could be found following tour pros Matt Kuchar, 2021 Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama, Phil Mickelson, and eventual winner Jordan Spieth. The first, ninth, 10th, and 18th greens also were among the most popular gathering spots for the appreciative crowds.
If there is any area where fans might take umbrage with the Valero Texas Open, it is this section right here. First things first, there really is only one way in San Antonio to get to TPC San Antonio and the tournament, which is by driving or using a ride-share service up north along U.S. Highway 281. Without getting too far into the weeds on the socio-economic status of the Alamo City, I will simply say that this area of the city is its fastest growing. Scores of people have moved to the northern area of the city and planners have responded with a massive upgrade to the infrastructure in the area, including the highway itself.
To put it more succinctly, construction is ongoing, and you will experience significant delays on your drive or ride to the tournament. The resort and course are a 30 to 45-minute drive from both the San Antonio International Airport and from the city’s downtown. Also, there are no public transportation options that are available to take you to that area of the city and once there, parking is extremely limited – it is offsite at a nearby church and fans are shuttled to and from the grounds throughout each day.
Return on Investment 4
General admission ticketing for the Valero Texas Open is $45 per person per day online or $55 at the gate. The fairway boxes start at $180 per day and include a souvenir Texas Open folding chair and a $40 concessions voucher.
Parking at the offsite lot is $15 per car and the shuttle service is free. The costs are pretty much on par with other non-major PGA Tour events. This is a pretty good bargain for the talented group of golfers that come through San Antonio for the tournament each year.
This time around, there were not that many bells or whistles that would qualify as Extras for the tournament. This is largely due to the pandemic still impacting everyone’s lives. There is the pro-am event leading up to the tournament proper the Tuesday and Wednesday before the tourney, so for those interested in participating or watching that (though it was limited for 2021), opportunities exist.
There is one main store located near the concessions grounds for fans looking to get souvenirs, both of the practical (aka, you can use these during your next round of golf) and ornamental (aka, those you just want to display) variety.
The main thing that qualifies as an Extra that fans should stay for is the ceremony for the winner. In addition to a hefty check and a nice trophy, the winning golfer gets a pair of custom-made cowboy boots befitting of the Texas aesthetic. During the closing ceremony, that winner tries on the boots, which is a nice touch to finish out the week.
I used to attend the Valero Texas Open on an annual basis, but somewhere along the way I stopped going. I had never experienced it at TPC San Antonio, so I wasn’t sure what to expect exactly, but my hopes were high. Despite the limited fan attendance, my hopes were not let down in any way.
The event feels like a really big deal, and the crowds are into the action. The galleries are still pretty large for the big-name players and they cheer with the great shots and putts. The course and resort are both gorgeous, thanks in large part to the picturesque landscape.
Despite the drawbacks of the traffic and parking, the Valero Texas Open is a winner. If you’re a golf fan or just someone who enjoys sports, go ahead and add the Texas Open to your list of must-see events.
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