More Than a Muni: Old Brack Course a Treasure of San Antonio, Golf History

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A golfer practices his swing before entering the course at Historic Brackenridge Park Golf Course.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A golfer practices putting before a round at the historic Brackenridge Park Golf Course.

Golf is sometimes referred to as “the greatest game.” That is because golf teaches its players – especially young ones – life skills such as honesty, integrity, and perseverance.  Golf is a game of self-discipline, focus, and skill in which the golf course is the opponent.

One of the most influential people to ever play the game, the great Bobby Jones, once said, “The secret to golf is to turn three shots into two.” In San Antonio, the nonprofit  Alamo City Golf Trail turned eight poorly operated, City-run golf facilities into one great golf system.

Prior to 2007, the City of San Antonio’s municipal golf courses were operating at a financial loss. The courses were mismanaged and underfunded, and customer service was nonexistent. Today, playing the municipal golf system is a vastly different experience, and those changes all started at the historic Brackenridge Park Golf Course, otherwise known as Old Brack.

December will mark the 10th anniversary of the re-opening of the historic Brackenridge Park Golf Course. Originally designed in 1915 by noted golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast, Old Brack was the first public, 18-hole golf course in Texas. From 1922 to 1959, it hosted the Texas Open professional tournament, which in the beginning boasted the largest purse of any golf event. In the late 1960s, the construction of U.S. Highway 281 cut off a portion of the golf course and removed the river from several of the holes, sending the course into disrepair.

In 2007, the Alamo City Golf Trail, the City of San Antonio, and the local golf community, recognized Old Brack’s historic significance and ongoing importance to the San Antonio and Texas golf scene. The City provided the Golf Trail with funding to restore the course, and the Golf Trail’s board of directors hired a noted architect to restore the course to its original design and grandeur. The historic clubhouse was updated and an outside pavilion added, resulting in many awards for the restoration.

Historic Brackenridge Park Golf Course.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The restored clubhouse at the Brackenridge Park Golf Course

Significantly, the Golf Trail restored the historic Borglum Studio to become an events center. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum created the original designs for Mount Rushmore and other famous statues from the building.

Now, Old Brack is again host to significant golf events and the home of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. The Hall’s “Walk of Fame” connects the clubhouse to the Borglum Studio, and the clubhouse contains artifacts and photos of Hall of Fame inductees. In the future, the Golf Trail and the Texas Golf Hall of Fame will be adding more facilities at Old Brack to create another landmark museum along the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River Walk and will further enhance the Broadway Cultural Corridor.

The Hall of Fame at Historic Brackenridge Park Golf Course.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The Hall’s “Wall of Fame” at the Brackenridge Park Golf Course.

The Brackenridge Park Golf Course is the flagship for the eight courses in San Antonio’s municipal golf inventory. Without Old Brack, the economics of the rest of the Golf Trail do not work. And with the upgrade in the quality of the municipal golf facilities, San Antonio now offers a superior golf product that is accessible to all at a reasonable fee.

Members of the national and statewide golf communities have applauded and congratulated San Antonio for the work at Old Brack after 10 years. The Golf Trail’s CEO, Jim Roschek, is retiring at the end of this year, and on Dec. 10 the board of directors will acknowledge his leadership and honor him at its holiday party.

Like Jim, Old Brack is a treasure and worthy of acknowledgement from the community. To learn more about the course and golf history in San Antonio, click here. 

12 thoughts on “More Than a Muni: Old Brack Course a Treasure of San Antonio, Golf History

  1. The golf course at Brackenridge is a tragic under-utilization of Brackenridge Park and its unique location in the center city. The golf course and driving range take up almost half the acreage of the overall park. That is – half of the city’s flagship park is off limits to everyone but golfers. The space occupied by the golf course should be filled with things everyone can enjoy. Jogging trails, public art, outdoor cafes, family friendly playgrounds, etc. Brackenridge Park could be – and should be – the Central Park of San Antonio. Brackenridge Park could be one of the country’s great urban parks. Unfortunately, half of it is wasted on a golf course.

    • Have you been to Hemisfair park and seen the plans for the great lawn up next? It’s exactly what you describe.

      Should golf be a game only available to country club members? I don’t think so. It’s a great game accessible to all with our municipal courses all while contributing needed dollars to support other parks.

    • If you think Brackenridge Park Golf Course should become an extension of the existing park than you clearly have no appreciation for the history behind it. Just because you don’t play golf doesn’t mean that this land is “wasted” on a golf course. Brackenridge Park already is the “central park” of San Antonio. It is an amazing park, I am not sure what you are even complaining about. There already are jogging trails, family friendly playgrounds, etc in and around the park. You could make a solid argument for getting rid of the driving range, which is completely separate from the golf course, but you will never be successful in your hopes of getting rid of such an important historical place in San Antonio history.

  2. Should be turned into parkland. The golf course has gorgeous trees (Hemisfair will have new, cookie-cutter trees). Brack has the potential to be an amazing urban park. To say that Hemisfair is going to be comparable to what Brack CAN be is laughable. They are completely different and with so many cultural offering off Broadway, the city should seriously consider turning this golf course into parkland. Golf seems so be a sport that is not as popular as it used to be (golf courses have been closing across the US), and this gorgeous strip of land can only be seen and enjoyed by people who have/can afford golf equipment. Shame!

  3. Bret – The total amount of park land at Hemisfair is a tiny fraction of the Brackenridge Park golf course. Hemisfair can never be the same type of great public park that Brackenridge could be, simply given the size difference.

    Your suggestion that only country club members could play golf if the Brackenridge Park course were closed is as ridiculous as it is disingenuous. There are seven other City owned golf courses, not to mention many private courses that don’t require a membership.

    We could debate whether subsidized golf is a good use of taxpayer money at all. But 100+ acres in the heart of the city is NOT right place for a public golf course. Brackenridge Park has tremendous potential. It’s a shame it continues to underachieve.

  4. Maybe some middle ground here would be to have the Riverwalk actually follow the river through the course instead of following Broadway Maybe the golf course layout could be reworked a loyyle bit for that. There are plenty of improvements to be made for the existing park and Broadway areas for now. It’s a great park, and it could be better. Also, the certainty and aggressiveness with which everyone makes their claims in these comments sections is comical. Everyone needs to chill, probably.

    • “… have the Riverwalk actually follow the river through the course instead of following Broadway” Sorry Gray – you’re about 10 years too late to the table on that issue. Ex Mayor Howard Peak wanted to have the Museum Reach portion of the River Walk avoid the Golf Course entirely and instead put joggers and walkers gasping carbon monoxide alongside Hwy. 281 (!), dissecting the River Road neighborhood, fording the frequently flooded low water crossing on Woodlawn and then exiting on Ave. A. Bad idea which was resoundingly defeated. At any event the Golf Course said absolutely “NO” to having the public traverse their historic property.

  5. I agree it should be parkland. It’s vastly underutilized, while Brackenridge Park (the part accessible to the public) is way over-crowded. Why do we have such a large, beautiful publicly owned piece of property, that is kept off-limits for the large-majority of San Antonio? It’s devoted to an activity only enjoyed by a tiny fraction of our population, and completely off-limits (except for walking only, late at night.) As it gets exponentially more and more expensive to acquire land for parks around SA, it only makes sense to return this to the public so that the vast majority can enjoy it, instead of the few who can pay for the privilege of having the whole place to themselves a couple times a year.

  6. To the folks saying and hoping it should be turned into a park, you’re dreaming. Ideally, yes, but it’s never going to happen. That’s the oldest public course in Texas littered with history. It will always be a golf course.

  7. It is time for a referendum on the future of the Brackenridge Golf Course. Voters should decide what is the best use of what could be prime parkland along the San Antonio River. If voters decide to continue supporting a golf course, so be it. On the other hand, if voters decide that the 170+ acres of prime land along the San Antonio River should be parkland we would have the opportunity to create a world class park in central San Antonio.
    Given the opportunity, I believe San Antonio voters would support parkland over another golf course. Nowhere is it written that once public property has served as a golf course it can never be changed.
    Since the establishment of the Brackenridge Golf Course San Antonio has changed. We have multiple privately owned and operated golf courses scattered in and around the city. Golfers have many options to play their sport. City residents, however, are limited in where they can go to enjoy nature or play team sports such as soccer and baseball.
    Whatever history golfers claim to attach to the Brackenridge Golf Course could be recognized by the placement of historical markers and preservation of the club house and associated buildings.
    I hope our City Council is looking at the string of comments to this article. Those comments clearly demonstrate support for converting the golf course into parkland.

    • I don’t think that our City Council is looking at a string of 6 comments and making decisions based off a few guys throwing a fit about a historically significant golf course that has existed since 1916 because they don’t play golf. The course isn’t going anywhere and it is absolutely beautiful. I would support them getting rid of the driving range, that is completely separate from the course, but the course just has too much history to be removed for another under utilized and under maintained park.

  8. Brackenridge Golf Course holds a unique spot in the history of the City of San Antonio and is enjoyed by many in San Antonio’s golfing community. On any given day, you will see seniors, juniors, active and retired military veterans, school age kids, and others playing and enjoying the golf course, improving their skills and meeting new people. This process has been ongoing for many decades and will always be part of Brackenridge Golf Course.
    As one of eight golf facilities of the City of San Antonio, it provides opportunities for thousands of golfers in the San Antonio area to enjoy facilities that are professionally managed and maintained for the benefit of the public, and not subsidized by the city. This is a great facility and provides many benefits to the city beyond golf.
    Scrapping the golf course for a park may make sense elsewhere in the city, but not at Brackenridge.

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