Olympia Hills

Conditions accentuate challenges and toughness at northeast San Antonio area course.

By Steve Habel
Special to The Golfers Guide

Olympia HillsAs the Texas Hill Country to the northwest fades into the softer agricultural plains of the southeast, the landscape provides one final burst of sharp terrain, rock outcrops and ancient live oak trees. Here, along the winding Cibolo and Selma Creeks is the near-northeast suburb of San Antonio, Olympia Hills Golf & Conference Center was created to take advantage of the dramatic environment.

Designed by the Finger, Dye, Spann Design Group of Houston and opened for play in February 2000, Olympia Hills is an 18-hole, par-72 layout owned and managed by the City of Universal City. The 6,918-yard course features distinctively different front- and back-nines, holes with drops of up to 60 feet and target golf challenges aplenty Seven of the holes at Olympia Hills are defined by the courses two creeks and three more are made tougher by hazards created by the tracks irrigation ponds.

Even in the hottest and dries times of the Texas summer, Olympia Hills is green, thanks to its use of treated effluent from Universal City for irrigation. Here you will find roadrunners dashing among the rock outcroppings and prickly pears.

The course features dramatic elevation changes on hole Nos. 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11 and 13. ”At Olympia Hills, players get great golf, some breathtaking holes and encounter some of the largest, most picturesque live oaks in Bexar County,” said Baxter Spann, the courses architect.

The golf course features Bermuda grass and four sets of tees. The layout boasts naturally undulating topography, man-made mounds and strategic placement of bunkers, as well as native South Texas vegetation and wildlife that can be seen throughout.

One aspect of Olympia Hills that nearly everyone in San Antonio agrees on is this: The front nine is tougher - or at least more eye-catching - than the back nine.

Nearly all the holes on the front-nine play through thick trees. The two par 5s – Nos. 2 and 6 – are tight challenges that snake through the oaks and between hills. The two par 3s are equally tough: No. 5 has an exposed, elevated tee box and a tree-framed green about 50 feet below while No. 7 plays to 239 yards and downhill from the back tees to a well-guarded, sloping green.

The 474-yard, par-4 No. 8 (ranked as the No. 1 hole by handicap) features a 50-foot drop from tee to fairway and tightens in the landing area before heading back uphill to the undulating putting surface.

The back-nine is much more open, with several holes nearly treeless. Homes – and at the end of the 14th fairway, Interstate 35 and Retama Park – come into view. Most of the holes are comparatively flat, but the side still has its teeth.

The best offerings on the back-side include: the 437-yard par-4, downhill 10th, which plays into a bowl-shaped canyon of rock; the 396-yard par-4 15th, which nearly always plays into the wind and on which your approach must be played over a huge pond; and the 445-yard par-4 finishing hole, where you tee off out of a narrow chute of trees to a rolling landing area before challenging a deep, three-tiered green.

In 2001, Olympia Hills was selected No. 4 “Best New Affordable Public Golf Course” in America by Golf Digest. Olympia Hills was the only course in Texas to make any of the magazine’s lists that year.

In May 2009, the USGA reassigned Olympia Hills a course rating of 74.1 and a slope of 139 from its back tees, making the track the second-hardest course by slope in the San Antonio area. Olympia Hills also offers one of the premiere practice centers in the area.
 

 

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