For those too young to remember Ben Crenshaw, he is generally considered one of the best putters in golfing history.
He won the Masters twice, in 1984 and ’95, and famously made about a 60-foot putt for birdie on the 10th hole at Augusta on the way to the win in ’84. He didn’t record a single three-putt while winning his second Masters, the emotional victory coming the same week that his longtime mentor and teacher, Austin golf icon Harvey Penick, passed away.
Thus, it did not surprise me that he and partner Bill Coore’s design at Barton Creek put a premium on putting, featuring huge, rolling greens that had breaks in them that are, in one word — unbelievable.
But I’ll get to that in a minute.
I played that day with Owner’s Club member, Jeff Siegel, who lives and works in Chicago, but has a timeshare at Barton Creek.
While, as I mentioned, we played on a cold and windy day in Austin that necessitated several layers, he was thankful to be out playing golf.
“It’s five-below in Chicago,” Siegel laughed. “There hasn’t been any golf up there since November.”
Siegel took advantage of his time in Austin, playing the Crenshaw, Fazio Foothills and the other track on the property, Fazio Canyons, about five minutes away from the main resort.
“I was fortunate to be able to play all three of the courses on this visit,” he said. “It’s nice to get the diversity of the courses while I’m here.”
He’s been a regular at Barton Creek for a few years, playing the courses before and after the recent renovations, and is impressed with the improvements. Seigel said that the new sand in the traps on Crenshaw, along with the trees removed, were the most obvious changes to the course.
“They’ve done a great job on the sand traps, they are a lot fluffier and in great shape,” Siegel said. “They have made it more playable by taking down some of the trees and the overgrowth, so the fairways are more open and you can see the hills and the holes better.”
“It’s definitely more attractive than it was previously.”
While the front nine is more open with several holes next to each other, the back nine ratchets up from there, with the stretch from No. 14, a short downhill par-4, through the dramatic finish on the par-3 17th and the par-4 18th highlighting the round.
Siegel agreed with my assessment that the large and sloping greens were the major defense of the course.
“The greens are … challenging,” he laughed. “I think you need to play it a few times to understand how they break. Some putts that look uphill are actually downhill, some downhill are actually uphill, so it takes a little while to get to know them.”
The largest break he played that day was 20 feet, which, believe it or not, was short of my record for the day.
I had a 35-footer for birdie on the par-5 16th that broke 28 feet. I know this because I played 20 feet of break and the putt stopped eight feet left of the hole. A 20-foot putt on the par-3 17th broke 12 feet.
I three-jacked both of them.
“Mr. Crenshaw got me,” I laughed with Siegel as we finished our round for the day.