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Weekend in San Antonio: Forget PGA Village, enjoy Olympia Hills, SilverHorn

By David R. Holland, Contributor

SAN ANTONIO, TX - Tired of those whining environmentalists making Chicken Little noises about what the PGA Village would do to Northeast Bexar County's Edwards Aquifer?

Then forget those tree-huggers for a weekend and enjoy two great North San Antonio golf courses - Olympia Hills Golf Resort & Conference Center and SilverHorn Golf Club.

Olympia Hills, opened in 2000, is a rolling beauty with man-made mounds, traps and water features. It was envisioned on land in Universal City, near Randolph Air Force Base, where the Hill Country to northwest transitions into agricultural plains to the southeast.

Here you will find roadrunners dashing among the rock outcroppings and prickly pears - through ancient live oaks standing tall in rugged terrain along the Cibolo and Selma Creeks.

Designed by the award-winning Finger, Dye and Spann design team out of Houston, the 7,015-yard, par-72 layout has several holes with 40- to 60-foot elevation changes.

Olympia Hills dodged those sticky water issues by using treated sewage effluent which was critical for the project to move forward considering water-use restrictions in the Edwards Aquifer region.

In 2001, Olympia Hills was selected No. 4 "Best New Affordable Public Golf Course" in America by Golf Digest. Public golf courses were rated on shot value, design variety, memorability, aesthetics and playability. Olympia Hills was the only course in Texas to make any of the magazine's lists.

"Olympia Hills compares favorably to another one of our designs in Farmington, N.M.," said Baxter Spann, who authored the course. Spann is talking about Piñon Hills, which is considered the best affordable course in the USA. "We think this golf course is a proud addition to great golf in San Antonio."

SilverHorn Golf Club, opened in 1997, has a distinctive Hill Country character with tight tree-lined fairways of gnarly live oaks, strategic use of sand and water, and beautifully framed contoured greens. And you won't believe the conditions. The fairways were perfect in October, with any ball in the fairway sitting up for a great approach.

This traditional 6,922-yard par-72 course was designed by Randy Heckenkemper, a protégé of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. PGA Tour pros Willie Wood and Scott Verplank were consultants on the project.

Some believe the par-5 dogleg-left 556-yard No. 6 is the signature hole, which includes 20 acres of water bordering the entire left side. But others like the par-4 15th which is demanding at 446 yards and has two creeks crossing through the fairway. Others favor the 18th, a short par-5 test at 524 yards.

"No doubt golfers come back time and again because of our conditioning," said Ignacio Vela of SilverHorn. "I think that's expected of a course in our price range. I think we give them a great overall experience."

Olympia Hills Golf Resort
12900 Mount Olympus
Universal City, TX 78148
Telephone: 210-945-4653
Green Fees: $30 to $70
Internet: www.olympiahills-golf.com

SilverHorn Golf Club
1100 W. Bitters Road
San Antonio, TX 78213
Telephone: 210-545-5300
Green Fees: $30 to $65
Internet: www.silverhorngolfclub.com

Where to Stay

The Westin La Cantera Resort
16641 La Cantera Parkway
San Antonio, TX 78256
Telephone: 210-558-6500.

All guestrooms at The Westin La Cantera Resort feature: mini-refrigerators, safe, coffee maker (complimentary Starbucks), two direct-dial telephones with personal voice-mail and modem jacks, 25-inch color TV with cable and in-room movies, oversized well-lighted desk, two closets, iron and ironing board and electronic entry door lock. Standard bathroom amenities include hair dryer, generously sized natural stone countertop with dual sinks, and Westin's own hair and bath products and two-sided magnifying mirror

Where to Eat

The County Line has great barbecue at 10101 I-10 West. Call 210-641-1998. Or try the Riverwalk location. Call 210-229-1941.

Landry's Seafood House at 517 N. Presa on the Riverwalk. Call 210-229-1010.

Boudro's Restaurant at 421 E. Commerce between the Hilton and Hyatt Hotels near the Riverwalk. It's a Texas Bistro with Texas and Southwestern specialties. Call 210-224-8484. Or log on to www.boudros.com.

If you want to charter the Yanaguana Dinner Cruise, Inc. at the River Walk. check out: www.sarivercruise.com. Select the Texas Land & Cattle Steak House as your caterer for the cruise.

What To Do In San Antonio

Start with The Alamo. Can you believe one recent tourist said: "The Alamo is a great attraction, but why did you build it downtown?" This mission fortress seems tiny, but the Alamo mystique is larger than life. For an introduction to the Alamo saga, see the 45-minute documentary Alamo ... The Price of Freedom at the San Antonio IMAX® at Rivercenter (210-225-4629).

The River Walk - El Paseo del Rio - is definitely a must-do stop. Cottonwood trees still line the banks the way they did in the 1760s, when Mission San Antonio de Valera (the Alamo) was first established. In fact, the word alamo means cottonwood in Spanish. Today, this mile-and-a-half of boutiques, nightspots and restaurants are the heart and soul of downtown. Strolling the River Walk by day or night, you'll enjoy some outstanding food and great people watching.

SeaWorld of San Antonio, (10500 SeaWorld Drive, 210-523-3611), includes famed killer whale Shamu, roller coasters such as the "Steel Eel" hyper coaster and "Great White" inverted coaster, the Lost Lagoon water park (bring your swimsuit!), Shamu's Happy Harbor children's play area and more.

For golfers, The Six Flags Theme Park, Fiesta Texas, (210-697-5050), is right next to the Westin La Cantera Resort. It's a mere 15 miles northwest of downtown San Antonio. You can see the theme park and Rattler roller coaster from the fairways of The Resort Course at La Cantera.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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