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La Cantera Resort - Palmer Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 9.7

Golf - Resort Public Course · 18 Holes · Par 71
San Antonio
Website · Locate This Course
· Discounted Tee Times · Stay & Play
Date Last Played: August 26, 2015

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La Cantera Resort - Palmer Course Review

Review of the La Cantera Resort Palmer Course in San Antonio

In 2015 Destination Hotels took over management of La Cantera Resort and immediately started makings some significant changes and improvements to the Resort.  The golf courses (the Resort and Palmer Courses) have remained the same under this change and they are managed by one of the best in the industry - Troon Golf.  Destination Hotels is a collection of upscale and luxury resorts, hotels, and residences throughout the United States and it's good to see La Cantera as a part of this collection.  If you plan on playing golf at La Cantera, you should consider taking advantage of their golf stay and play package and play both courses which are two of the best courses in Texas. 

The Resort Course at La Cantera was designed by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskoff and they carved it out of the rolling hills north of San Antonio creating an outstanding layout with some of the most magnificent scenery in Texas - breathtaking panoramic views of San Antonio, the surrounding rolling hills, and Fiesta Texas; more color than you'll see on any course in Texas; limestone rock outcroppings; live oaks and lush greens and fairways; and creek beds. To learn more about this fantastic 18 holes of golf, read our review of the Resort Course.

The Par 71 Palmer Course at La Canters was designed by Arnold Palmer and it plays about 6 to 8 strokes harder than the Resort Course thanks to elevation changes, dog legs, blind shots, and challenging green complexes as it plays up and down some of the tallest hills in San Antonio.  Both courses are daily fee courses, always in near perfect condition, offer scenic views, and are a blast to play.  It's not surprising that the courses have won a number of awards and accolades, some of which included:

  • #9 Golf Course in Texas (Resort) and #2 Golf Course in Texas (Palmer)- Golf Advisor 2014
  • #1 (Resort) and #2 (Palmer) Luxury Golf Course  (Resort)  and in San Antonio - AvidGolfer Magazine 2014
  • Palmer Course was recognized as Resort Course of Distinction by GolfWeek 2011
  • #6 Best Courses (Palmer) You Can Play in Texas - Golf Magazine 2014 
  • Texas Outside's List of the Best Resort Courses in Texas and Best of the Best Courses in Texas

La Cantera's Palmer Course is clearly one of the best courses in Texas and a must play - in fact, the Palmer Course is what every course should aspire to be when they grow up!   It just doesn't get much better in Texas than the Palmer Course - it's scenic, every hole is different and unique, it's challenging but fair, the conditions are near perfect, and it's a pleasure to play!  And the Resort Course comes in a close second.  On top of that, both courses are at one of the best resorts in Texas, which also has a very attractive stay and play package - this review of La Cantera's Golf Stay & Play Offering will tell you more about the resort, amenities, and service. 

The Palmer Course was designed by one of the best, Arnold Palmer, and opened in 2001.  Arnold and his team sculptured the course out of some of the prettiest Hill Country in Texas and he created a unique layout that leverages the terrain to make for a really fun round of golf.  The course traverses up and down the rolling hills of north San Antonio (with 236 feet of elevation change) and along a plateau and ridgeline of some of the tallest hills in the area.  Some of what we love about this course includes:

  • magnificent panoramic views for miles of the countryside, San Antonio, and the Resort - making it very hard to focus on golf and chasing the ball when you have such fantastic scenery
  • natural streams, dramatic waterfalls, magnificent live oak trees, and limestone rock outcroppings
  • very well manicured and maintained with colorful landscaping and excellent conditions from tee to green
  • lots of variety with no two holes being the same - dog legs left and right, ups and downs, dramatic elevation changes, fun risk reward opportunities, several blind shots, and lots more
  • its very fair but demanding thanks to a thick roughs, forced carries, blind shots, challenging  green complexes, wind, elevation changes, water, and strategically placed bunkers

With five sets of tee boxes and yardages ranging from 5066 to 6926 you can find a yardage and rating that fits your game - if you don't bite off more than you can chew you will have an enjoyable and memorable round.  The front nine is a warm up for the back nine and it's home to some great holes like: 

  • #4 is a beautiful, but challenging 188 yard par 3 that's all carry over a lake to a green with a bunker in back, rock wall in front, and waterfall along the right
  • #5, the #1 handicap, is a fun 448 yard par 4 with an elevated tee shot over a gully and natural area to a landing zone and then another shot over the gully that crosses the fairway leading to a small guarded green;
  • #9 is outstanding with an elevated tee shot, a huge fairway bunker waiting for a long shot, a sharp dog leg right, then up and over a cascading rock waterfall to a green with another huge bunker in back.

As good as the front nine is, the back nine of the Palmer course is even better and has got to be one of the best nines in Texas - we gave it a rare 10!   As it plays up and the down and along the ridgeline you'll find dramatic elevation changes, unbelievable views, uphill and downhill shots to the greens, deep valleys that will devour your golf balls, blind shots, forced carries, strategically placed soft sand bunkers, and lots more that makes golf both fun and challenging. Our favorite holes on this nine included:

  • #10 sets the stage for this nine with an uphill blind shot to dog leg right fairway that runs along the edge of a deep valley to a green protected by a limestone wall on the left, bunkers, and the deep arroyo along the right side
  • #13 is a dramatic elevated tee shot 200 yards downhill to a green surrounded by 2 big bunkers
  • #18 is a perfect hole to end a fantastic nine - it's an uphill blind shot (a perfect risk reward opportunity to try and fly the trees and hill to shorten the hole) to a dog leg left and down a roller coaster fairway leading to a green that is well protected with mounding, a pond, a cascading waterfall, and large bunkers - plus everyone in the Palmer grill is watching your approach shot

Every time we have played the Palmer Course, the conditions have been near perfect.  The fairways are lush and plush, the greens are fast and smooth, the bunkers are excellent, and rough is demanding.  The fairways are rolling, contoured, and all tree lined - no homes, no barking dogs, no sirens.  Most of the fairways are ample and you can bring out the big dog and "let-er-rip," but if you miss you're in some thick challenging rough, a ravine, wet, or lost in the woods or natural area. 

The Palmer Course greens range in shape and size and most are large.  Each time we've played they have run at a good speed of between 9 and 10, were soft and held the ball well, and ran true.  They can be challenging thanks to slope, tiers, undulation, and subtle breaks.

The bunkers range from big to bigger but all were in excellent condition and filled with soft thick sand that is a joy to play out of.  The lips are manageable. 

Service is first class and the 19th hole is outstanding with a deck that overlooks the 9th and 18th greens, ponds, seven cascading waterfalls, and the surrounding hills - a perfect place to reminisce about the round, enjoy some good food and drinks, or watch the sun set - you may not want to leave.

The Resort and Palmer course are open to the public and with twilight rates, either course is a real bargain and a must play. If you really want a fun and enjoyable weekend, than stay at the resort and play both courses - you'll find outstanding accommodations, fantastic service, excellent amenities, and very good food. Read our review of La Cantera Resort to learn more about staying and playing at La Cantera. Both of the La Cantera Courses should be on your must play list.

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 6,926 73.5 136
Gold 6,535 72.0 134
Blue 6,115 70.1 127
White 5,684 67.7 114
Red 5,066 65.8 112

Course Information

Course Architect:
Arnold Palmer
Greens Type:
Bermuda
Greens Condition
10.0
Greens Difficulty
8.8
Fairway Condition
9.5
Bunker Condition
10.0
GPS:
Yes
Walkable:
No
Beware of water on 5 holes and the 52 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
9.7 out of 10
Beauty:
10.0
Difficulty:
9.0
Variety:
10.0
Fun to Play:
10.0
Value:
9.3
Condition:
9.8
Front Nine Rating:
9.8
Back Nine Rating:
10.0
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FEES & AMENITIES

Approximate Weekend
Rates:
$65.00 to $140.00

Service is excellent and the cart lady seemed to always show up when needed. The practice range is very good and the clubhouse, bar, pro shop, and restaurant are outstanding.

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Here's How Texas Outside Determines the Scorecard Rating

The Texas Outside rating scale ranges from 1 to 10 – a perfect 10 course would be something like this:  links along a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean and bordered by tall trees; lush fairways on rolling hills with lots of natural hazards; water (which is crystal clear) on most of the holes; immaculate greens (but they are undulating and tough); lots of variety and character (each hole is completely different and includes blind shots, elevation changes, doglegs, and significant challenges); perfectly manicured traps with the whitest and prettiest sand you’ve ever seen; a nice club house with great food and a 19th hole; a GPS; plenty of beverage carts or your own cooler and ice; and it only costs $40 bucks! What this means is that you probably won’t find any 10s in Texas – try Cabo San Lucas, Pebble Beach, or some of the Hawaii courses! 
Texas Outside rates courses on the following:

  • Beauty – tall trees, rolling hills, beautiful houses, waterfalls, and similar stuff would score high; a 1 would be flat, bushes or cactus instead of trees, and some grass but mostly weeds
  • Difficulty – a straight, 300 yard par 4 with no traps or hazards, no out of bounds or water would probably get a 1; if it is a 460 yard par 4 over two ravines, with water along one side, natural hazards on the other, strategically placed traps or that dreaded tree right in the middle of the fairway, we are talking a 10. 
  • Variety – what would you give a course where all the holes looked and played exactly the same (“I thought we just played that hole!”); were side-by-side, which is good for finding or dodging other people’s balls, but not much fun; and you can see the flag from every tee box?  That’s right, it gets a 1.
  • Fun Scale – a 10 is where you walk off the course and say “now that was fun” and you can’t wait to get back, or you immediately turn around and play another 18 holes
  • Value – a 5 is $50 to $60, a 10 is $20 to $30, and 1 is $200 or so – of course all of this is dependent upon how you liked the course.  For example, if a run down, boring municipal course, with six players on each hole was only $10; it would still get a value rating of 1.
  • Condition – this one’s pretty easy – what condition are the fairways. A 10 commands very lush perfectly manicured fairways, compared to a 1, which has fire ants, weeds, and more dirt than grass!
  • Condition of Greens and Difficulty – very hard to read greens with lots of undulation and tough pin placement, rate very high on the difficulty scale.  Condition is self-explanatory.  

All of the above determines the overall score for the golf course.  In other words, we like courses that are pretty, fun, very challenging with a lot of variety, and fairways and greens in excellent condition – all for $40.  We also tend to play the courses that are affordable for the masses, which means in the $30 to $80 range. We rate hard and we haven’t found a 10 in Texas yet – don’t worry we haven’t given up and we’re still looking.