Austin resident and managing editor of Golf Advisor, Brandon Tucker, has the scoop on where you can sneak in a quick round -- and a plate of brisket -- during the SXSW festival.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The 10-day SXSW tsunami that shakes our town out of its winter hibernation is the biggest event of the year in Austin.
I've attended the festival in a variety of ways over the last six years. I've also had complete burnout and skipped the hubbub all together and gone to Mexico. Everyone who attends SXSW ultimately experiences some kind of overload, often sometime around hearing the word "disruption" 20 times before lunch.
While visitors during SXSW might think everywhere -- from hotels to restaurants to buses in Austin -- are packed to the gills, nearby golf courses aren't all that busy during the event. But March is a great time of year to play (or just be outside in general), and Austin is one of the most accessible cities for golf, whether you've never touched a club or have mad game.
Where beginners can play golf in Austin during SXSW
For casual golf or for beginners, the first and only place to go is Butler Park Pitch & Putt. Shaggy St. Augustine grass, teeing mats and all, this is where true locals go for happy hour.
With a $10 green fee, the longest hole is 115 yards (downhill), they have $1 clubs and balls to use in the pro shop, and it's first-come first-serve. It's also BYOB. It's not uncommon to see eight-somes out there. Read up on the murder that took place in the clubhouse in 1951 to earn a little local street cred. Score a hole in one, and you'll earn the honor of your name on the clubhouse wall, not to mention the privilege of picking up a hefty Sixth Street bar tab.
If you want the casual golf experience but with a little more 21st century tech, head northwest to TopGolf, which opened its Austin location in 2013 and has become one of the best nights out beyond the urban core. The technology that puts microchips into balls so you can play a variety of games hitting to targets would make any techie, no matter how sports illiterate, applaud the concept.
Austin-area golf courses for better players
For a more proper golf experience, there are a handful of munis that are pretty easy to get on weekdays. The closest to downtown is Lions Municipal Golf Course, an old west-side haunt nearly 100 years old. Little more than 6,000 yards, everyone from Ben Hogan to Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw know it well. It also may not be here for long, as UT is considering developing the property.
If you're on the east side of town, head to Morris Williams Golf Course, the former home course of the University of Texas. It's a little longer and challenging. On the south side, Jimmy Clay and Roy Kizer are two great side-by-side municipals (I prefer Clay over Kizer for its layout and trees).
The area's better semi-private and resort courses are a little further outside downtown. Two of my favorites are Avery Ranch Golf Club and Falconhead Golf Club. A step up from those two is Wolfdancer Golf Club, a resort course attached to the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines east of town that has some of the best scenery in central Texas not to mention a pretty tough layout.
To play Barton Creek's two courses in the Top 100, you have to stay at the on-site Omni resort, but if you waited this long to book your hotel room for SXSW, there may be a Motel 6 in Round Rock with rooms for you.
The Austin dining scene during SXSW
Downtown Austin's bar and restaurant scene is thrown upside down during SXSW. Many venues become corporate hospitality venues or become official venues for shows or conferences. Calling ahead to make sure a spot is still open to the public is never a bad idea.
However, no one goes hungry in Austin. Food trucks are on every corner downtown.
And now it's time for the obligatory, "Where to get barbecue in Austin" graph:
I'll be up front -- I think most BBQ in Texas is dang good, and burning an entire morning waiting in line for a meal at renowned Franklin's is absurd. (A two-hour line for great brisket makes sense in India, not central Texas.)
Take solace in the fact that few joints do Texas brisket poorly around here. Ironworks, steps from the Austin Convention Center, is an obvious place to go and serves pretty solid meat in a down-home atmosphere. Chances are there will be a line out the door, but they shuffle people through pretty quickly. North of downtown, Stiles Switch has quietly made a good name for itself in business for a couple years now. A little closer to downtown, Black's BBQ (of nearby Lockhart fame) recently opened a satellite location off 31st & Guadalupe, and it's just off-the-beaten-path enough to never be packed. Also, County Line is a big, friendly restaurant with two locations where you can have a sit down meal with colleagues. Salt Lick is, of course, another area institution, but it's about 45 minutes outside of town.
A few of my other favorite central restaurants (non-barbecue) that are just beyond the clutches of SXSW mayhem are Second Bar + Kitchen (slightly upscale pub food), Musashino (sushi), Vino Vino (great wine list with a variety of entrees and apps) and Salty Sow (great meats).
As for the uber-intense Austin breakfast taco scene, I pledge my allegiance to Torchy's. There are numerous locations, but the trailer on S. 1st Street just south of Town Lake is my favorite on a pleasant day (BYOB).
So enjoy SXSW everyone. I hope you're able to off-set fluorescent lighting and projection screens with plenty of sunshine and exercise. Tip your pedicab, and whatever you do, don't complain to a local about the traffic.