Brackenridge Park Golf Course is a historic golf course in San Antonio, Texas and the oldest 18-hole public golf course in Texas. It opened for play in 1916 and was the first inductee into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. Brackenridge Park was the original site of the Texas Open which held the tournament for most years between 1922-1959. Located in historic Brackenridge Park, the course is one of six municipal golf courses managed by the non-profit management group, the Alamo City Golf Trail.
George Washington Brackenridge donated 100-plus acres of land to the city to create Brackenridge Park, the park in which the present day Brackenridge Park Golf Course is located.
Ray Lambert's appointment as City Parks Commissioner in 1915 began a new era for Brackenridge Park. Lambert inherited a parks system that was underfunded and growing quickly. He immediately asked for almost a threefold increase in budget (to $60,000), and earmarked much of this increase for the further development of Brackenridge Park. One of Lambert's major projects was the construction of a public golf course. A public course had been advocated by golf enthusiasts for many years as a tourist attraction for the City. There were three other courses in San Antonio at that time, all private. In October 1915, it was reported that the 18-hole Brackenridge Park golf course was under construction. Noted course designer A.W. Tillinghast was hired to design and build the golf course. A clubhouse was also proposed, as well as a swimming hole "so that after the game the players may enjoy a plunge in the delightful waters of the San Antonio River."
Currently the historic golf course remains in operation near downtown, and within close proximity to the San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium. San Antonio landmarks, the Witte Museum and San Antonio Japanese Tea Gardens, are also located nearby.
The original clubhouse was a small one-story building that burned down in 1920. In 1922, the City hired Ralph H. Cameron to design and build a new clubhouse for the golf course and the Texas Open. $8,000 was raised by the City for clubhouse construction. Cameron designed other notable San Antonio buildings, including the Scottish Rite Cathedral (1923), Neo-Gothic Medical Arts Building (1925), the Frost Brothers Store (1930), and the U.S. Post Office and Court House (1937).
The Borglum Studio (Oct. 2012)
An adjacent building to the Brackenridge Park Golf Clubhouse once served as the working studio for artist Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who created the heads of the U.S. Presidents on Mount Rushmore. The structure was built in 1885 from local limestone and timbers to serve as a water pumping station. In 1905, the pump house became obsolete with the drilling of artisan wells into the Edwards Aquifer. Around the abandoned pump house, the untamed land was sculpted into a golf course. In Reid Meyers' self-published book, "The Ghosts of Old Brack," he spotlights Gutzon Borglum's arrival in San Antonio in 1924 and his rental of the old pump house. Through the windows, he likely would have seen golfers warming up. "That was what made it nice as an artist studio, the setting and light, the large space," says San Antonio historian Maria Watson Pfeiffer.
After Borglum's use of the studio passed, it served as the creative space of other noted regional artists, and art students of the Wiite and Fort Sam Houston.
Today, the Borglum Studio looks out on the 17th hole of the golf course.
U.S. Air Force General Bernard Adolph Schriever grew up in a small house near the 12th green of the historic layout of Brackenridge Park. He and his younger brother, Gerhardt, were best friends with Tod Menefee and the Schriever's mother (Elizabeth) operated a small but popular sandwich stand for the golfers in the back yard. Bernard won the State Junior and the San Antonio City Golf Championship twice. He captained the Texas A&M golf team for two years before entering the army. He is mostly known for his role in the air force's space and missile program, and managing the nuclear arsenal during the Cold War. In 2011, Bernard was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame posthumously (died in 2005). His 97-year-old brother Gerhardt Schriever was there to accept the honor.
In 1939, Harold "Jug" McSpaden posted the course record of 59 during an exhibition match played with Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and Paul Runyan.
Mike Souchak set a PGA Tour 72-hole record of 257 at the 1955 Texas Open. The record held until 2001.
Three of the first six 60s shot in PGA Tour history came at Brackenridge Park. Al Brosch was the first to do it, with an 11-under during the third round of the 1951 Texas Open. In 1954, Ted Kroll matched Brosch, with a 60 of his own, also during the third round of the Texas Open. The following year, Souchak opened the Texas Open with a 60 (27-33) on his way to the 257 that gave him the title that season.
The Texas Open was held at Brackenridge Park in: 1922-1926, 1929-1932, 1934, 1939-1940, 1950-1955, and 1957-1959. No tournament was played in 1933 and 1935-1938. The Texas Open was the first professional golf tournament in Texas and one of the first events to be played during the winter. The first Open held in 1922 had a $5,000 purse, the largest purse of any golf tournament at the time. In 1960, the San Antonio Golf Association moved the Texas Open to Oak Hills Country Club, another Tillinghast-designed course.
The Texas Golf Walk of Fame
The Texas Golf Hall of Fame is represented at Brackenridge Park Golf Course. Several upgrades have been added to the golf course to accommodate The Texas Golf Hall of Fame including a new pavilion to host events and The Texas Golf Walk of Fame. The Texas Golf Walk of Fame connects the Brackenridge Clubhouse and Borglum Studio together with exhibit monuments dedicated to Hall of Fame members. The Cavender Family, best known for their sprawling auto sales business, offered $50,000 to underwrite the cost of the Walk of Fame. The Walk of Fame is designed as a garden area that connects the clubhouse to the studio near the 17th green. The family's donation was in honor of their grandfather, legendary longtime San Antonio Country Club head pro, Tod Menefee. Their mother, Betty Cavender, also partnered in the grant.
A Park for the People
In 1899, noted San Antonio philanthropist George W. Brackenridge donated more than 100 acres of land to the city to create Brackenridge Park, the site on which Brackenridge Park Golf Course is located. When it opened in 1916 as Municipal Golf Course, it became the Alamo City’s first public course and had greens fees under a dollar. While on the subject of greens, one of Brackenridge Park’s unique features were its grass greens at a time when hard-pressed sand was a much more common surface. Another distinctive characteristic is that a half-dozen square-shaped greens, an ode to the past, still exist today.
Old Brack and Bethpage Black
In 1992, the oldest 18-hole public golf course in Texas became the first course to earn a spot in the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. Noted course designer A.W. Tillinghast, the sixth architect ever inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, designed and built Brackenridge Park. Tillinghast worked on more than 265 courses in his career and had a knack of designing challenging courses, including Baltusrol, Winged Foot and Bethpage Black. The versatile “Old Brack” has held events from the Texas Open to the Texas State Junior Championship (for 50 years) to a bevy of amateur tournaments for men, women, juniors and seniors.
Way Back with Old Brack
Brackenridge Park hosted the first Texas Open more than a century ago, in 1922. As a lure to get the best players to come, the tournament offered a $5,000 first-place purse—10 times larger than the prize at the U.S. Open. Old Brack was the tournament’s home nearly every year until 1940 (except in 1933 and 1935-38 when it was not played), and remained in the rotation of courses until 1959. Now known as the Valero Texas Open, it is the third oldest PGA tournament, behind only the BMW Championship (formerly the Western Open) and the RBC Canadian Open.
Where Legends Play
Ben Hogan made his professional debut as a 17-year-old at Old Brack in 1930. Upon deciding to register for the tournament as a pro, he famously remarked, “You can’t eat trophies.” Other legendary golfers who played at Brackenridge Park include the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Jimmy Demaret, Walter Hagen, Tom Kite, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead. In a 1939 exhibition match featuring Hogan, Nelson and tour players Paul Runyan and Harold McSpaden, McSpaden set a course record by shooting a 59, a record that still stands today.
A Highway and a Hall
Historic Old Brack has undergone numerous renovations over the years. In 1968, eminent domain ruled that State Highway 281 was going to be built through part of the golf course. The course, which had to be modified to fit the 113 acres allotted, now stands at 6,286 yards. In 2008, the Texas Golf Hall of Fame, which had closed its doors at Texas National Golf Club near Houston in 2001, moved to Brackenridge Park at the suggestion of Joe Black. Hall of Fame highlights include Texas Tournament Trophy Room, the Walk of Fame and a special event pavilion.
A Design on the Presidency
A building near the Brackenridge Park Golf Clubhouse that overlooks the course’s 17th hole once served as the working studio for artist Gutzon Borglum. Borglum is most known as the sculptor who created the heads of the U.S. Presidents on Mount Rushmore in the 1920s and 30s. Coincidentally, George W. Brackenridge, whose full name was George Washington Brackenridge, was the son of John Adams Brackenridge. George’s uncles’ names? James Madison Brackenridge and Thomas Jefferson Brackenridge, of course.
Brackenridge Park - Class of 2022 Induction Video
Brackenridge Park - Class of 2022 Induction Video
Brackenridge Park - The Whole Shooting Match
Tee shot from the 1930's at Brackenridge
Renovated course routing of Brackenridge Park G.C.
Early photo of a gallery watching play
Young women playing at Old Brack
Beautiful scenery at Brackenridge Park
Artist Gutzon Borglum sculpts the heads of the U.S. Presidents on Mount Rushmore in his studio off the 17th hole of Brackenridge Park
Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan at Brackenridge Park
Early photo of the clubhouse and practice green of Brackenridge Park
Early photo of Paul Runyan putting on the greens of Old Brack
Byron at Old Brack
Aerial view of Brackenridge Park
The Women's Golf Association teeing off at Old Brack
Historic photo of play at Brackenridge Park
Brackenridge Park course logo
Brackenridge Park G.C. course architect, A.W. Tillinghast
Historic Women's Golf Association
Brackenridge Park Golf Course front sign
Modern day Old Brack
Brackenridge Park G.C. playing host to the 1923 Texas Open
Old Brack playing host to the greats, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson