Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Golf Club

DSC_0764 by you.

by Turk Pipman

It’s been 30-something years since I teed my first ball at Pedernales Golf Club, Willie Nelson’s scrappy nine-hole course overlooking the Pedernales River. Willie and friends were watching as I choked down my nerves and managed to smack a drive down the fairway. That was the first of maybe a thousand rounds at Pedernales in which I’ve won and lost millions of pesos, lost and never found hundreds of golf balls, and heard and forgotten countless great jokes.

Willie Nelson, Turk Pipkin, Darrel Royal, Ray Benson

Though few seem to know it, Willie’s course is open to the public and one of the best deals in town. Where else can you bring your own cooler and also have a chance of seeing the red-headed stranger make a long one-handed putt?


Golf at Pedernales can be a wild ride. The fairways are rough and the greens are slow, but when I’m at Willie’s, I always feel like I’m playing the old-school game I learned as a kid, and I’m generally with my best and longest standing friends. Last year’s drought was hard on the course, but Willie called me up recently and said, “We’re working on the golf course to get it in the best shape we can, so spread the word and tell folks that Pedernales is open for business.”

DSC_0762 by you.

I could tell you more, but thought Willie could do it better. So in Willie’s words, here are a few choice thoughts from the golf chapter in The Tao of Willie, a lovely little book Willie and I published awhile back. Take it away, Willie.

Pedernales Golf In Willie’s Words

Golf isn’t just a game—it’s an addiction. Think of it as the crack cocaine of sports. Like most addictions, doing it more doesn’t necessarily make you any better at it, it just makes you want more. My longest-running game has been at Pedernales Country Club, the nine-hole course I own in the hills outside of Austin. The course is a little rocky, but the greens roll true, and no one’s ever going to tell you to tuck in your shirttail at my course. I first saw Pedernales playing in a celebrity tournament in the mid-’70s, and a couple of years later, another guy and I bought it. For years, the standard game at Pedernales was somewhere between five and 15 of us in an equal number of carts, all of us racing from shot to shot claiming whatever ball we found as our own. The general philosophy was: May the man with the fastest cart win. Needless to say, I had a pretty fast cart.

If you never have a bad lie, you never have to tell a bad lie.

If you’re unhappy with your lie at Pedernales, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. We have a local rule called the Pedernales Stroll, which lets you lift your ball from a rocky lie and stroll it someplace greener. Ireland would be a little far, but otherwise, I recommend that you drop the ball within one length of your arm.

People want to know everything about the golf swing, but my golf pro Larry Trader always told me to “just hit the ball.” Little kids usually hit it great the first swing. Lots of people do. But when they start getting instruction, it all goes to hell.

It’s always better if you get a pro to tell you everything you’re doing wrong. You can still keep doing it, but at least you’ll know it’s wrong.

Golf is the last thing you should get mad about. The way I see it, if I play well, I’ll have bested my opponent. If I want to play better, the way to do it is through positive thinking. Talk to yourself, be your own best friend, be the coach you always wanted in school. If I continue to play bad, then what the hell—maybe I’ll make my opponent feel better about his game. Either way, we’ll be out under a beautiful sky, and my enjoyment of the hole, the game and the day is not going to be dictated by something as haphazard as a golf swing.

With that in mind, I’ll offer the two essential secrets of golf:

Don’t lunge before you lurch.

The game of golf is not that different than the game of life.

Play to your strengths and try not to get too wrapped up in the outcome. Let things happen and someday you’ll make a hole in one. I’m the living proof of that. And like I always say, you can’t lose ’em all.

Leave a Reply