HORSESHOE BAY, TX – On a cool Hill Country day in early spring two Horseshoe Bay Resort golfers, Jim Smith and Ralph Johnston, teed it up on the famed Ram Rock Course and didn’t mind at all that the layout was tough and unforgiving. They know on any given day it could bring them to their knees.
Here’s a couple of retired guys who once lived in the flatness of scenery-challenged Lubbock and were just thankful they were able to experience one of the world’s premier golf resorts any time they wanted.
Lubbock in their rear-view mirror never looked so good, even though they both said they once loved living on the South Plains. On the tee at No. 11 they pointed to an awesome home and said: “That’s where Spike Dykes lived.” The affable former Texas Tech football coach, who passed away a few years ago was a fixture on Ram Rock.
They enjoy the scenery, the bluebonnets, the granite-rock outcroppings, an occasional birdie and a stretch of holes at Ram Rock that would challenge any golfer.
“Augusta has its Amen Corner,” Johnston said. “But we have one too. Holes eight through 11 at Ram Rock have more trouble than you ever could imagine.”
When they arrive at the 16th, a mean par 4, 376 yards, with water to carry and a blind second shot (for shorter hitters) to a tiny, long, narrow green, Smith says, with a wink, “There ain’t no green there,” in reference to a minuscule target that has water right and a huge bunker left.
Just the day before another former Lubbock resident and Texas Tech graduate, Gary McWilliams, a San Antonio retired physician, played Ram Rock and Slick Rock in one day. He said: “If your driver isn’t working you will be. These courses reward a good drive with manageable approaches to the greens, but you will be praying for your bogey if you botch the big stick, which I did on more than one occasion.
“When you play these courses at Horseshoe Bay you should take time to enjoy golf the way it once was, when missing the fairways meant you were gnarly rough instead of in someone’s backyard. Even the sting of a bad score won’t last for long if you take time to soak up the beautiful Hill Country all around you,” he said.
Today, Horseshoe Bay Resort is more spectacular than ever. The final touches on a $70-million resort and multi-course renovation that has the AAA-Four Diamond and Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Award-winning property poised to become one of America’s premier golf destinations.
With four acclaimed championship golf courses and the neat Whitewater Putting Course, Horseshoe Bay offers an a bounty of golf experiences designed by World Golf Hall of Fame members Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jack Nicklaus. The resort is 55 miles from the University of Texas in Austin.
In 2016, Horseshoe Bay embarked on an expansive $7.5-million project to upgrade all three of its Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designs, Slick Rock, Ram Rock, and Apple Rock. Improvements to the courses and the overall golf experience has the resort community in position to earn nationwide attention and a rise in out-of-state rounds.
“Everything traveling golfers’ value, you’ll find here in a truly distinct and elevated presentation,” says managing director of Horseshoe Bay Resort Bryan Woodward. “The investment we have put into these renovations have elevated the quality of our golf to a national level and has made the overall golf experience more fun for our guests.”
Situated on the shores of the constant-level Lake LBJ and rolling through a rugged 7,000-acre expanse of rolling Hill Country, the scenic Horseshoe Bay Resort is the only waterfront resort in Texas. You will see palm trees, water and rock features and Hawaii-like colorful vegetation. Texas’ famous bluebonnets cascade through the landscape in the spring.
“People know desert golf, mountain golf, links golf and parkland golf, but if you’ve never experienced golf in the rocky, panoramic Texas Hill Country, your bucket list has another line to check,” Woodward says. “Once you play golf in this setting, it just stays with you.”
Before there was ever a Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Horseshoe Bay was home to three very distinct courses designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The Ram Rock course, constructed in 1981, has made its reputation as one of the toughest courses in Texas. Slick Rock, the first golf course built (in 1971) at Horseshoe Bay, features a classic parkland setting and classic elements of Jones’ renowned architectural sensibility. Wall-to-wall renovations to both courses have enhanced playability and fun from the forward and middle tees while maintaining each layout’s legendary challenge for scratch players.
Each of the course renovations included installing the latest 007 bent grass greens to improve quality of turf, expanded green sizes by as much as 50 percent in some areas, renovating bunkers, re-shaping and leveling tee-boxes, new irrigation, as well as adding beautiful rock retaining walls along all of the water-hazards to improve over-all course aesthetics. This was most significant with the awe-inspiring “Million Dollar Hole” where golfers follow a winding path across a 35-yard rock-walled waterfall.
The final course and renovation project, Apple Rock, will see much of the same renovations completed as its sister courses and will re-open in May 2019. The course offers some of the most picturesque views in the region. Jones Sr. strategically routed holes to take advantage of the many higher elevation points that overlook Horseshoe Bay and Lake LBJ.
The future includes the unveiling of the luxe, new Cap Rock Clubhouse. Members and guests of Horseshoe Bay will enjoy the new Cap Rock setting with its expansive views of the courses and Texas Hill Country. It will feature a dining room and bar area along with a pro-shop, swimming pool, cabana, pavilion area for groups, and a practice/teaching facility.
In addition to the resort golf, Horseshoe Bay also offers a distinctive member-only experience with the Jack Nicklaus Signature design, Summit Rock (which opened in 2012). The course offers stunning scenery. Nicklaus routed holes along a high ridge, a setting that showcases spectacular views that stretch for more than 40 miles over the Texas Hill Country and Lake LBJ. Resort guests can have limited access to Summit Rock during certain times.
Complementing the championship golf is the fun Whitewater Putting Course, a tropically-adorned 18-hole day/night real-grass putting course that sits adjacent to the hotel and is routed around the energetic 360 Sports Club (A full-service destination for pub food, cocktails and live sports on more than two dozen flat screen TVs). It is the perfect attraction for golf buddy groups, couples and families.
About Horseshoe Bay Resort
Horseshoe Bay Resort is one of the largest golf resorts in the country and is the original Texas lakeside resort destination. It has invested $70 million in a property-wide renovation and new construction. The work included new guest rooms, suites, and multi-room units, as well as renovation of the golf courses and facilities, dining experiences, meeting spaces, and more.
The resort also features a world-class spa and health club, tennis facilities with 14 courts, bike rentals, hiking trails, lake activities with a full-service lake marina and boat valet service, nearby wineries and a private airport. For more information and reservations visit www.hsbresort.com or call 877-611-0112.
This world-class residential and resort community was developed in the early 1970s on the shores of Lake LBJ, one of the seven Highland Lakes formed by the damming of the Colorado River.
Story by David R. Holland