Course Review By Terry Moore—A member of the Golf Writers Association of America and Michigan Golf Hall of Fame
Recently, I had the good fortune to visit Horseshoe Bay Resort, located 45 minutes west of Austin. Horseshoe Bay is in the final stages of a $70 million makeover which has touched nearly every facet of the property, including hotel room and meeting room upgrades and extensive improvements to its three resort courses—Slick Rock, Ram Rock and Apple Rock (there’s also a member-only course, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Summit Rock).
During my stay I toured the still-under-renovation Apple Rock one day and played Ram Rock the next. My round at Ram Rock, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1981, was buoyed by an affable member and partner who was a helpful guide for my first time around the track. We also played briskly, in the chilly temps, as we were the first group of the day. It’s a truism in golf that nearly every round is enhanced when there are no delays or undue waiting involved.
And here’s another truism about Ram Rock voiced by my playing partner: “You can’t take a mental break and lose your focus.” Indicative of it being a frequent host of state, college and junior competitions, Ram Rock is a fair but strong test of golf. Its nickname is “The Challenger.” However, recent renovations, similar to Slick Rock and upcoming Apple Rock—formulated and approved by RTJ Design— have enhanced its playability when teeing it up at the middle and forward markers. Bunkers have been reduced in size and reconfigured with new sand added while the bent grass greens have been rebuilt with new turf to original size allowing for more pin positions.
I love how Jones both opened and closed the golf experience at Ram Rock: with spectacular views of the Texas Hill Country on the first and 18th tees. And in between there are a wonderful array of golf holes, marked by doglegs, elevated greens, forced carries, natural outcroppings, dry creek beds, deep bunkers and water hazards. There’s even an island green par-three, the 133-yard fourth hole, which will get your heart racing. For my debut round, I smartly opted for the hybrid-tees (nicely listed on the card) sandwiched between the regular and executive markers at around 6100 yards but with a slope of 133. With the ball not flying due to the colder temps, it was a good choice.
All in all, Ram Rock delivered on its promise of a fun and “challenging” golf experience. Along with the advice of not losing focus, I urge first-timers not to be overly score-conscious. You’ll enjoy the round more if you play Stableford or match play. Even with the deft and friendlier renovations, rest assured it’s still Ram Tough.
As mentioned, I was given a cart tour of the nearby Apple Rock that’ll open later this season. It’s tamer than Ram Rock but still has plenty of sharp teeth. Head Golf Pro Gary Parsons was my able guide and he pointed out how Apple Rock’s playability will be enhanced through its green and bunker renovations. Plus, there’ll be continuous cart paths for the first time. Compared to Ram Rock, there are more scenic elevation changes found at Apple Rock, opened in 1985 and designed by Jones, Sr.
Golfers are afforded terrific views of Horseshoe Bay and Lake LBJ. “But level lies are at a premium,” warned Parsons. One of its stand-out holes is the par-three 12th which stretches along the shoreline of Lake LBJ.
Equally impressive is the new clubhouse being built that will serve both the Ram and Apple courses. Dubbed the Cap Rock Clubhouse, it will boast dining room and bar area with a pro shop, pool and outdoor areas. The views will be stunning.
Slick Rock, the first golf course built (in 1971) at Horseshoe Bay features a parkland setting with classic elements of Jones’ renowned architectural sensibility. Included in the renovated layout, beautiful rock retaining walls along all of the water-hazards were part of its renovations 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.
As far as the resort itself, the rooms in our two-bedroom villa were spacious, clean and well-appointed. I was also impressed with the Himalayan putting course—called the Whitewater— near the main hotel. It’s an attractive diversion for golfers and families offering an 18-hole day/night real-grass putting course.
A wedge shot away is the 360 Sports Club, a nifty destination for bar food, cocktails and live sports on sixteen large flat screen TVs. It’s a cool spot for a golf buddy gathering, couples and families.
The resort has it all: full-service spa, meeting space, walking and bike trails, tennis and pickle ball courts and lots of dining options 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.
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