By Roger Cox, Editor
Horseshoe Bay Resort may be set on 7,000 acres of Texas Hill Country real estate once sacred to the Comanche Indians, but there is nothing Lonesome Dove-ish about it. For one thing, it fronts Lake Lyndon B. Johnson (better known locally as Lake LBJ), a constant-level reservoir of the Colorado River. Thus, here, deep in the heart of Texas, 46 miles from Austin, resort guests and the people who live or weekend there can dig their toes into that rarest of inland features, a beach, fronted by waters that in summer can reach 80 degrees. Admittedly, that strand is more welcome anomaly than a primary reason to visit. The real draw can be traced to the resort's 14 tennis courts—6 of them red clay—and 8 pickleball courts arrayed around an Oriental garden, three Robert Trent Jones Sr. 18-hole golf courses, an 18-hole Bermuda grass putting course, a spa and fitness center, a jungle kids' club, several swimming pools, a collection of colorful exotic birds, hotel or condo lodging, a marina and yacht club (with a beach), and a private airport and jet center.
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When it came to the tennis courts, Horseshoe Bay Resort took advantage of that spacious footprint and scattered them around a verdant oriental garden of trees, ponds, sculptures, and wooden walkways, just steps from the hotel. Four red clay border one side of the garden, and four hard can be found on the opposite side, slightly removed from the rest. There are four additional hard courts and eight pickleball courts a little south of the garden, and then off of their own, in a northern part of the garden are two additional red clay courts partly embraced by the narrow grass fairways of the 18-hole putting course. Out there, you may feel you're playing on someone's private courts.
Courts, however appealing, still need programing and that has come at the hands of tennis director Israel Castillo. An Elite USPTA professional, he played college tennis for UC-Berkeley but found his talents were better suited to teaching. His career took him to Florida, El Paso, and various Club Meds—he speaks Spanish and French—before landing a position as Director of Tennis at Barton Creek Resort in Austin. He was there for 13 years before joining Horseshoe Bay.
Horseshoe Bay has come to be known for its highly successful Ladies Tennis & Wine Weekend Getaways and Ultimate Doubles weekend camps. Those typically sell out, so Castillo is looking for dates to schedule more. Those supplement a weekly roster of tennis clinics, Cardio sessions, and game-matching services. During the summer and over major holidays the staff adds junior programs, which include camps, both tennis and and pickleball. Beyond that, Castillo capitalizes on the rarity of those red-clay courts to stage well-attended tennis tournaments, while similar events for pickleball lure as many as 250 participants for competition on their eight pickleball courts. The latter sport has proven so popular that Castillo hired a dedicated pickleball pro and the the resort has agreed to add an additional eight pickleball courts. All this comes on the heels of a recent sprucing up of the entire complex, including resurfacing of the hard courts, new fencing, windscreens, awnings, shade structures, and furniture.
Courts & Fees. There are six red-clay and eight hard tennis courts and eight pickleball courts all set in and around a garden with ponds, bridges, and trees, sculptures. Court fees: First hour complementary, then $20/hour.
Spa & Fitness
Beach. There is a sandy beach at the Yacht Club on the shores of Lake LBJ.
Golf Courses. There are three 18-hole championship golf courses, all designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and an 18-hole putting course.
Slick Rock: Opened in 1972, and renovated in 2016, this first of the resort's courses winds through the lush Texas Hill Country's granite outcrops, native oak, cedar, persimmon, and Eldarica pines. Visual highlight is the so-called "Million Dollar" 14th hole, where the cart path crosses a 35-foot waterfall, making it instantly Instagrammable. give the front nine a different look and feel from the more open and rolling back nine. Par 72, 6,867 yards.
Ram Rock: Known as the "Challenger," Ram Rock is by far the most difficult of the three—in fact, readers of the Dallas Morning News have frequently voted it the most difficult in all of Texas. Jones invested it with narrow fairways, natural streams, an abundance of water and sand, rock gardens, granite outcroppings, blind tee shots and all manner of trees, bushes, and plants. Its signature No. 4, an island hole, is said to be tougher than the TPC at Sawgrass. Par 71, 6,926 yards.
Apple Rock: Named "Best New Resort Course in America" by Golf Digest when it opened, Apple Rock follows the contours of some of the most elevated and scenic of Horseshoe Bay's land. Native oak, elm, and persimmon trees frame the fairways as they cross the rocky terrain, much of it with views of Lake LBJ. Though not especially tight, the course demands well-placed drives and accurate club selection to avoid its 50+ bunkers and sand traps. Par 72, 6,999 yards.
Whitewater: Though a putting course, this 18-hole, par 72 layout is 1,712 yards in length, with Bermuda grass greens bordered by waterfalls and grazing flamingos.
Spa & Fitness Center. The Bayside Spa has 13 treatment rooms offering a range of services including facials, massages, aromatherapy, and manicures. Both men's and women's lounges have saunas, steam rooms, and whirlpools. The Bayside Fitness Center, which overlooks Lake LBJ, has a full range of cardio and weight-training equipment as well as daily aerobics classes, yoga studios, nutritional programs, and personal trainers. Guests of the hotel have their own fitness center on two floors with windows on a swimming pool and red-clay courts just outside.
And ... The resort has four swimming pools, one of them heated. The Marina is both home to private boats and to a fleet of luxury rentals, including ski boats with drivers, waverunners, and fishing boats with professional guides.
The Jungle Kids' Club, a two-story indoor climbing gym and arts and crafts center entertains kids from potty-trained to age 12.
Three options: The Tower, a centrally located hotel whose 249 rooms and suites have views of the lake through floor-to-ceiling windows; Palm Villas, 1-to-three-bedroom apartments with kitchenettes or kitchens conveniently located just behind the hotel and adjacent to the tennis courts; The Waters, whose 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom fully equipped condos have gourmet kitchens, high-definition flat-screen televisions, spacious balconies with lake views, washers and dryers, concierge services; and the Private Home Rentals, as large as four bedrooms and situated in various locations throughout the resort.
There are seven restaurants, lounges, and food outlets, headlined by the Yacht Club for seafood and J's Restaurant and Bar, in the hotel, for barbecue and Texas Hill Country cuisine. comfort food. The Market in the lobby of the hotel has morning pastries, deli sandwiches, ice cream, and Starbuck's favorites while the Bayside Spa and Fitness serves healthy sandwiches, salads, and beverages with views of the lake.
For similar tennis resorts, also check out:
For other top pickleball resorts, take a look at:
Horseshoe Bay Resort
The Waters, a series of low to mid-rise buildings that justs into Lake LBJ, has 1-, 2-, and 3-bedrooms condos for rent. Check with the resort for rates during the time you want to visit.
Visit the website for current rates
Travel Instructions. By air: The nearest airport is Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), roughly 56 miles to the southeast.
General Tourist Information. For general information about vacationing in the Texas Hill Country, visit the Texas Tourism website or contact them at 800-888-8TEX.