By Roger Cox, Editor
Horseshoe Bay Resort borders Lake LBJ, 56 miles west of Austin in the Texas Hill Country. It sprawls across a ranch-sized 7,000 acres, a parcel of resort real estate vast even by Texas standards. There is nothing Lonesome Dove-ish about it, however. The lodging options consist of either a deluxe 1-to-3-bedroom condo or a room or suite in 249-room hotel tower. And recreational amenities abound, right down to such unexpected features as a lakefront beach, a yacht club, and its own airport and jet center.
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Golf gets top billing with three Robert Trent Jones, Sr., courses now available and a Jack Nicklaus course slated to open late in 2008. However, tennis more than holds its own in this sea of amenities by having red clay, hard, and artificial grass courts (a dozen in total, 10 of them with lights) and three children's tennis courts, the last built to USTA specifications for its new "QuickStart" format. The point is to get kids actually playing tennis immediately, as opposed to merely taking lessons, and that is facilitated by making courts smaller—60 feet long rather than 78 for those ages 10 and under (or as short as 36 feet for ages 8 and under)—lowering the nets, using smaller racquets and low-compression or foam tennis balls, and revised scoring. Horseshoe Bay converted two hard courts into three 60-foot children's courts and named them the Andy Roddick USTA Kids' Courts.
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To my knowledge, Horseshoe Bay is the first resort in the nation to build "QuickStart" courts. Tennis director Michelle Stallard says the new children's courts add another dimension to the resort's appeal to tennis players. "Our big thing is our multiple surfaces—the red-clay is rare in Texas—plus you can do things on the lake." Stallard played for the University of Texas and later became its assistant women's tennis coach. She taught in resorts and private clubs and ran a tennis academy with her husband before coming to Horseshoe Bay in 2006.
"We've really grown our junior programs," she says of her accomplishments since taking over. That's in response to demand, both from local members and from guests: "You see a lot more families come here with kids," she adds. To accommodate that demand, she and head pro Aland Price run junior tennis camps over spring break and during the summer. There are three divisions of leagues for locals."When people come to to the resort I place them in our leagues," says Stallard. "We also have clinics for all 3 lessons for the ladies. We can find you a match. We'll do boot-camp weekends for ladies' teams."
Courts & Fees. There are six red-clay courts, arrayed end to end in pairs and anchored at one end by the hotel, and two pairs of hard courts, those three kids' courts, and one pair of artificial grass courts, all set in garden with ponds, bridges, and trees.
Spa & Fitness
Although Horseshoe Bay Resort is a private club, all of its extensive recreational amenities are open to guests of The Waters, the hotel tower, and the Paseo Vacation Apartments.
Beach. There is a white-sand beach directly behind the Yacht Club on the shores of Lake LBJ.
Golf Courses. There are currently three 18-hole championship golf courses and an 18-hole putting course within the resort with a fourth championship course planned to open late in 2008.
Slick Rock: Opened in 1972, this first of the resort's courses winds through the lush Texas Hill Country. Granite outcrops and mixtures of native oak, cedar, persimmon, and eldarica pines give the front nine a different look and feel from the more open and rolling back nine. Planting of bamboo and pampas grass add color and texture to the course, while 82 sand traps and water on a dozen holes add to the challenge. Par 72, 6,824 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 56 sand traps. Water hazards are minimal, other than No. 12, which plays over the lake. Par 71, 6,926 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 within the hotel.
And ... The resort has four swimming pools, among them one at the Yacht Club modeled on a lagoon with a black marble basin. 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 resort has a Kid's Club, located at the Paseo Vacation Apartments complex adjacent to the hotel, with supervised programs as well as an activity room with foosball, ping pong, and other diversions.
Three options: 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; the Paseo Vacation Apartments, which also come in even more spacious 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom versions (though 1-bedrooms do not have kitchens) with terraces overlooking the resort tennis courts; and the Hotel Tower, whose 249 rooms (117 of which are suites) enjoy lake views through floor-to-ceiling windows, high-speed internet access, cordless phones, and access to a business center.
There are five restaurants within the resort, among them the hotel's Lantana Grill and Bar, which serves Southwestern cuisine. There is also a Market in the lobby of the hotel for morning pastries, deli sandwiches, ice cream, and Starbuck's favorites.
For comparison's sake, also check out:
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, roughly 56 miles to the southeast.
General Tourist Information. For general information about vacationing in Texas, visit the Texas Tourism website or contact them at 800-888-8TEX.