The beauty of a foreign language is that a particular word can embody much more meaning and varied emotion than only that which comes from a literal translation into English. The word “hidden” is defined by the Random House Unabridged Dictionary as “concealed, obscure, covert”. There is a slightly negative, almost sinister quality to this standard definition.
Yet, there is a place in Central Texas that counters that definition. This special place has created a new meaning for this word – a new reality, actually –by infusing a unique, powerful and all-encompassing experience into its Spanish-language counterpart: Escondido.
Located less than an hour northwest of Austin and slightly more than an hour north of San Antonio, Escondido is a private lakeside golf preserve in the heart of Horseshoe Bay. This area has long been considered one of the best places in Texas to visit when one is seeking time away in a place that feels a world away. Nature and wildlife preserves abound in this part of the Texas Hill Country, and the neighboring towns offer wonderful dining, shopping and entertainment opportunities. There is simply no better place to experience the spirit of Texas.
But, what if one could live here? What if one could spend their life existing in a place that to so many has been…well…hidden?
Escondido’s 427 acres include 380 villa, casita and estate homesites, many of which have direct access to Lake LBJ and expansive lake views as part of nearby Lago Escondido. Additionally, many homesites overlook the manicured fairways and spring-fed creeks of the 18-hole championship golf course designed by the legendary Tom Fazio.
One of the many benefits of Escondido’s location is that Lake LBJ is the largest “constant-level” lake in the country, coming in at 6,534 acres. Its season-to-season fluctuation of less than two feet means that homes can be built right up to the edge of the lake and the views will never change. Every imaginable water sport is available at the lake, and Escondido’s private Lake Club has a fabulous grilling station, resort-style swimming pool, hot tub, party pavilion, and day dock for its members.
Not surprisingly, Escondido has already sold 280 of its lots despite opening just last year. One unique aspect to the development is that there is no membership fee at Escondido; the members are all lot owners who may or may not choose to build at any point in the future. The result is a private club with a limited number of members that all have a vested interest in the development. There will only be 400 members in the end, and the club will eventually be deeded directly to them with no remaining debt at all.
Enticing, isn’t it? Well, let us now take a trip to this hidden gem.
There are two major aspects to Escondido that are apparent right from the start: championship golf and unparalleled service. Taking the latter first, the service at Escondido embraces you from the minute of your arrival. The staff is warm and welcoming, something that is always expected at this level. But, there is something different here.
The staff embraces you, takes care of you, attends to your needs, but never intrudes on the experience. There is a warmth that emanates from each staff member that conveys the feeling of, “We are here to ensure that your experience is everything you expect it to be, yet we do not want to spoil your pleasure of experiencing it.”
Whether on the practice range, in the pro shop, on the first tee, at the turn, or at the finish, Escondido’s staff is right there with a smile, a kind word, and an offer of assistance. One can feel overwhelmed with such attention at other places, but the staff at Escondido feels like extended family – a welcome face at every point that one is needed.
That warmth is also exhibited in La Hacienda, Escondido’s current clubhouse. Built of rustic stone walls, centuries-old timbers, antique international doors and fixtures, and an amazing terra cotta tile roof, La Hacienda continues Escondido’s redefinition of words in our language. Locker rooms, changing rooms, treatment rooms, bistro, lounge, fireplaces, pro shop – we all know these words, but their meanings are so much more expansive and engaging at La Hacienda. Even the smoking room with private humidors embodies so much more than its given name, El Corazon.
Construction begins this year on The Clubhouse at Escondido, which will be the premiere facility in the area and will rest alongside many of the finest PGA Tour clubs in the country. Although much more expansive than La Hacienda, The Clubhouse at Escondido will utilize the same handcrafted materials and antique timbers that are used throughout the community. A top-tier spa and wellness center are planned to compliment the amenities that will be moved over from La Hacienda.
Now, it takes a special match of nature, designer and personnel to produce a golf course that can fit within the world that Escondido has created. As we all know, nature always does its part. It’s the second and third part of that marriage that is often lost in development. As with everything else, such is not the case at Escondido. The course is the dream that you would imagine to exist here.
The genius of Tom Fazio is exhibited throughout these 18 holes in a way that makes each hole not only unique, not only memorable, but wholly unforgettable.
Consider some of the hole names that Cotton personally created: El Viento (“wind”), La Mesa (“the table”), Serpiente (“winding”), Cascada (“waterfall”), Escondido Verde (“hidden green”), Teatro (“theatre”), Tierra Vista (“view of the land”), Mariposa (“butterfly”), and Milagro (“miracle”).
Descriptive names, to be certain. Now, imagine yourself resting on the outdoor terrace of La Hacienda sipping a superb wine with dozens of wall-mounted candles burning behind you as you mentally replay your round hole-by-hole:
- The challenge of Escondido Verde, the 188-yard tenth hole, whose green is not truly hidden from eyesight; rather, it is protected on both sides by majestic oaks and towering cottonwoods that leave little margin for error.
- The length of El Viento, the 482-yard, par-4 second hole that usually plays into the prevailing southern wind. Shot placement and well-thought-out decisions are pivotal because many players will face a challenging up-and-down on most days.
- The beauty of La Ventana, the 348-yard, par-4 thirteenth hole that is the shortest par-4 on the course. To some, the beauty lies in its length; to others, it is in the sweeping Hill Country vistas that are visible from the tee and offer a window to the soul of the area.
Adding to the memory of each hole that Fazio has emblazoned in your mind will be the flawless, almost indescribable work of Scott Hamilton, Escondido’s superintendent. The fairways virtually hold your ball in the air, giving you every opportunity to create the shot you desire. Off the fairway is challenging, but fair; consistent all over, yet preferably avoided. Recovery shots are possible from virtually every location, but it is best to take your medicine and put the ball back safely in the fairway.
And then, then are the greens.
Simply and clearly stated, Fazio has designed and Hamilton has created and maintained the best greens these eyes have seen in the state of Texas. On any given day, they roll at 12 on the Stimp Meter. They can be increased to 14 without any issues. However – and here is the defining factor – there is not a bad bounce, inadvertent turn, inconsistent roll, or unfair break to be found. The greens are not overly undulating, which ensures that the speed will be challenging but not discouraging. The subtle breaks make a forecaddie a definite plus, although the consistency of the speed means misreads will not be that damaging if your pace is right.
Coming in at 7,168 yards from the championship tees, Escondido is a course that will challenge players of the highest level. The long holes are long and the shorter holes have bite. Whether you have had the good fortune of playing a Tom Fazio course, Escondido is one of the best examples of the man’s artistry as a designer. As proof, The Dallas Morning News ranked Escondido as their Best New Golf Course for 2007.
For higher handicap players, Fazio’s gem offers four sets of tees so that all players will have a challenging, yet rewarding experience. The tees are located in such a way as to not remove the inherent challenges or nature of the individual hole, something that other course often lose as players of different skill levels move forward.
“We didn’t want the difficulty to minimize the experience,” says Cotton. “Fun is our number one message.”
Escondido will maintain an average of only 9,000 rounds per year with no tee times, which means that Hamilton will have every opportunity to work his magic and keep the course in prime shape and not overplayed. That allows it to live up to one of Cotton’s strongest beliefs – and one incredible compliment: “Escondido is as good a golf course as Cypress Point and the San Francisco Golf Club.”
Escondido is a difficult place to accurately describe. Cotton, who has spent his life in golf, states that he and his wife “wish we would have found this place twenty to thirty years ago. You just can’t find a better place.”
Perhaps that’s the best way to put it: directly, out there in the open, its meaning to the individual not hidden.
The intimacy of privacy, the impeccable service, the incredible golf and the divinely inspired nature combine to create a gift that once discovered will be cherished forevermore. Escondido’s definition is one that any language would struggle to accurately describe. Only your eyes and heart can convey it properly.
Visit www.escondidotexas.com for more information, or contact the Escondido Sales Office toll free at 877-598-6311.
By J.Frank Hernandez