It’s time to say it. When it comes to nationally-renowned golf destinations worth hopping on a plane and exploring for a few days, Horseshoe Bay Resort belongs in the conversation. For decades, Texans have known the charms of this 7,000-acre lakefront oasis, but don’t be surprised if the resort’s reputation soon grows farther and wider.
In the home stretch of a $70 million renovation, Horseshoe Bay Resort has never looked better or offered guests more unique amenities. Completely-revitalized guests rooms, a renovated yacht club that now boasts a 100-seat waterfront beach bar and a new in-pool bar and complete makeovers of the Slick Rock and Ram Rock golf courses bring this beloved retreat into an exciting new era.
“We’re seeing more and more purpose-built golf trip bookings from places like Canada, Chicago and even Europe. As times goes by, I think Texas is going to be competitive with markets like Florida, Arizona and California as a genuine golf destination and I think Horseshoe Bay Resort’s going to be a big part of that,” says Chief Marketing Officer Bryan Woodward.
The ever-evolving Texas Hill Country surrounding Horseshoe Bay has become home to world-class home winery tours and barbecue aficionados are now making pilgrimages to the Highland Lakes area for smoked-meat nirvana. Add, too, the allure of the constantly-full 6,500-acre Lake LBJ into the mix and you see why this resort area has become a prime vacation choice for so many sun and fun seekers.
Awarded AAA-Four Four Diamond distinction and the Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Award (Best Resorts in Texas and the Southwest), Horseshoe Bay Resort is a scenic 45-mile trek west of Austin. Home to three acclaimed and each very different Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf courses, the resort has been drawing a distinguished golfing crowd for four decades, but this tropically-adorned Shangri La offers something for all ages and interests.
With an innovative slate of signature seasonal events, the resort is now an entertainment destination, bringing unique experiences like the springtime Balloons Over Horseshoe Bay Resort hot air balloon festival. “Our events engender a special kind of loyalty. Some guest’s first experience here could be seeing hot air balloons in the air or listening to their favorite musicians play at our Beer by the Bay festival or watching top golfers compete at The Shootout,” Woodward says. “Some of our signature events are now in their seventh year and it’s so rewarding to see familiar faces return to be part of these traditions.”
Lake LBJ is incorporated well into the resort’s host of recreational amenities. Near the lake, on the lake or while admiring its fetching views from the golf courses, LBJ is everywhere you turn. “We have a full-service marina on this full-level lake,” Woodward says. “Whether you’re into jet-skiing or stand-up paddle boarding, or you want to try and kayak or rent a pontoon boat, we have all those options available to our guests, and then we have Bayside Spa, which is a full-service spa that offers all sorts of massage treatments, facials, you name it.”
A stay at the Horseshoe Bay Resort is a much-needed communion with nature. The Horseshoe Bay Tower offers 249 rooms and suites, many with spectacular lake or Hill Country views. The 100-unit Paseo vacation suites are conveniently located adjacent to the hotel and offer one-, two- and three-bedroom accommodations that are perfect for families are large groups. The Waters at Horseshoe Bay Resort offers luxurious lakefront living with spacious one, two and three-bedroom floor plans, thoughtfully designed and decorated with the finest furnishings, gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and top-of-the-line appliances.
With 54 holes of golf plus the exclusive and acclaimed Jack Nicklaus Signature design, Summit Rock- tumbling through the Central Texas Hills, Horseshoe Bay Resort sees a healthy percentage of guests who stay multiple days to be sure they play them all. The newly-renovated Ram Rock course is best known of the three Robert Trent Jones designs, having earned a reputation as one of the most difficult layouts in the state. There just isn’t much margin for error on Ram. Not on the island green fourth hole or on the short-but-extremely-narrow 10th, a 344-yard par four that can yield either stolen birdie or a disaster score. Velvety bentgrass greens accentuate the playing experience on Ram Rock.
“The renovations at Ram Rock have made one of the toughest courses in Texas a little more playable and fun, but it’s definitely still tests every part of your game,” Woodward says.
Slick Rock, a pleasant parkland layout that stretches across 170 acres, is the property’s original 18-hole design (built the 1971). It features “The $1 Million Hole,” the short par-four 14th adorned with a winding, waterfall-walled bridge. Apple Rock (now under renovation, along with the Caprock clubhouse) is the only course of the three that touches the crystal shores of Lake LBJ. The short, par-three 12th is played across an inlet of shimmering lake. Bring your camera maybe even a fishing pole. “I think the secret to the guest experience on our golf courses is that they’re getting a glimpse of the elevated lifestyle we work hard to give our members. These three world-class courses and the rich recreational and social lifestyle here mean a lot to our members.”
The breathtaking and tropically-landscaped Whitewater Putting Course, designed like a miniature regulation golf course with fairways bunkers and water hazards on the finest of putting services, is an unforgettably fun par-72 experience. The Whitewater complex is now home to the Whitewater 360 Sports Club, an energetic sports bar with dozens of flat-screen TVs and a full cocktail and bar-style food menu.
“One of the great things is that you never have to leave the resort, even for meals,” says Woodward. Dining options include the Yacht Club, offering sophisticated lakeside dining and an intimate indoor dining space reminiscent of the Hamptons with nautical decor, elegant table settings and the occasional conversation nook, perfect for an after dinner cocktail. The Yacht Club specializes in seafood, steak and an array of seasonal fare. Lantana, located in the heart of the hotel, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a nod to the Southwest. The Slick Rock clubhouse features a bar and grill is home to one of the best hamburgers in Texas.
The resort features four pools, including the Yacht Club Pool, an outdoor lagoon style pool with an adjacent 27-person hot tub. The resort pool is heated with fiber-optic lights as well as a hot tub and adjacent kids’ pool. White sand beaches line the lake shore near the Yacht Club Pool. Adults can lounge and relax why children play on nearby Turtle Beach, a child friendly wading area. Adult-friendly Stargazer beach has soft white sand where gently-lapping of the lake waves create the ultimate romantic destination.
With more than 27,500 ft. of indoor meeting space, including a 12,000 square-foot ballroom, the resort has a distinct advantage with its lush setting and ample space. “Meetings make up a huge part of our resort and our business model,” Woodward says. “What separates us is just our ability to host indoor and outdoor events, both waterfront and then under the tropical palms and among great architecture and water features at our other venues.”
An easy drive from the Austin airport (or a direct flight into the Resort’s own Horseshoe Bay Airport, one of the largest private airports in the United States), the Horseshoe Bay Resort awaits with a gentle breeze, knockout scenery and a peaceful setting unlike anything in Texas. “We’re a short drive from Austin, but you feel thousands of miles away when you get here,” says Woodward. “This environment allows you to take time off and really relax. It feels tropical and peaceful even though you’re not in the Caribbean or in some destination that would cost you thousands of dollars to experience.”
Visit hsbresort.com to book your next visit.
By Carl Mickelson