There’s “getting away from it all,” and then there’s Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa. Nestled along the Rio Grande River near the Mexico border, between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park, this luxury golf destination offers “bucket list” golf in a setting that has to be seen to be believed.
Just how far is this oasis from the rest of any densely-populated areas? Texans, who generally aren’t the least bit faint-hearted about road trips, consider the tiny, artsy town of Marfa the southwestern edge of Texan civilization. Lajitas is a two-hour drive south of Marfa, okay? We’re talking maximum escapism.
Due to the remoteness of the resort, Lajitas is serviced by the Lajitas International Airport, a private airport with a 5,000 ft (1,500 m) asphalt runway. Reaching Lajitas is now a little easier thanks to the availability of direct charter flights from Dallas and Houston. According to www.lajitasgolfresort.com, “care-free travel” to the famed resort is available from Dallas Love Field – FBO Landmark Air and Houston Hobby via MillionAir FBO.
The star-attraction at Lajitas is Black Jack’s Crossing, the 18-hole Lanny Wadkins design where shots must traverse through canyons, carry rugged native desert and even the Rio Grande River makes an appearance (first in view from tee at the drivable par-4 14th and forming an imposing border left of the four closing holes).
The mind-blowing 7,413-yard, par-72 layout, consistently ranked as one of the Best Courses You Can Play in Texas by top golf publications and the Dallas Morning News, is named in honor of U.S. Army General John “Black Jack” Pershing who chased Pancho Villa around these parts a century ago. Lined in lush Platinum Paspalum grass, Black Jack’s Crossing’s fairways are generous but the generosity runs out should you spray a shot into the native desert scrub or the rocky mountain edges that frame the property.
It’s difficult to discuss the setting and dramatic character of this layout without dipping into hyperbole. Black Jack’s Crossing literally has a dozen holes that would be considered “signature holes” on any other golf course. You’d think after working on the routing and becoming extremely familiar with the site, Watkins would be desensitized to its raw beauty, but even he remains amazed at the extreme shot values and postcard-worthy appeal of Black Jack’s Crossing. “Some of these tee shots, you just go, ‘Wow!’” says Wadkins. “On hole four, it’s ‘Holy smokes.’ Then five is better than four and six is better than five, and it just keeps going.”
With swooping drops in elevation on many holes, you’ll find you won’t need to pull driver on every hole, but you will want to take a “target golf” approach. A challenging collection of arrestingly-scenic par 3s stands out along with towering par 5s on the front nine.
One of the most strategic holes is the par-4 sixth which demands a well-placed tee ball that carries a ravine meandering diagonally from the tee to the right edge of the fairway. Your approach to the well-guarded, two-tiered green most negotiate a creek and testy winds.
From the back tees, the fourth and eighth holes both stretch to more than 600 yards, but three well-positioned shots can still yield birdies.
The 27,000-acre resort is a one-of-a-kind hideout, showcasing the ruggedness of the outdoors as well as the world-class Agave Spa and a variety of attractive recreational and dining amenities.
Beyond the stunning golf, there is plenty of adventure to be experienced at Lajitas. From ziplining, hunting and mountain biking tours to wildflower hikes, and interpretive fossil explorations through a where dinosaurs are said to have roamed, there’s an outdoor adventure for every taste.
You may also discover equestrian, shooting and, true to the “Wild West” Big Bend experience. If you want a true trip back in time, expert guides can lead you on horseback trail or on an actual cattle drive. To get in touch with your inner Wyatt Earp, experience a Cowboy Action Shoot or fire shotguns at the resort’s five-stand range.
Lajitas offers business groups expansive meeting opportunities, coupling 6,000 sq ft of indoor gathering space with 15,000 sq ft of outdoor “event” area. Lajitas’ famous watering hole, the Thirsty Goat Saloon is a bucket-list gathering place for recapping rounds and easing gently into the desert night. Named after Lajitas’ one-time mayor, a beer-drinking goat name Clay Henry III, this tavern is a must-visit on a trip to Lajitas.
Dining- and the impeccable service- are first-rate at Lajitas. Candelillia Café offers an array of TexMex delights along with steaks and seasonal specialties. Grab quality grub to go at the Lajitas Mercado and General Store Deli.
If you get the chance, a trip to Lajitas is well-worth taking. There just isn’t a setting like it anywhere else in Texas. Primitive landscapes revealing centuries of unrelenting and unspoiled nature envelop posh oasis where Southern hospitality is spoken with a decidedly Mexican accent. If you get the chance, get there. By air, by car or by sheer force of will, you’ll discover one of the most unique and rewarding destinations in this part of the country.
By Carl Mickelson