FREDERICKSBURG, Texas – The experience starts before you even arrive at Boot Ranch.
Before you can tee it up at Hal Sutton’s newly renovated 18-hole design. Before you can relax at the 4.5-acre pool and sports campus. Before you reach surrounding real estate with stunning homes valued at up to $2.5 million and sitting on as many as 14 acres.
Before any of that, you’ll drive through the Texas Hill Country. That’s 90 minutes from either Austin (head west) or San Antonio (head north), cruising two-lane highways of sun-soaked hills with awe-inspiring views under an endless Texas sky.
Life is short, so rent the convertible.
By time you’ve reached downtown Fredericksburg – a Texas/German cultural explosion of food, drinks and shopping – Boot Ranch is only a few turns away. There are a lot of reasons to make the trip (and a lot of reasons to stay), but after spending a few days in this rustic residential destination, I’ve boiled it down to four:
1. Personable staff
If anyone at Boot Ranch had an off-day – or even an off-moment – I missed it. From the valet to the locker room, pro shop to the course, you’d be hard-pressed to find a group of people more intent on making sure your experience is perfect. Case in point: When the chef, Casey McQueen, came out to greet us after our exquisitely prepared quail, I asked how he made it. He said to hang on for a second. Fifteen later, he was back with the hand-written, step-by-step recipe for me to make at home.
Make a man fried quail and he’ll appreciate the experience for a night. Teach a man to make fried quail and he’ll appreciate the experience forever.
2. Thoughtful amenities
The atmosphere on-site contains much more than golf with post-round drinks and cigars – though that’s a fine way to use a day here, too.
Pool? Check. Spa? Check. Hiking trails and sporting clays and tennis courts? Check, check, check.
But beyond your standard club/resort amenities lies an attraction like Longhorn Lake. Take a kayak or stand-up paddleboard out for a float, relax with a drink in the pavilion or explore the playground treehouse – adults welcome, too.
For those feeling especially adventurous, head out to the 12-foot diving platform via your favorite mode of transport: paddling, swimming, or a pulley-system raft that looks like it floated out of a Mark Twain novel.
3. Location, location, location
Part of the allure of Boot Ranch has to be Fredericksburg, which has long been a central Texas gem. The town offers something for everyone in your group, and when you’ve decided you can’t take another german sausage or beer, the trip back up to Boot Ranch is a short one.
The options to make Boot Ranch a home, or a home away from home, are many and varied. Homesites are priced from the upper $200,000s to more than $2.5 million, and range from one-half to 14 acres. For those looking to get the experience without the full price tag, Sunday Homes are shared ownership properties starting at $350,000. All property purchases include a multi-generational club membership, which extends member privileges to five generations of your immediate family.
And what would Boot Ranch be without boots? New members get a pair of custom-fitted boots from M.L. Leddy’s in Fort Worth.
Lastly: Good luck finding better weather. The Texas Hill Country is renowned for its lack of humidity, and longtime residents will tell you it’s always a few degrees cooler than its neighbors in Austin or San Antonio.
At his only 18-hole design, Hal Sutton envisioned a course where players would need to hit every shot in their bag – plus maybe a couple that aren’t. Following a recent $2 million renovation to switch out bent grass greens for TifEagle Bermuda and alter nearly every bunker on the course, that vision has been fully realized. The design does an excellent job adhering to natural features that abound in the Hill Country while giving high, mid and low handicappers options to be aggressive or play it safe. The beauty and brutality of the course collide while standing atop the No. 10 tee, where a waterfall-laden chasm protects the green at this short par 4.
What remains of this 34-acre golf facility is no less impressive. There’s a three-sided driving range, a short range, one-acre putting park (good luck on that beast) and a three-hole par 3 course, with short, middle and long tees at each hole to create a fun and fast nine-hole experience.
General Manager Emil Hale and his staff do an outstanding job of making the entire golf experience – before, during and after the round – one to remember.