Ram Rock golf course at Horseshoe Bay Resort: A Texas-sized RTJ challenge
The second of three Robert Trent Jones Sr. designs at the resort about 40 miles west of Austin in the Texas Hill Country, Ram Rocks' conception 10 years after the original Slick Rock design in 1971 had a clear purpose:
"Slick Rock was a friendlier, members course," said Jack Bickart, chief sales officer at the Horseshoe Bay Resort. "So the owners went to Jones and asked him for something tough. They wanted a challenging course that could host some of the state's top tournaments."
Ram Rock succeeded in that regard, as it's a popular tournament venue today. But before you think Ram Rock's just a slog, rest assured there's plenty of eye candy out here too. The resort spared no expense on its grounds, with their attention to aesthetic detail, and the golf course is no exception. You'll drive through water on a couple low water crossings, head over numerous cart and walking bridges, walk under pine trees and play around native rock outcroppings, while taking in views of the Texas Hill Country and Lake L.B.J. from the course's highest points on the first and 18th holes.
It's quite the setting, which helps ease the sting a little once you've added up the score.
About that scorecard ... Ram Rock is a par-71, 6,926 yards long with a 75.6 championship rating. It's a pretty typical 6,405 yards from the white tees, but it plays longer than that, thanks to more holes that play uphill than down, a couple severe doglegs and Jones Sr.'s signature raised greens.
It's also narrow in most spots and features Jones' large, splashed bunkering. Missed shots seem to find the sand more often than not - unless you've sprayed one over them and into the woods.
Some of the trickiest holes are the short ones. The par-4 10th hole is just 344 yards, but requires a lay-up with an iron thanks to a creek running across the fairway, while another creek lurks blindly down the left side. The green is shallow and well guarded, with no room for error on any side.
The front nine's shortest par 4 also requires finesse. The approach shot is played uphill to a very small, severely sloped green with bunkers surrounding all but just a small run-up area in front (though shots that hit this slope will roll down at least 20 yards). You'll want to try and find your "money" wedge distance on the drive here and hope for a flat lie.
But while the golf course will certainly chew you up in a few spots, it ends on a softer note. No.'s 13-15 play parallel to each other (not many other holes do) and there's plenty of green space to find off the fairway. And after a tough, downhill approach shot over water on the tighter 16th hole (which can throw you off, because you've been hitting up to so many greens thus far), the course closes with a modest par-3 17th with a partially blind green. The 18th continues up the hill but is wide open and on the short side, as a good drive will leave little more than a short-iron into the large, narrow green at the base of a huge boulder.
Ram Rock at Horseshoe Bay Resort: The verdict
The original Slick Rock is considered the more traditional, easier course. The Apple Rock is the most scenic, and Ram Rock is the brute of the bunch. It's a stern RTJ Sr. test and will certainly demand your A-game to score your handicap, thanks to narrow fairways, heavy bunkering and some forced carries, like on the par-3 fourth hole that plays entirely over water.
Ram Rock shares the Cap Rock clubhouse and practice facilities with the Apple Rock next door, and after an extensive renovation completed in 2008, is outstanding, built with native rock. A new dining room overlooks the golf course and Lake L.B.J. in the distance, as well as a new locker room, pro shop, bar and even a lagoon-style swimming pool.
Practice facilities at Cap Rock include a grass driving range, short game green and putting green.
As with all three Horseshoe Bay golf courses, Ram Rock is open only to members and guests of the resort. Stay-and-play packages are available, including a new golf package that offers unlimited golf from noon the day of check-in through the entire day of check-out. Each course is the same price.
"It's definitely been our most popular package by far since we implemented it," last year, Bickart said.
February 23, 2009