Boot Ranch, a luxurious golf community in the Texas Hill Country, started with the course

By David R. Holland, Contributor

FREDRICKSBURG, Texas -- Boot Ranch, the Texas Hill Country's emblem of luxurious private golf course communities, breaks a formula many Texans have followed since tourism became popular.

Boot Ranch
Boot Ranch in Fredricksburg may be the Texas Hill Country's most luxurious private golf course community.
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If you go

The development, a dream of PGA Tour player Hal Sutton, says you don't have to go to Colorado to cool off in summer and have a beautiful getaway.

Sutton, who hails from Louisiana, was in Fredericksburg one day with his wife, Ashley, when a light bulb went off. He was thinking about the distinctive beauty of the Texas Hill Country and said, "This is your Aspen, Colorado, right here in Texas."

His golf course architecture experience includes the 27-hole Olde Oaks in Haughton, La., and a career-long vision of creating a golf course community started churning. But he wanted to do it differently. He's been heard saying he developed Boot Ranch "bass-ackward." That's Southern speak for backwards.

He built the Boot Ranch golf course first -- a beautiful, rolling 7,250-yard, par-71 experience. Veteran golfers and novices find it a challenge with constant options and decisions to make.

"I think a pivotal decision was made by Mr. Sutton to leave the hilltops (2,000 feet in elevation) for homes and views and build the golf course on the lower elevations," said Sean Gioffre, the director of real estate sales and marketing at Boot Ranch. "Also on a hilltop we built Clubhouse Village. It's like an old European Village. It's not just one building -- there are six, including pro shop, locker rooms, ReStore Spa & Fitness, member guest rooms and restaurant with spectacular views."

There is a 34-acre practice park, which includes a short-game range and an executive par-3 course. The director of golf is Emil Hale, a Texan who was picked by Sutton himself.

Sutton, who is no longer an owner but still visits and owns a home here, hired a development dream team that planned for 387 home sites of various sizes, shapes and prices, all with a definite Texas Hill Country look and flavor. He chose a beautiful spread of 2,050 acres with the Palo Alto Creek winding through about five miles north of Fredericksburg, on the road to Llano and not far from Enchanted Rock.

The terrain is Texas rugged. Hills are covered with cedars and live oaks with countless curves of the land, and the winding creek is used for traversing during your round.

There are twin 40-foot waterfalls in front of the 10th green, a spot used for the pivotal scene in the movie "Seven Days in Utopia" starring Robert Duvall as a golf mentor and aspiring pro golfer Lucas Black.

Numerous PGA Tour pros visited Boot Ranch to participate in the filming of the movie during July, and K.J. Choi, who spent hours on the massive four-sided practice area, kept saying, "I no sweat. I no sweat." That's a testament to the lower summer temperatures and humidity you find in nearby San Antonio.

Another tribute to the down-home friendliness and laid-back atmosphere was PGA Tour player Rickie Fowler, who was seen several times asking members on the range if they wanted to tee it up with him. Stewart Cink and Rich Beem also came to participate.

The Boot Ranch golf experience

Sutton made mental notes all during his golfing career. He thought today's golf-course architect made most of the decisions for you. What he studied for Boot Ranch was a layout where you, the golfer, became the decision-maker. Some call it "multiple shot options," but during your round here you get to constantly decide the best route. Sutton says those players who choose correctly are the smart players.

One hole loaded with options is the 528-yard, par-5 eighth, which doglegs left. From the tee you must decide the distance needed to fall short of Palo Alto Creek. A series of bunkers on the right can be aimed at as the ball will bound left. A successful tee shot leaves you with a layup over the creek, maybe over trees or tall creek grasses. A perfect execution still leaves a tricky chip to a substantially elevated green.

The most beautiful hole is no. 10, a 364-yard par 4. Drive one down the left side of the fairway toward a bunker and novices will have a 100- to 130-yard approach over the creek to a green surrounded by the waterfalls and bunkers. A bunker in back gets lots of action and will challenge you just to keep the sand blast on the green. Or scratch handicappers can be bold like Choi in the movie and just bomb one to the green.

Sutton delivered five par 3s that point in different directions. Frequent Texas winds will create even more thought processing along with the decision to have an open side to every green. Falloff greens and tight lies demand you to be a proficient chipper. Another feature experts and beginners will like is the fact and equal number of holes bend right and left.

Boot Ranch: real estate options

Both golf membership and ranch membership options are available. Members can host non-members for golf and lodging ($100 per round).

Pricey estate home sites are available along with Overlook Cabins and Sunday houses.

Boot Ranch is exclusive and luxurious, but at the same time delivers on a special Texas Hill Country cowboy experience.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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