Tapatio Springs: Canadians Find Home Deep In The Heart of Texas

By David R. Holland, Contributor

BOERNE, TX -- Canadian golfers don't have to be asked more than once to put away the hockey sticks in winter, pull out the golf clubs and wing it to San Antonio.

Jack Parker, owner of Tapatio Springs Resort and Conference Center, is quick to issue a friendly invitation.

"When I bought this place back in 1990 the occupancy rate was 19 percent," said Parker, who also owns The Quarry, an award-winning golf course just minutes from the San Antonio Airport. "Today we average 72 percent, host 51,000 rounds per year and our revenue is up around $10 million."

It's not an accident Parker's awesome acreage, once the Thunder Valley Ranch in the Hill Country just off I-10 north of the Alamo City, is such a huge success. He's worked hard at it.

"Just after I bought the property I attended a Midwest Club Managers meeting in Minnesota and there were 42 Canadian Club Managers there," Parker remembered. "I recruited them, met the right people, invited them to come visit, and now more than 10 years later 50 percent of our winter business is from Canada."

Once you have seen this scenic 27-hole layout, the resort hotel and the new condo building that will open this year, it's not hard to see why Tapatio Springs is popular.

In September 1999 Parker unveiled a spectacular, hilly new nine with lakes, limestone cliffs and mighty elevation changes, called The Ridge. The combination includes nine holes of The Lakes and The Valley, for a picturesque 27 holes that are overseeded with rye grass wall-to-wall in winter.

Designer Billy Johnston is the architect behind Tapatio Springs and when he returned to design The Ridge, he walked the land with Parker, both with their eyes pealed for more spectacular future golf hole positions that will someday sport another nine.

"We actually designed the irrigation system of The Ridge so that it could work with another nine in the future," Parker said. "The Ridge was incorporated into an executive nine we had. We were thinking even when we bought the place that we would some day have two different 18-hole golf courses. Once it is all completed will call it The Ridge and The Valley Courses."

Key to all the expansion is water, which is precious in Texas. Parker's answer was simple. They bought the Kendall County Utility Company and installed an eight-inch line from the well to Tapatio Springs.

The 1,800-acre complex, which at 2,000 feet above sea level, is cooler than San Antonio, which sits at about 500 feet. That means an annual average temperature of 65 degrees and March temps are about 70, perfect golf weather. When it's 100 degrees in the Alamo City, it might be 10 degrees cooler at Tapatio. In fact, if your round is played in 100-degree weather, it's free. Just a little guarantee from Parker that it is cooler here.

Tapatio Springs has countless varieties of trees -- watch out for the live oaks -- some dangle, dripping with Spanish moss, seemingly right in your line to the flag. The live oaks are unforgiving. You will also see plenty of whitetail deer and some non-native Axis deer, which escaped from a nearby game preserve over the years and are thriving.

The Valley and Lakes 18-hole combo measures 6,515 yards at par 72.

The Valley nine opens with a great par-3, 158 yards, at No. 2. There's a sharp drop-off to right, with a wet result. Huge live oaks surround the green. No. 8 is another scenic par 3 at 170 yards. The tee ball must clear a pond with jagged limestone walls also in play.

The Lakes nine has a beauty at No. 2. It's 382 yards with all water along the left. The green is tucked behind the water as a peninsula and presents a scary approach. No. 8 is a bear of 431 yards. The drive must carry a pond and it might be hard to concentrate with the huge limestone cliff overlooking the river on the left. The original owner of Tapatio, Clyde Smith of Phoenix supermarket fame, has his $5.5-million home perched on the cliff above you.

No. 9 is a great finishing hole, 379 yards, with a pond and waterfall guarding the right side of the green and a bunker centered in front.

The Ridge nine is breathtaking on every hole. From the opening drive that seemingly must thread a needle over water to a small landing area, to countless up-and-down golf shots. You will even find one 601 yards long, the par-5 No. 8. If you like 'em hilly, this one's for you.

Tapatio Springs Golf Course and Resort
Johns Road West
Boerne, TX 78006
Telephone: 800-999-3299 or 830-537-4611.

Golf Packages:

E-mail: Reservations@tapatio.com

Awards: Rated No. 4 in the nation by Golfweek in 1995.

Directions: From San Antonio International Airport: About 30 minutes, make a right turn out of the airport exit. Immediately there will be signs for US Highway 281 North. After entering onto 281 North, go six miles to Anderson Loop 1604 Exit. Go west on 1604 for eight miles to IH-10 West. Continue on IH-10 West for 16 miles to Johns Road (Exit #539). Take a left over the highway and continue on Johns Road for four miles. Watch closely for deer crossing the road. After turning left at the entrance, go about 1/4 mile and turn right at the "T" intersection. At next "T" take a left (by flags) and the Hotel Lobby will be on your left.

Where to Eat at Tapatio:

Blue Heron Restaurant & Lounge has gourmet food in a casual yet elegant atmosphere. The Turn Café is a snack bar for a quick bite off the grill.

The Resort:

Tapatio Springs Resort has 148 Rooms, including 112 hotel rooms seven suites and 13 junior suites. There are 12 condos overlooking the golf course and another 33 new condos (The Ridgeview Condos) to be added in 2001. The Conference Center has a 3,000 square-foot meeting room in the clubhouse and five breakout rooms located throughout the resort. A new 10,000 square-foot conference center opened October 1999 and features a 6,000 square-foot ballroom.

Discount For The Quarry:

Tapatio guests get a 25-percent discount off of the regular rates at Tapatio's sister club in San Antonio. (Discount does not apply to Twilight rates or any other special offers.) www.quarrygolf.com .

Other Activities:

On property: tennis, volleyball, and freshwater fishing. Off property: arrangements can be made for nearby activities such as horseback riding, bird hunting and skeet shooting. For details see the Recreation page on Tapatio's website. Boerne (four miles away) has 100 antique dealers.

Let's Go To Luckenbach, Texas:

The tiny hamlet Wayland, Willie and The Boys sang about is just a little north of Tapatio Springs. Settled in 1850 by German pioneers, the itty bitty bump in the road, remained obscure until bought in the 1970s by the late Hondo Crouch, a Hill Country humorist, writer and authentic Texas character. Before his death you could sit down with Hondo and chat away.

Luckenbach remains rustic. There's the unpainted general store that also serves as a beer tavern, a traditional rural dance hall, BBQ stand, and a sometimes-used blacksmith shop. Sunday afternoons are often busy as banjo pickers, guitar strummers and fiddlers form impromptu groups and gather beneath huge old live oaks. There's nothing like taking a drive on Sunday during spring with the bluebonnets everywhere bordering the roadsides. No need to bring your heart pills along, it ain't gonna get real exciting here.

Luckenbach is east of Fredericksburg off U.S. 290, five miles south just off F.M. 1376. Or you can just take F.M. 1376 north from Boerne, pronounced BUR-nee, which was also founded by Germans in 1849.

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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