This Hill Country gem asks for a little bit of everything, and provides real dividends for great ball striking and bold play
HORSESHOE BAY, Texas (May 24, 2018) – There’s so much to like about the golf experience at Escondido Golf and Lake Club here in the Texas Hill Country that it’s tough to figure out where to begin.
So let’s just allow the course to speak for itself.
Tom Fazio’s 7,165-yard, par-71 golf course on Lake LBJ 45 minutes from Austin incorporates the noted architect’s understated but unmistakable resort-style aesthetics and his ability to work with what nature provides.
Fazio and his design team emphasized the premise that “golf courses should reflect the natural beauty of their environments,” but at the same time they are not hesitant to make changes to the land if need be.
Here, among a series of spring-fed creeks, granite outcroppings and lush, rolling fairways, is a course that is infinitely playable as well as a memorable design.
The development is a private residential golf preserve and is situated on rolling grassland shaded by oak, pecan and willow groves. Escondido’s bold geological elements, called “batholiths,” create the dramatic backdrop for the track that sports a unique layout with dramatically different nines.
The front side is relatively flat and wide open with lots of water features, while the final nine holes have big elevation changes and large masses of igneous granite that come into play on a handful of shots.
The course has a wide variety of holes, some play through stands of trees and others have wide fairways. From the back tees, it can be set up to play as severely as you want and it is a test for even the best golfers.
Despite the differences in the course’s nines, Escondido has a collection of tough holes that provide a balance to the golf experience. From the tips, the par-4 second hole can play a whopping 482 yards into the wind. And on No. 14, drives are hit onto an uphill fairway on a par-4 that measures 494 yards. But with four sets of tee boxes, players can easily find a comfort zone.
The front side at Escondido asks the player for precision as well as length. The par-5 fourth measures a hefty 582 yards, but usually plays with the prevailing wind. The daring soul can attempt to reach in two, but a menacing bunker only 50 yards out blocks the desired path. For the conservative game manager, place your second comfortably short and right of the majestic oak and left of the fairway bunker, and you have just a soft wedge in. The green is only 15 yards deep at the center, making club selection all the more important. At all costs, avoid the deep greenside bunker left. The terraced green is difficult to pitch to, so take the conservative route to increase your chance of success.
A birdie opportunity awaits the player at the eighth, the shortest par-4 on the outgoing nine at 356 yards. However, the green is tricky, typical of a Fazio short hole. From the middle of the back tee, it is 240 yards to the fairway bunker right, so the long hitter might choose a long iron or fairway wood and still have a short iron in. The trouble around the green is on the left and short, as a wayward approach will surely be lost in the desert flora or buried in the bunkers.
On the back nine you will be wowed by the massive granite dome that comes into play on the 12th and 13th holes, both testing par-4s. On the former, two batholiths, the first just off the tee and the second as a backdrop to the green, are the signatures of this special place. The cart path passes through the unique wall of stone and the creek meanders peacefully down the right side, but will only punish the most errant tee shots. The tee shot target is the large, forked oak tree left of the green.
On the latter – the shortest par-4 on the course at 348 yards – the first shot target is the small granite outcropping on the left side of the greenside bunker, or even at the fairway bunker, leaving only a short iron to the hilltop green.
Escondido’s best stretch of holes comes at the end of the round, at Nos. 16-18; there may not be a finer closing three challenges than this tricky trio.
No. 16 is a 430-yard par-4 with a creek coming into play on the tee shot and your approach. The green is long and narrow and makes you hit a precise second in order to score.
The 17th hole, a 167-yard par-3, has a green that slopes severely from back to front, where a sand bunker awaits errant shots or putts that meander from the hidden back shelf down the slope and off the green. It is imperative to get below the hole on your tee shot, especially if the pin is in the front of the green. The “wow” factor on this hole is off the charts.
Your round at Escondido ends with the 595-yard, par-5 18th (pictured above), which sports water on the left from tee to green and has the room to bang your driver but is more prudently played to target landing areas that will allow for a score of which you can be proud and relieved. Even if you can reach the putting surface in regulation, you better be in line with your flat stick if you are going to have a chance for par here.
Escondido was named the Best New Golf Course in Texas for 2007 by the Dallas Morning News and continues to rank among the best tracks in the Lone Star State.
It is truly a world-class course, featuring the same degree of shot-making and scoring challenges found on the best tournament-quality courses in America.