Golf memberships and residential communities are adapting in a big way in the 21st century to attract and accommodate the tastes and finances of the modern family. A recent weekend visit to the Texas Hill Country community of Boot Ranch revealed a development that is certainly onto something.
One of the many luxury residential communities to open right around the time of the Great Recession, it took a few years and iterations for Boot Ranch to find its footing. But it has now thanks in part to a new shared and multi-generational membership model that accompanies a unique style of housing geared towards extended families, coupled with a wonderful array of outdoor activities to choose from.
Boot Ranch has changed hands a few times since its inception. Its current model is more of a reflection of the vision Lehman Bros. saw in 2010, moving away from the ultimate boys hangout to something more family oriented (Terra Verde Group acquired the property in 2015). Your first glimpse upon driving up to the clubhouse village is that of family fun, thanks to a big pool and recreational complex. Swings, basketball and other sports are available to use. Grab a mountain bike or golf cart and head down a dirt path through the property and you'll come to the new Longhorn Lake complex, complete with a tree house, small beach and water sports (not to mention a bar for the adults).
Its these off-course amenities that are the clearest indicator that Boot Ranch's new vision is going after the grandparents by wooing the grandchildren. In hindsight, it seems like such a natural fit: nearby metropolises San Antonio and Austin attracting tons of young families, while the quieter Hill Country lures their parents. Several families we met during our weekend stay in one of the Boot Ranch cabins were part of a shared ownership "Sunday House," in which the family can book as little as 8 weeks per year and have access to a furnished $3-4 million compound of their own that includes membership for the whole family. A "two up, two down" multi-generational membership included in residential purchases means the whole family can become a member here for as low as $325,000.
Not everyone staying at the Sunday House is likely to be a golfer, but those who are will be in for a treat.
The golf club pivots to family fun
The golf course, opened in 2006 and designed by Texan Hal Sutton, was originally intended to be a serious player's club. In its first decade, it earned a reputation around Texas as a pretty stiff test, particularly when breezes are blowing across the Hill Country. The par 5s were all designed to be bonafide three-shotters that required thought on each shot. There are two forced carries and an elevated green on the 8th hole, while the 16th is a long, downhill par 5 16th with a large tree in the middle of the fairway in front of the green. The men's locker room personifies "man-cave" full of game trophies on the walls and tables, lounge area with full bar, a sauna, and much more.
Realizing its members both current and prospective weren't as interested in qualifying for the tour as much as simple enjoyment, in 2017, the club underwent enhancements to the course geared toward year-round playability. It included the reduction of bunkers from 90 to 70. The 20 that are gone were generally considered to be those that weren't in the way of a good player but unfairly punished a high-handicapper. Another example of the shift in philosophy is the change in the 18th hole from a long, uphill par 4 to a getable par 5 that provides a reasonable chance to end the day with a birdie.
The replacement of the bent grass greens (a risky proposition this far south) to TifEagle bermuda also gives the surfaces more roll 12 months a year. Not only does this keep the greens firmer in the summer, the club does not plan to have a fall over-seeding procedure, instead opting for brown an springy turf in the cooler months. Temps can get below freezing overnight during Hill Country winters, but more days than not are quite comfortable for golf.
As fun and scenic as the 18-hole championship course is to enjoy, what really makes Boot Ranch's golf offering worth applauding is the 34-acre practice park, complete with a three-hole short course that can be played a variety of ways. The newest addition is a 1-acre putting course, a fun hang in the early evening as the whole family makes their way down to the course for a game.
Boot Ranch is now undoubtedly one of the top Central Texas golf communities for juniors or beginners to pick up the game in an welcoming setting and eventually graduate up to the championship course.