Tapatio Springs: A Texas Hill Country gem on the rise

New look Tapatio Springs has plenty to offer golfers in the San Antonio resort market

BOERNE, Texas -- Tapatio Springs Hill Country Resort & Spa doesn't have a thousand rooms, or two golf courses, or $200 massage treatments. But it does offer a great backdrop -- the Texas Hill Country right next to the artsy/antique town of Boerne.

And while this 220-acre resort doesn't have a PGA Tour event either, it has plenty to offer, including a renovated golf course that only promises to get better.

Fortunately for resort guests, there's more than an improved golf course in a great setting. Here's a rundown of what's happening at Tapatio Springs:

Golf course is really improved

Sometimes misfortune can lead to progress, which is what happened when the Tapatio Springs golf course was flooded in May 2015. The damage accelerated the renovation work that was already planned and the course, when it reopened in the fall, has never looked better.

Some improvements were made on the golf course a few years ago, but drought conditions and water issues have thwarted those efforts, even after nine of the original Bill Johnston-designed 27 holes were closed in 2013. The course has undergone ownership changes as well, including 2011 when Texas businessman and developer Tom Cusick along with friend and country music star George Strait bought the course. More recently, Northview Hotel Group and Seis Holdings joined with Cusick and Strait to become a major partner, and more money has been pumped into not only the course, but the resort as well.

With architect Tripp Davis overseeing the current and future modifications, the most notable changes are the new Billy Bunkers, a few new tee boxes as well as greens restoration and four new greens, including the expanded putting green between the 18th and 9th holes next to the waterfall in back of the clubhouse. Billy Bunkers, which are considered the finest in the business, drain incredibly well, are much easier to play from, and they define the holes much better than the old ones. Plus, some have been moved to accommodate the modern game, a few have been removed and a couple has been added. In addition, the course is in better condition than its been in years, thanks to new superintendent Eric Floyd, who came over from Harlingen Country Club, and his crew.

Even better is that this work is ongoing. The next phase calls for some of the lakes to be dredged, which is important for a couple of reasons. One is that they will look better as the edges are cleaned up and brush is removed, exposing some of the better views of the limestone that surrounds the course. More importantly, they will be able to retain roughly 10 times more water than they already do, which will solve future irrigation problems.

When the course was reduced from 27 holes, the owners kept the best and most interesting 18. It's also the most playable. From the get-go, the opening hole par-5, the course is intriguing and scenic and remains that way throughout the round. In addition to the natural scenery of the Texas Hill Country and rock outcroppings and water features, wildlife is also abundant.

Rarely is there a straight hole, but it's not so tight that you can't hit driver on the majority of the par 4s and par 5s. One exception is the tight par-5 13th, which makes a 90- degree turn around a hazard and runs out of fairway fairly quickly off the tee. PGA Director of Golf Operations Matt Reams says a couple of tour pros have managed to draw it around the corner over the hazard to make it reachable in two, but for most players, even low handicappers, the 559-yard 13th is a three-shot hole.

Among the course's other really good holes are the par-4 second, which features an elevated tee to a fairway protected by a lake on the left. The water also fronts a semi-island green, but if you hit a good tee shot, it usually means wedge to the green. The uphill par-3 11th, with a hazard on the right, as well as the sometimes drivable uphill par-4 12th at 293 yards, also highlight this 6,504-yard layout. And the 18th is a precision risk-reward par 5 that bends to the right and ends with a green protected by trees, bunker and a water hazard.

Entertainment, lodging, dining and spa at Tapatio Springs

Part of the recent renovations at Tapatio Springs Hill Country Resort & Spa also include adding and remodeling a magnificent clubhouse, which includes a large party deck outside, the outstanding La Cascada Table & Bar restaurant, large men's and women's locker rooms, a well-stocked golf shop and check-in for the resort's more than 100 guestrooms.

Live entertainment for members and guests has become a staple at the clubhouse and on the patio (near where there's also a large open-pit fireplace). On Friday and Saturday evenings on the La Cascada patio, visitors can enjoy the Songwriters & Storytellers Live Music Series, which is complimentary and open to the public with food and drink specials.

The restaurant features Texas fare made with fresh ingredients. Dishes include flat-iron steaks, country-fried steaks, grilled salmon, barbecue short rib, great salads and appetizers such as deviled eggs with a Southwestern twist, all headed up by the culinary team led by Executive Chef Michael Collins, formerly the executive chef at Eilan Resort & Spa in Texas.

Tapatio Springs' European-inspired spa offers massages for golfers to halotherapy salt cave inhalation sessions in its unique healing Salt Cave as well. There's also a new heated resort pool, complete with an outdoor bar with Flatscreen TVs and a curved tube waterslide.

As for the rooms, you won't confuse them with the JW Marriott or Hyatt Hill Country Resort or La Cantera Hill Country Resort, but they're not priced like those San Antonio resorts either. Though the resort offers suites, the regular rooms are relatively simple. They don't have luxurious bathrooms, but they do offer Keurig coffeemakers, comfortable beds, high definition TV and some pretty nice views of the property.

In short, accommodations are much improved from what they were a decade ago. In fact, they're sometimes marketed to compete with the local Hampton Inns and the like, so they make for a nice alternative for folks who are just looking to do a little antiquing and sightseeing in the area. The bonus for them, of course, is that they're at a resort, something that the Hampton or the Best Western can't possibly offer.

For more information, see www.tapatioresort.com.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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Has the clubhouse been rebuilt? Fire took it to the ground last year.

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New look Tapatio Springs has plenty to offer golfers in the San Antonio resort market