BLANCO, Texas -- On just about every shot you hit during a round at Vaaler Creek Golf Club in the Texas Hill Country one needs to step away, recheck the excellent GPS system and ponder a decision and club selection.
This beautiful hidden gem of a golf course is located in the Rockin' J Ranch housing development, just minutes from Blanco, a town of about 2,000 on Highway 281 between San Antonio and Austin.
Summer temperatures are slightly cooler welcoming visitors to the spring-fed Blanco River for a cool swim and for 18 holes you won't forget.
Vaaler Creek is playable and beautiful with superior conditioning, but water, elevation changes, testy greens and perched, stacked rock green fronts with huge guarding bunkers will keep you looking all day for the best approach to enter putting services.
You can even make it a buddy trip with golf for several days because Vaaler Creek has an affordable stay-and-play package with condos right at the 10th tee box.
"Our repeat stay-and-play groups always rave about the convenience of the condos and the friendly, outgoing service," Director of Golf Adam Grosch said. "All the customers rave about the conditions -- we're always in spectacular shape -- and I make it a point to forewarn everyone when we are planning maintenance projects so that people know what to expect. My biggest objective here is to provide a fun, relaxed atmosphere for members, condo groups and daily-fee players."
Vaaler Creek Golf Club's beginning
The golf course was named in honor of Jack Vaaler, a war veteran who served with Rockin' J's owner, Colonel Lee Roper. Jack passed away during the initial construction phase of the golf course.
Vaaler Creek Golf Club opened the back nine in July 2007, and the front nine was opened on July 4, 2009. It was ranked 19th in the country on Golfweek's "Best New Courses" list when opened for play. Designed by Michael Lowry and J.R. Newman, it captured breath-taking vistas of the rolling countryside, live oaks, streams and is a true surprise. Greens have MiniVerde grass, and the rest of the course has Bermuda 419 and Tif Sport grasses. The beauty really stands out with winter overseeding.
The clubhouse at Vaaler Creek Golf Club, a renovated ranch house that dates back to the 1860s, includes a large deck suitable for hosting gatherings and parties. Expert golf instruction is available at Vaaler Creek, and the practice facility includes a two-acre driving range with 20 hitting bays and six target greens.
Vaaler Creek's highlighted holes
Take the flyover tour on the Vaaler Creek Web site, and the first impression is that the course has the opportunity to humble you. But just follow the GPS instructions, and hope for some good kicks or rolls on the tricky greens.
The second hole is a 350-yard par 4 with a sharp dogleg right that requires a solid drive to set up a demanding approach. The green appears oblong and small, and you must carry a stacked-rock front of a pond.
The sixth looks almost blind and tough from the tee, a 415-yard par 4 with a tall tree seemingly in play. But just nail it left-center, and you might get a speed slot kick toward a shorter approach to a raised green with bunkers left and right ready to accept mis-hits.
A split fairway on no. 10 (a 511-yard par 5) forces you to make a decision off the tee box. Go left, the higher side, because it seems to give you more vision for the second shot. The right side looks perilous with more trouble. But it is the second shot that makes you think even more. A pond with high grass juts out into the fairway right on your journey to the green. If you negotiate that you have an elevated green with sharp fall-off right.
Vaaler Creek's finale can really confound you. From the tee, this 405-yard par 4 presents you with a downhill drive that could be perfect with the precise draw. But a huge tree is in the way. Once you get close to the large pond, you have a 100-yard shot (or more) over the water to the green, but you might just have a difficult sidehill or downhill lie.
Vaaler Creek was fun -- humbling at times -- but enjoyable, affordable and convenient with the stay-and-play packages. This is an outstanding getaway from San Antonio and Austin and definitely should be on your must-play list in the Texas Hill Country.
In the spring, you will not only get an exceptional golf experience but a drive complete with the spring bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers.