Major-championship winner Hal Sutton reworks his only course design to enhance the overall playability for all golfers.
Hal Sutton returned to Boot Ranch, site of his only golf-course design, to oversee the $1.9 million course renovation project, which concentrated on the bunkers and greens. The overall effect was to enhance the playability without altering the experience.
“My key was to figure out a way to challenge the best players while offering higher-handicap golfers the chance to play golf and have fun,” said Sutton, who won 14 tournaments on the PGA Tour including the 1983 PGA Championship. “I wanted to build a course that was respected by both good and average players, and I think we’ve done that.”
The course, which originally opened in 2006, takes advantage of the rolling terrain of the Texas Hill Country about 80 miles west of Austin. Sutton incorporated natural elevation changes, slopes and valleys, and indigenous vegetation from long, wispy grasses to stately oak trees.
Coming back to Boot Ranch after 10 years allowed Sutton to update the design to suit improved maintenance practices and turf technology, while responding to the lessons learned from a decade’s worth of member play. No changes were made to the course routing, which still moves in numerous directions, forcing golfers to factor in the ever-present Hill Country winds.
The principal changes made to the course were:
Greens. All the greens—on the golf course as well as three par-3 practice holes, three chipping greens, and one practice putting green—have been converted from bent grass to TifEagle Bermuda, which provides a superior playing surface in the Hill Country climate, requires less water, and better tolerates the reclaimed water used for irrigation.
To balance the faster conditions created by Bermuda grass, many of the greens had their slope and undulation reduced, but are still surrounded by sharp drop-offs and closely mown collection areas.
Bunkers. In explaining the changes to the bunkering, Director of Club Operations Todd Huizinga—who along with Head Golf Professional Emil Hale and Superintendent Deven Baughn worked closely with Sutton—said, “With the full support of our ownership and membership, we renovated the bunkers by enhancing their design features and playing characteristics. We installed new liners and imported a new Bunker White sand blend that will improve the overall look, playability, and maintenance.” Design changes include:
- The number of bunkers, both in the fairways and near greens, was reduced.
- In nearly every fairway bunker, native grasses and grass islands were removed.
- Many fairway bunkers were significantly reduced in size or replaced by turf, effectively enlarging landing areas.
- The base of each bunker was raised about four inches and the flashing removed so balls roll to the newly flattened bottom. As a result, golfers will find a fairer challenge when hitting out of bunkers, particularly to faster firmer greens.
Rough. A cut of inch-and-a-half-high Bermuda grass separated the fairway from longer native grasses that had grown too thick over time from the irrigation system’s overspray. A new intermediate cut of the native grasses was added so that golfers will be able to find balls in this area and play their next shot.
18th Hole. Number 18, which as a dogleg-right par 4 was regarded as one of the toughest finishing holes in Texas, has been lengthened and converted into a par 5 that will provide ample opportunity and excitement. The new 18th also changes the course to a Par 72.
And, The Putting Park. Boot Ranch spent an additional $1 million this summer to create the new five-acre Metzger Park that includes a putting park designed by Chet Williams for casual competition and family fun. According to Williams, the 35,000-square-foot putting park green is the largest in Texas. Boot Ranch already boasts the largest golf practice area in Texas, a 34-acre facility Sutton created to be “the best practice area in the world.” It features a three-sided driving range, short-game area, putting green, and three-hole short course.
Describing his philosophy in designing Boot Ranch, Sutton said, “I wanted to build a course that if for some reason I wasn’t around to teach my son how to play golf, he would have a chance to learn all the shots he’d ever need right here.”
About Boot Ranch:
Located near Fredericksburg in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Boot Ranch is a 2,051-acre private club community designed for just 450 residences. In addition to golf, the community features a 55,000-square foot Clubhouse Village; the Ranch Club with pools, a pavilion and athletic courts; and the Lake Club with a swim beach, pavilion, treehouses and non-motorized watercraft. Other amenities include trails, trap & skeet, a spa, and a planned fitness center. The community is owned and developed by Terra Verde Group and Wheelock Street Capital.
Property offerings include homesites from one-half to 18 acres, luxury condominiums, and shared-ownership vacation homes. Real estate purchases include a multi-generational membership that extends club privileges to five generations of the member’s family.