One of three Robert Trent Jones Senior layouts built over a fifteen year period at the Horseshoe Bay Resort, the Ram Rock course was the second course to make an appearance at this venue, in 1981.
The following edited extract is taken from Daniel Wexler’s The American Golf Resort Guide:
“A 7,000-acre development sitting on the south side of Lake Lyndon Johnston in the Hill Country forty miles northwest of Austin, Horseshoe Bay boasts three fine 18-hole courses built by Robert Trent Jones. The initial entry was Slick Rock, a 1971 design which winds its way through a residential development just south of the main resort complex.
It would be a full decade before the resort would add the Ram Rock course, a highly rated track situated three-quarters of a mile west of Slick Rock. Though measuring less than 7,000 yards, there is plenty of challenge here, with numerous holes being affected by a wide range of creeks, lakes and dry gullies, making play as interesting as it is demanding.
The front nine hits stride early with the 488-yard par four 2nd and the 191-yard island-green 4th, but is more interesting in places like the 220-yard downhill 8th, as well as a pair of water guarded par fives, the 533- yard 7th and 540-yard 9th. The much shorter inward half holds its own with the 541-yard creek-fronted 14th and two heavily bunkered uphill closers, the 214-yard 17th and 378-yard 18th.”
Ram Rock is a fun course, especially for unapologetic hookers like myself. This design would make Jack Nicklaus uncomfortable. It is about 40 years old and by todays standards it is not long, however for a Texas hill country course there are quite a few water hazards.
The first hole is welcoming. It leans left and has fairway bunkers right and left and then downhill towards the green. They should not come into play. The green has bunkers front left, one front right and one back right. The 2nd is the longest par four and it is tough, one of the few holes that goes right. There is a large fairway bunker on the inside of the elbow. Favor the left side off the tee. The 3rd hole is the number one handicap hole. It lists left with a large fairway bunker left. If you can carry this bunker, you are in great shape. If your tee shot is too far right, you will need to hit a long fade into the green. The island green par three fourth is fun, if you hit the green. The fifth is another long uphill left leaning par four. The 6th is a short par four also leaning left. There is a fairway bunker left and a cross bunker about 90 yards out. The green has a bunker front right and a wrap around bunker front left to back right. Good birdie oppty. The first par five also leans left. Reachable if you fly the fairway bunkers on the left elbow. However, the green has two bunkers left and a water hazard right. The 8th is the longest par three downhill with a cross water hazard and front and back bunkers. The 9th is a reachable par five dogleg left and is tree lined both sides. The approach is quite narrow with a water hazard left.
The back starts with a short par four. Consider laying up as the fairway runs out about 100 yards out. Good birdie oppty. The 11th is another dogleg left and is the number two handicap. It is not that long but there is water left and a fairway bunker on the outside elbow. You definitely want to cut some of this corner and the fairway runs into a water hazard about 60 yards out. The 12th is the shortest and easiest hole with a moderate water carry. The 13th, you guessed it, dogleg left. The 14th is also a dogleg left, but this one is a par five and is also reachable but does have a water hazard in front. The 15th also goes left with a large fairway bunker on the inside elbow. The green is protected by three bunkers, left, right and back. You may not believe this but the par 4 16th goes right! The last par three is long and uphill. It just wouldn’t be right if we did not end with a hole going left, The 18th is an uphill par four and a good birdie oppty.
As stated earlier, as a hooker, I like this course and would absolutely pay to play it again.
My first round at Ram Rock was in the late 1980s and, at that time, the overall qualities of the course were clearly present. To be totally fair, much of that had to do with the various courses I had played at that time throughout Texas. That landscape and the various number of courses I have played in the State has changed dramatically in the 30 years since.
Ram Rock is blessed in having rolling land - courtesy of The Hill Country. The layout is quite strong early on with such holes as the long par-4 2nd, the par-4 3rd, the island green par-3 4th and the uphill par-4 5th.
The downside of Ram Rock is that the course is saturated with holes turning left in the drive zone. There are no less than nine holes going that way. If you can't work the ball right-to-left at those moments you're going to be in for a long day. Yes, there are a few holes that go right -- the 2nd being the most prominent -- and the par-4 16th to a lesser extent.
The other dimension is that a number of the fairway bunkers are just not as fearsome as they were years ago. No doubt improvements in club and ball technology has played a major role in that deficiency. Relocation would be a good step in bringing back some needed teeth -- the most glaring being the opening hole which turns left before dropping down steeply. There's an inside corner bunker that requires a 262-yard carry but it's hardly relevant unless a gale headwind is faced. The other item is the overall distance from the championship marks is just under 6,900 yards and unless you're dealing with a 3-4 club wind as is possible in Texas then the course can be overpowered courtesy of the elevation changes.
The good news is that the three of the par-3's at Ram Rock still do sizzle. The aforementioned 4th is done well and it's helped in having a teeing area that used the far rear bank as the championship tee so that the playing angles can be quite varied. The 8th at 220 yards is also quite good. This time Trent angled the putting surface with two distinct areas and the amount of landing room after clearing the frontal bunker does require a bit of shotmaking prowess. The final par-3 at the 17th is also very good. Playing uphill and appropriately bunkered on all sides, the green is narrow on the left side and features a clear separation with the rest of the green.
The routing is also an issue as the holes follow the same direction for clear stretches -- holes 5 thru 9 and on the back side with holes 11, 12 and 16. When you have to deal with housing and other inclusions the golf side then must make clear concessions to the business reality.
The par-4 16th is especially good -- turning right slightly off the tee and forcing an approach between narrowing tree lines to a green well protected by water to the right of the green. The ending hole, a par-4 of 378 yards -- plays uphill and has a quality green with good movement.
Ram Rock is still worthy in playing because the terrain clearly adds to the experience. It is the design itself that needs an upgrading because the Texas golf scene clearly is in a far different place today and Ram Rock could well be a major contender for higher honors if it understands that the 6 cylinder engine it possesses today is no match for other Lone Star State courses showcasing 12 cylinder firepower.
M. James Ward