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.
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