LAJITAS, TX – Dive downward is a theme all day at Black Jack’s Crossing Golf Course – that’s what happens to your golf ball when you reach the elevated tee box of par-3, 167-yard 13th.
PGA Tour Hall of Famer and designer Lanny Wadkins said the word is “wow”.
Scan a vista that reaches miles past the Rio Grande River into Mexico, hit pause, linger and recall the rich history. And on most days you can reload a few times.
The hole is a blast to play for one, and historically this is a place where Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing commanded a U.S. Cavalry Post when Pancho Villa and his revolutionaries threatened settlers in far West Texas. “Crossing” comes from Pershing chasing the bandito and his men back across the river.
Black Jack never caught Pancho.
Lajitas, meaning “little flat rocks” is also a place where Comanches camped out, staging raids into Mexico along the Rio Grande River for horses and silver. And it became part of the pony path named The Great Comanche War Trail.
And now this vast land is home to Texas’ No. 1 public golf course (7,413 yards) and Lajitas Resort & Spa in the massive Big Bend country of far West Texas. This is also home to the rugged Chihuahuan Desert, Chisos Mountains and Big Bend National Park.
To say Wadkins designed a winner is oversimplification.
This is definitely a crescendo golf experience. You finish one beautiful hole and you climb to the next elevated tee. “There’s no golf course like this in Texas and no land like this in Texas with the incredible Big Bend scenery and great golf challenges,” Wadkins said.
Just for grins I picked the back tee of the extreme elevated tee par-5 eighth, 649 yards, and attempted to bomb one 200 feet down to the fairway. With dormant grass scooting as fast as a stimp meter at Augusta I hit one as square as I could. Slight draw – I pushed the button on my GPS and headed downhill. When I rolled up to my ball the screen read 305.
Oh, yeah. I love this golf course.
Perhaps the most handsome hole, however, is the 14th, which displays the Rio Grande River beyond the green and rolls out 406 yards from yet another elevated tee box.
For all the beauty, however, the No. 1 handicap hole will slap you upside the head. No. 7, a 444-yard, par 4 has an approach over water that presents itself like a stair-stepping stone river bed with collection area that continues past the hole down into a creek bed cart path heading to the next hole.
The green is sloped and slanted from front to back toward the water and if you go over the green a double bogey is the norm. When you start driving to the eighth stop and put your hand in the water – it is a hot spring that was redirected to present the water feature.
Wadkins selected paspalum turf, one developed to withstand seaside salt and extreme conditions. At an elevation of 2,200 feet, the temperature is a perfect 70 most off-season days, but for summer you might have plenty of 100-degree days. Don’t worry there’s plenty of water stations and GPS on the carts.
A huge driving range waits for those who like to practice along with putting green and short-game workers.
No matter what time of year you come here the golf is entertaining and the resort experience is like visiting another era.
A little more history of Lajitas Golf Resort and olden days
The history doesn’t stop with the old trading post pro shop (with bullet holes in the walls), the next door Longhorn Museum, and it didn’t stop with the old barracks turned into lodging, or a beer-drinking goat named Clay Henry who was once the honorary town mayor.
Eighteen-hole golf came here in 2006 when designers Roy Bechtol and Randy Russell of Austin opened The Ambush at Lajitas. It was a fun layout, mainly laid out in the Rio Grande’s flood plain with a novelty par-3 hole where you hit over the river in to Mexico to a funneled hole location (with no retrieval of your golf ball).
But disaster stuck in 2008 with a 100-year flood event that destroyed the golf course. Enter Wadkins and a new history emerged.
Lajitas Golf Resort: Away from the golf course
If you are the kind of traveler who likes to venture into the boondocks this is the resort for you. There’s 27,000 acres of solitude, natural beauty, rugged desert and starry skies.
The resort offers a 5-stand sporting clay shoot, cowboy action shoot, Equestrian Center for family horseback rides, zip line, mountain biking, river tours, and guided hunt for native Aoudad sheep.
For those who want a more relaxing experience, guests can enjoy a massage at the Agave Spa, relax by the swimming pool, watch a movie at the Flat Rock Theatre, or enjoy the quiet of Big Bend.
Dining includes the Candelilla Café , Thirsty Goat Saloon, Licha’s Bakery and General Store Deli for sandwiches. Candelilla Café has the most extensive offerings including breakfast, lunch and dinner with prime cut steaks, chicken, seafood and a selection of signature side dishes. Choose from creative selections such as Queso con Rajas, Fajitas, or a tasty filet. It also offers an interesting twist on traditional Tex-Mex cuisine.
At Lajitas Golf Resort every room has a distinctive charm. Together the Cavalry Post, La Cuesta, Badlands Hotel, Officer’s Quarters and the Boardwalk Condos offer 101 rooms with individual charm. Each features a unique theme and décor designed to transport visitors back to the days of the Old West. My Officer’s Quarters room looked over the golf course.
Weddings are special here and company meetings are also offered for a working getaway.
What else? Maverick Ranch RV Park at Lajitas Golf Resort opens you to all the amenities of the resort and you can also visit on charter flights are also available into Lajitas International Airport. From Dallas Love Field you can sign up for a getaway that includes two nights, three days with airfare, double room accommodations and three rounds of golf. They also service Houston, Midland/Odessa, San Antonio and Austin by demand for groups of eight or more.
Whether you have the time to make the drive (it is 588 miles from Dallas) for a short visit you will not regret putting Black Jack’s Crossing Golf Course on your bucket list.
Story by David R. Holland