Touring Hill Country Golf Club
A few weeks ago, I made my annual pilgrimage to the NGCOA (National Golf Course Owner’s Association) Conference. It’s a great way to network with fellow golf course owners to get their opinions and trade secrets about what they are doing to help grow the game of golf. In previous years, I was able to tour Shingle Creek last year and several other courses in the San Diego and Orlando regions. This particular golf course, Hill Country Golf Club is located in San Antonio, Texas and is affiliated with the Hyatt. It’s a resort course that features many conventions at its facilities as well as business meetings, weddings, and a beautiful restaurant. The land on which the golf course sits has been in the family name for four generations.
The first thing we were treated to was an authentic Texas style breakfast. Three different varieties of breakfast burritos served with a variety of salsas. Plus bacon and eggs. They also had a Mariachi band playing, so it was basically the best breakfast ever. You all know how much I love me some Mariachi bands!
At the opening of the tour, we were introduced to the patriarch of the family, Dr. Charles Wiseman. When he mentioned that they had recently completed a 35 million dollar renovation to their resort, I knew that his family business and my family business were on two different playing fields. It was still fun to listen to the story of how his 3,000+ acres of ranch land had been passed down for multiple generations. He even said that his mother had inherited the land when she was three months old.
After the opening session, I wandered out to the driving range to check out Fling Golf.
I need to preface my entire experience with a confession about the worse episode of peer pressure I have ever come across. Back home in Iowa, I left -7 degree weather, so I was pretty excited about traveling south. Sadly, our weather affects Texas weather, so the high for the day of our tour was only supposed to be 52. I had decided not to wear a coat because that was nearly 60 degrees warmer than back home, so I figured it’d be ok. When I left my hotel, I quickly realized the error of my ways and began to retreat back to my room for my coat.
My roommate, Liz Doyle, who owns a golf course in Oregon, told me that I was an Iowan and I could tolerate it. After all, the weather was only supposed to get warmer. I fell prey to her threats and went without a coat.
I headed out to the range and quickly noticed that not only was I one of the few on the range, but I was definitely the only one without a coat. The other three people and I braved it to take note of the Fling Golf. It was a balmy 35 degrees, so I kept myself warm with positive thoughts.
Fling Golf is an alternative way to play golf. The clubs are very light weight and you place the ball into the club head.
They offered to have me demonstrate. I declined since I was having trouble feeling my hands and could visualize the disaster that me flinging a golf ball might cause. Kathy Aznavorian, who owns a family golf course in Michigan called Fox Hills, volunteered since she obviously didn’t fall prey to the peer pressure and wore a coat (and gloves).
The only thing that was redeeming to my intelligence of outdoor apparel was that I wasn’t participating in the golf outing. Hill Country had just received their batch of brand new Club Cars in a swanky orange color. They were fancy and even had windshields which somehow always take the sting out of playing in colder weather.
For the last several years, I had tossed around the idea of putting speakers outside around the clubhouse. It seems to be a growing trend to pump music in the cart parking area as well as at the driving range, so I took a peek at their set up to see if it was something I could duplicate.
Originally the breakfast was going to be served outside, so I was very glad when they had a change of heart and allowed us to eat inside a tented area.
When you’re in Texas, everything is country. The bathrooms were marked by cowgirls and cowboys. We talked about having a boy or girl toad on our bathroom stalls, but that idea got quickly put shelved right next to the idea of having a zip line installed from our balcony to our ceremony site for brides to zip down the aisle in style.
We sat in a marketing meeting where we found out that Hill Country was celebrating it’s 22nd anniversary of its opening day on that particular day of our tour. The golfer snack bar area even featured a pool table. The problem with installing a pool table at our golf course is that it would make it so that my dad would never go home since it’s one of his favorite past times. It does fall pretty low behind his love of trees, though.
The irony of this sign hanging in their snack bar on this super cold day was not lost on me.
When I was done touring the snack bar, I looked to try and find my roommate, Liz, and my sister-in-law Theresa. Imagine my surprise when I found them huddled with fellow northern golf course owners around the fire. You know it’s cold when the golf course owner from Alaska has on a heated jacket and the course owner from Colorado purchases a stocking hat from the Pro Shop. Should I remind you that I didn’t have on a coat?
We made our way back to the tent for another Texas style lunch. Cole slaw, pulled pork, beans and creamed corn. Yum.
When we walked in, they had hired a professional roper who was tying up some NGCOA staff members.
The next part of the tour took us to their restaurant called Antlers. It featured this huge chandelier in the center of the room.
The chef and Food/Beverage Manager gave us some tips on how they handle weddings and other banquets. They spoke about trends and how they display their food for buffets and other events. Here was a display they had used with galvanized tubs.
They also had created a really cool table out of saw horses and an old door.
I had to get a close up picture because my outside staff loves to build me projects. Ha.
After the Food and Beverage portion of the tour, we headed to their Golf Shop. The beginning of the tour began outside. I looked around diligently for my partners in crime, Liz and Theresa, however, they were cozy by the fireplace. Hum. Imagine that. By this time, I had been asked approximately 1,000 times if I was cold. I simply replied, “I’ve been colder.”
The first thing I noticed was this line of underwear that is carried by Foot Joy. I can think of a few incidents that these would have been a hot seller in our Golf Shop. They probably shouldn’t be told on the blog, but trust me. They’re funny.
They also had some children’s items on display. I loved these adorable golf shoe booties that someone had made for the club’s display.
Who can pass up some baby golf shoes?
The final leg of our tour included a look at their maintenance facility. They had a pretty cool tool crib.
There are many vendors who like to showcase new items that are available for golf courses. One option that is available is meant to speed up play and is a 15 inch cup cutter.
After watching the superintendent’s reaction to how difficult it was to implement, I don’t think it’s something that we will be running out to purchase anytime soon.
I did really like their posts that the outside staff had created to rope off areas of the course. They were just sticks with re-bar in them and hole drilled through to put the rope.
Our final stop was the evening networking. I was still able to feel my toes at this point of the journey, so I was really happy to hear that the networking would be taking place outside at the pavilion. Clearly, these people should talk to the government about torture methods because spending more time outside wasn’t my idea of a good time.
I toughed it out and stayed until the end because I’m an Iowan and we aren’t quitters. Plus, they had food. I think we’ve established that I’m a big fan of food.
All in all, it was a beautiful facility. It was sad that we had literally picked the only cold day that week to tour the facility. I know how devastating that can be to the golf course when an event is greatly affected by weather that isn’t in anyone’s control. I learned a valuable lesson. Never listen to Liz.
How about you? Have you been to San Antonio to check out this beautiful course?