Historical shelterThe bones of the Baer Barn B&B in Fredericksburg are steeped in history — the original structure was built in 1860. But this historical shelter has seen a little bit of new construction and a great deal of upgrading, making it a seamless combination of old and new.

The home sits on 4.81 acres of Hill Country land, just outside of the main part of Fredericksburg proper. Built of log, timber, and rock, the home and guest house would be a great income generator and also a great place to plan a day of wine tours and fine dining. (more…)

hill country cuisine

The Hye Market Restaurant offers local wares, in addition to some mighty fine cooking by chef Matt Church (Photo: Bethany Erickson)

While mentions of the Texas Hill Country are often coupled with discussions of all things wine, two chefs in the Fredericksburg area are making sure that food also enters the conversation.

From our first night at Boot Ranch, who graciously hosted our editorial retreat Sept. 15-17, we were immediately put on notice — some remarkable food is coming out of Hill Country kitchens. (more…)

Boot Ranch hosted a fabulous wine weekend for members, guests, and journalists.

Boot Ranch hosted a fabulous wine weekend for members, guests, and journalists.

A crowd of about 70 journalists, bloggers, Boot Ranch members and guests participated in the first Boot Ranch Wine Workshop and Tours April 22 and 23. Hosted in the Texas Hill Country’s finest private golf and family community nestled on more than 2,000 picturesque rolling acres, the wine was flowing and the pool was warm. The master-planned retreat is just five miles north of the quaint, historic town of Fredericksburg and offers a variety of living options. The clubhouse features expansive vistas, a spa, bar, casual and fine dining. What more could you possibly need?

Oh yeah, and wine!



You and your family can own an amazing Overlook Cabin at Boot Ranch!

You and your family can own an amazing Overlook Cabin at Boot Ranch!

Boot Ranch has the most amazing Overlook Cabins, decorated by a brilliant design team and given the posh treatment you’d expect from this Texas Hill Country development.

Located just outside picturesque Fredricksburg, this development pairs excellent golf, amazing views, and five-star accommodations in the most perfect, designer package. And with the Overlook Cabins, you can have all this to yourself! Find out more about this incredible development and our Vacation Home Week celebration on CandysDirt.com!

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Not only is Boot Ranch a gorgeous place to play and stay, it’s also a fabulous community that focuses on supporting America’s heroes — our veterans.

More than 150 golfers turned out at the fifth annual Nimitz Golf Classic on June 12. The 2014 Nimitz Golf Classic raised more than $100,000 for both the Admiral Nimitz Foundation and Combat Marine Outdoors, a non-profit organization which seeks to provide an outdoor adventure of a lifetime to some of our heroes. This year’s proceeds bring the total funds raised over the past five years to benefit the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, the National Museum of the Pacific War and co-beneficiary non-profits serving the needs of veterans and military personnel to well over $500,000.


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Golfing great Hal Sutton found himself in the Texas Hill Country about 12 years ago, with a stop in Fredericksburg. He might have thought he was in Tuscany, not Texas, because the terrain was so similar he wondered where the olive trees were. The idyllic German-esque community of about 11,000 in Gillespie County rests about 70 miles west of Austin and 52 miles north of San Antonio. Fredericksburg, famous for its summer peaches and German brews, caught Sutton’s heart and never really let go.

But it got his brain busy calculating, dreaming.

“This is beautiful,” the 14-time winner on the PGA tour told his wife, “This is the Aspen of Texas! We need to buy something here, build something here. Once the rest of the world discovers how beautiful this place is, it will just take off!”

I relate to that feeling totally. Whenever I drove my son to camp in Hunt, Texas, for years back in the 1990’s, I too fell in love with Fredericksburg and the gentle hills surrounding it. It is the perfect primary, second or vacation home location — drive-able from most major Texas urban areas, scenic, hilly, and loaded with activity. There is water: Lake LBJ and the Guadalupe and Pedernales Rivers, and there is land: mountain climbing at Enchanted Rock, horseback riding, endless hours of hiking.

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Hal Sutton did more than just dream. He built the best exclusive family golf community in Texas, Boot Ranch. Armed with a $30 million investment from his partner, the Louisiana Municipal Police Employees Retirement System (Hal is from Shreveport), his own funds, and a network of good friends, he created the perfect ranch for city slickers looking for a getaway on the range laced with golf, gourmet food, and guns. He chose a beautiful spread of 2050 acres with the Palo Alto Creek winding through about five miles north of Fredericksburg, on the road to Llano. In case you don’t know, this is the hilly neck of Texas where most big time billionaires play rancher — Kelcy Warren, Tav Lupton, David Bamberger of Church’s Fried Chicken fame, to name a few.

Sutton’s dream team planned for 387 home sites of various sizes, shapes, and prices, all with a definite Texas Hill Country look and flavor.

And then he gave it something only Hal Sutton could: one of the best golf courses in Texas, a place he hoped would and believes will rival Augusta National. With its rugged hills dotted with cedars, curves and creatures, Boot Ranch offers golfers some of the most beautiful golfing terrain in the state. There are twin 40-foot waterfalls in front of the 10th green. The Dallas Morning News has ranked Boot Ranch no less than five times as one of the Top Ten Courses in Texas, and the course has been rated by Golf Digest as one of the Top 10 courses in the COUNTRY. The course measures 7,250 yards from the championship tees for a par of 71. Even veteran golfers find it a challenge each time they play. There is also a 34-acre practice park, which includes a short game range and an executive Par-3 course. The Director of golf is Emil Hale, hand-picked by Sutton himself.

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Boot Ranch launched in 2004 with the vision to create a world-class vacation home destination deep in the heart of Texas, with a true Texas twist. There would be a Sutton supreme golf course, a clubhouse village with casual and fine dining, pools and spa, guest lodges, zero-lot line low maintenance units, and acres of undeveloped acreage in between each homestead. This was not to be a development where units were crammed on the land to maximize return. Every element of the development would be completed on the highest level of luxury, and extended family would be encouraged to play and stay by way of a vertical membership to multiple generations. Traditional ranching is losing its luster with subsequent generations, and Boot Ranch would offer homeowners a chance to enjoy the romance of the ranch life, without the headaches. Homeowners could build homes of their choice, with builders of their choice, as long as design styles adhered to the community’s design standards to keep the look “Hill Country”. They could enjoy a community of activity right on the ranch on a level that Bick Benedict would have approved: trap and skeet shooting, fishing, hiking and mountain bike trails, horseback riding, swim and of course golf, and still be five minutes from the charm and amenities of Fredericksburg.

Then came the Greatest Recession since the Great Depression.

Like most vacation and second home communities during the financial crisis, Boot Ranch found its once-eager buyers holding back. After 37 brisk sales, Sutton brought in Legacy Properties for a restructuring in 2007, pumping in tens of millions in infrastructure costs. The U.S economy dove even further, and, like many developments across the nation, Boot Ranch equity was under water. Its resulting foreclosure left the estate of Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. – the major Boot Ranch noteholder – holding the keys.

Recognizing what a treasure they now owned deep in the heart of Texas, with a mandate to protect and maximize creditor assets, Lehman continued to fund, build out and finish the project. It was business as usual, riding out the storm, just as the Cowboys did on those craggy, rugged hills.

“Well, there’s one thing you got to say for cattle… boy, you put your brand on one of them, you’re gonna know where it’s at!”- Luz Benedict

Sutton had clearly branded a lifestyle at Boot Ranch, one that even a national financial crisis couldn’t touch. Part of Lehman’s luck was that Boot Ranch was located in the Lone Star State, a market that was barely touched by the recession. Texas residential real estate came back more quickly than other markets for several reasons: our values have never skyrocketed artificially as they have in some markets, and Texas puts the reins on home equity lines of credit, limiting them to 80% of home equity.

For two years, from 2008 to 2010, there was little sales movement at Boot Ranch. But when the economy turned north, the Texas real estate market turned into a Blue Norther. In 2011, Boot Ranch was at the top of lot sales for the State, selling between $10 and 20 million in inventory. And, Hal Sutton announced he was coming back to further brand the completion of his dream.

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In 2012, Boot completed the plans for its award-winning, 55,000 square foot rock stone Clubhouse Village. Steering up the steep hill on the rocky circular drive, you truly think you are coming into a centuries old Italian village. The clubhouse was designed by Mike Marsh, who recently completed the stunning remodeling of the toney Dallas Country Club in Highland Park, to maximize the terrain and view. A rock archway frames the vista over miles of the ranch and a waterfall leading to the lagoon pool, ranch club pavilion, tennis and sport courts. The Village includes the golf pro shop, men and women’s locker rooms complete with steam rooms, the spa and wellness center, exercise center, and the dining room. Boot Ranch offers owners a choice of casual or fine dining under the direction of Executive Chef Aaron Staudenmaier, who worked with famed restaurateur Kent Rathbun in Dallas. There are ten luxurious lodge suites for guests with jetted tubs, separate shower and rooms the size of Manhattan — some just under 1000 square feet. These function as extra living quarters for members’ family and friends.

Then there are the lots. Boot Ranch has a variety of options from the sprawling, elegant estate home sites, which range in price from $300,000 to $2.5 million for as little as 2 acres up to a whopping 18 acres, including club membership.

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There are the smaller Overlook Cabins, situated on approximately one-half acre sites with these price points starting at $239,000 to $449,000 including club membership, for dirt. Homes ranging from 1,800 to 4,000 square feet are going up as I write this, many pre-sold. Pricing for the lot and completed cabin ranges from $700,000 to $1.4 million.

Finally, Boot Ranch revived an old German trend from the original Fredericksburg settlers: the Sunday House. These were homes that were “shared” by settlers attending church services in town. The Sunday House gave them a place to rest, repast and refresh before the long ride back to the ranch, in a wagon or on horseback. Boot Ranch’s concept is a fractional ownership of each Sunday house with pricing at $300,000. Each Sunday House is about 3,800 square feet of detached space — a gathering house with family room, gourmet kitchen and laundry room, and four master bedroom suites, all detached but connected by walkways. It’s a similar concept to the way homes were built with detached rooms into the hills at Calistoga Ranch. The Sunday House concept has proven so popular and affordable, shares in the first four cabins are almost sold out and construction is underway on a fifth. Sunday House owners share their usage, averaging between 35-45 days each during a year. Buyers are streaming in primarily from Houston and Dallas, with others coming from San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Tyler, Midland, Odessa and elsewhere. A few are even from out-of -state.

In 2011, as the U.S. was waking up from the recession, the movie Seven Days in Utopia was filmed at Boot Ranch. Starring Robert Duvall, directed by Matt Russell, the movie is based on the book: Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia, by David L. Cook, PhD. Cook is one of the country’s top sport psychology consultants and motivational speaker who has worked with more than 100 PGA Tour players. Among many coaching roles, Cook serves as sport psychology coach to the 1999 World Champion San Antonio Spurs. His story is about a young golfer who finds life’s purpose at the Links of Utopia.

In many ways, Hal Sutton found HIS life’s purpose at the Links at Boot Ranch, generating an attainable legacy for families to take a healing break from the insanity that 21st century life has become. It’s a place to kick back, put up your boots, re-connect with family and nature and maybe, just maybe, give you a chance to find your life’s purpose under the golden glaze of a Hill Country sunset.Boot Ranch 24





Boot Ranch, a luxurious second home “ranching light” community in Fredericksburg, Texas, where you can play city slicker one minute, Arnold Palmer the next, says it’s back. I still have the press kit I received from Boot Ranch now some four years ago. It was the most beautiful kit I have ever received, and useful, to boot: a stitched leather notebook folder, 8 by 10.5. Presto, I was in love with the place. It’s all about the presentation, of course! I was told that George Bush, Sr. would be one of the regulars on the “Augusta” golf course created by Hal Sutton and recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top ten private golf communities in the country. (Rumor was he was buying or being offered a home.) Knowing Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country like I do, I was dying to get over there.

But by 2009 I’d heard the bad news: the 2,050 acre development was foreclosed on after a key lender declared bankruptcy. It was also embroiled in lawsuits involving another investor worried about the resort’s performance, and an Austin couple upset over the handling of its golf membership fee.The real estate world, of course, has changed from what it was in 2005 when BR’s land deals were first done and 2006 when that golf course was completed. Like other second home projects that catered to a seemingly endless supply of the wealthy, I have witnessed the pattern: during these nutty years a golf course was completed almost every  day in the United States, 300 to 400 per year, totally driving real estate just like it did at Boot Ranch.

In fact, this reminds me a bit of the Black Rock Club, Marshal Chesrowns’ gorgeous first-class development I was privileged to visit when the market was, shall we say, more robust. Black Rock Development in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho — at the time “one of the nation’s fastest-growing vacation and second home locations” also went belly under. Chesrown surrendered ownership of the Club at Black Rock  — the 30,000 square foot luxury golf club and housing development — above Lake Coeur d’Alene as high-end real estate in northern Idaho headed south. Washington Trust, a privately held Spokane bank, took the deeds from Chesrown in lieu of foreclosure in 2009. The bad loans were about $12.5 million. Last I heard, a coalition of 8 club owners — membership in the exclusive golf club was $125,000 for starters — bought the club from the bank. Chesrown, a dashing bachelor rancher started his automotive career selling Buicks, became the youngest Toyota dealer in the United States, and founded Chesrown Automotive Group, which he sold to Republic Industries, otherwise known as Auto Nation. He has or had a sprawling horse ranch near Coeur D’Alene and also one in Texas. The development was absolutely first class, and the homes were some of the best built I’ve seen. Still, like Boot Ranch I, they were largesse — pricey, large homes. As America played semantics with the D-word that rhymes with recession,  even the wealthiest may have re-thought such a significant investment. I’ll be interested to see how those owners market the place.

Back in “the day”,  Boot Ranch was a golf destination attracting high net worth retirees and corporate types who might fly in to Fredericksburg’s own FBO — that’s Fixed Base Operation, on private jets. Get those Lucchese’s mucked up, someone would clean them or fly in a new pair.

And the first vision for this development echoed the times — big stuffy ranch living without any of the work: large, ranch-style lots, some exceeding 30 acres in size. Price tags of  $500,000 an acre. Full disclosure: we bought a place in nearby Johnson City, so I was out there shopping and comparing notes.

But by 2006, those mini-ranches were not moving. Neither were the $175,000 golf memberships for real estate owners with $12,000 annual dues. I’m told the cost to join the 105 member golf club has now been cut to $100,000 with $12,000 in annual dues, but I am looking at something from 2007 saying it was $100,000 back then. There were plans for a ranch club, fitness center, spa, equestrian center, tennis, lazy river water park, winery, kids camp, skeet and shooting range. Now I hear 38 lots were added to the first 900-acre section under development, and the average lot size diminished from 8.5 to 5.5 acres.

Boot Ranch was purchased in foreclosure last year by a subsidiary of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., and the marketing plans are now including women and grandkids along with the golf-obsessed moneyed guys. My guess is the homes will be smaller and cheaper.

I wonder if they are going to continue with the 3,800 square foot “Sunday Houses”, based on the small houses ranchers built in town for the trip to shop, attend church and chew the fat. These were fractional ownership deals at $300,000 a pop –yikes! –plus HOA dues of $12,500 annually. Homes run as low at $267,000 up to $2,000,000. A $2.4 million home sold this year, and there are $8 million in property reservations to add to a grand total of $26.4 million in real estate sales. The development has sold 36 of the 83 estate lots available in the first phase, not too shabby. The $30 million clubhouse is complete, and the new owners say, “Boot Ranch is back”

I’m dying to get down there and run my fingers over the interiors, see if there are any bargains for us here on SecondShelters.