I opened the door to Resort Air Services, a charter air company that operates out of Love Field, and entered the small waiting area. The room was packed with men clad in monogrammed golf shirts and caps bearing logos of prestigious golf clubs and major golf tournaments. It was 8:30 am, and these guys were holding an 11 am tee time at Lajitas. The only way to make it to the first tee box was to board the charter flight. The 600-mile drive takes close to nine hours.
We took off promptly at 9 am and landed at 10:15 on a dusty airstrip surrounded by the scrubby Chihuahuan Desert and high mountain peaks. I’ve never been to West Texas or to the moon, but as I walked to the luxurious, cabin-like terminal, I felt more like an astronaut than a potential golfer.
I dropped my luggage in the lobby and headed out for a tour of the 18-hole course with assistant golf pro Mark Ellison. The original course was flooded in 2008, shortly after Dallas billionaire Kelcy Warren purchased Lajitas. Warren hired Hall of Fame golfer Lanny Wadkins to design the dramatic course that sits above the Rio Grande. I counted seven elevated tee boxes with stunning views of mesas, mountains, and buttes. The bright-green fairways tucked between the rocky slopes appeared to be painted into the crevices. “It plays shorter than it looks,” Ellison told me. I switched my plans to play and signed up for a sunset horseback ride.
The leisurely trail ride to a lookout high above the resort was a nature lover’s dream. My horse, Paintball, handled the rocky terrain with grace. By the time we reached the top, dismounted, and opened a bottle of wine, the sun had dropped behind the Santa Fe de Los Pinos mountain range 80 miles away in Mexico. We rode back in what would have been total darkness if the sky hadn’t been illuminated by so many stars.
There is so much to do at Lajitas. A steep, elevated zip line takes you to the canyon floor. There’s a lovely spa, ranges for trap shooting, and canoes to paddle down the Rio Grande. If you feel like exploring, the resort is located between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. Terlingua, with its marvelous Starlight Theater and Saloon, is 11 miles down the road.
When Warren took over the property, he made the resort more welcoming to all travelers. He even added an RV park. The eclectic mix of visitors increases the probability of finding an interesting conversation in Lajitas’ Thirsty Goat Saloon. You never know whom you’ll meet. It could be a wealthy golfer from Bluffview or a bearded biker from West Virginia. I asked the bartender what he thought of the clientele. “It’s great,” he said. “But it’s a good thing these walls can’t talk.”