Once in a blue moon, we get to play a course that I envision only golfers who have died and had gone to golfer's heaven get to play. Its scenic with magnificent panoramic vistas, very demanding but fair with excellent conditions, requires good course management and shot making skills, throws a little of everything at you to keep you focused, every hole is unique and interesting and memorable, and it has large but challenging green complexes requiring precise approach shots and good putting skills. All of that pretty much describes what it's like playing Black Jack's Crossing in Lajitas. Wow, what a fantastic course and it's hard to believe it's in Texas, albeit a very remote part of West Texas situated along the Rio Grande River between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park.
Words can't come close to describing Black Jack's Crossing and pictures don't do it justice - you just need to experience it. And it is well worth doing whatever it takes to find your way to Lajitas to play this unique course.
Black Jack's Crossing is a Lanny Wadkin's design and was named after General Black Jack Pershing who chased Pancho Villa through the west and across the Rio Grande. The original 18 holes opened in 2006 to rave reviews but the course was devastated by a 100 year flood that ruined most of the holes. Lanny Wadkins and his crew spend over a year building a new masterpiece and he states: "Some of these tee shots, you just go, "Wow!" and on hole four, it’s "Holy smokes."' Then five is better than four and six is better than five, and it just keeps going."
The first three holes of Black Jack's Crossing play in the Rio Grande river valley and then the cart path starts to climb into the mountains and foothills providing unequaled majestic vistas of the Big Bend National Park mountains, the foothills and desert terrain, the Rio Grande river meandering through the desert, and views for miles into Mexico. Everywhere you look you'll see interesting and unique geological formations with a variety of different colors and each hole has an interesting and scenic backdrop. You won't find any course in Texas that comes close to matching the elevation changes, stunning scenery, vast desert and mountain landscapes, and rugged terrain.
Just ridding in the cart along the fairways and up and down the cart path that twists and turns through the mountains is a blast. On the mountain holes make sure you walk up to the tips to check out the view and the challenging shot making and on several of them you'll want to hit at least one ball to experience the dramatic elevation changes.
But Black Jack's Crossing is much more than just eye candy and a photographers dream come true. It will challenge every part of your game, require some risk tolerance and shot making, and excellent club selection to manage the elevation changes. You may want to leave the big dog in the bag unless you are deadly accurate and also consider moving up a set of tee boxes - this course is a killer from the tips! Carefully study the GPS, which is great, before each and every shot and make sure you have lots of spare golf balls.
When you walk to the tee box on #4 the "Wows" start and continue for several holes. Some of the "Wow" holes include:
In addition to the elevation changes and majestic views, what makes playing Black Jack's Crossing fun is no two holes are same and every hole will throw something at you to test your game. You'll need to manage huge elevation changes, forced carries, strategically placed bunkers, narrow fairways, water, deep arroyos, rolling fairways and uneven lies, tough approach shots, dog legs and blind shots.
And on #7, a 444 yard par 4, you get some of all of that which makes golf fun, frustrating, and expensive - lost balls, broken clubs, lots of Advil, and losses from bets of "you can't make that shot." #7 requires a precise shot from an elevated tee box to avoid hitting the mountain on the left, disappearing into the deep arroyo where the fairway narrows and heads along the ridge line to a downhill green, or spraying it right into another arroyo. Based on where your drive lands, you may have a risk reward shot over the arroyo to a downhill well guarded green or you can try to follow the narrow fairway that horseshoes around the arroyo to the green. Not only is the green downhill and well guarded with two steep and deep bunkers, but it's heavily contoured making putting a challenge. Course management, excellent club selection, and precise shots are required to par this hole that you'll want to play again, and again, and again.
We played in November 2011 when all of Texas had experienced a severe drought (Lajitas got 1.5 inches of rain in 15 months), freezing temperatures, and record setting heat spells - all of which had taken a toll on Texas golf courses. Mother Nature had an impact on the fairways and roughs at Black Jack's Crossing causing some bare and brown spots, but the course was still very playable. Update - we understand that the conditions have improved dramatically during 2012.
The fairways range from wide open let-er-rip to tight and twisting and contoured. Miss the rough, which was very playable but not in great condition, and you're wet, in the desert with some nasty cactus, or down a deep arroyo and you don't even want to think about trying to get your ball.
The greens were in very good condition and range from average to a tad small. All have plenty of contour and are well guarded with something - bunkers, water, arroyos, ridges, mounding, or desert.
The bunkers range from small to some very treacherous steep and deep monsters. The sand is soft and fluffy.
By the way, Lajitas Resort and Spa is fantastic and you can learn more about it by reading our review of Lajitas Resort. Plan on spending a few days because you will want to play this course twice and there are lots of other fun things to do like: hiking in Big Bend National park, mountain biking, rafting and canoeing the Rio Grande, ATV and Jeep tours, horseback riding, hunting and shooting, and more.
Bottom line - it just doesn't get much better than Black Jack's Crossing, add this one to your bucket list
Here is a description provided by Ruffin Moore, the head pro at Black Jack's Crossing Golf Club.
Tucked in the southwest part of Texas, the club is conveniently located between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. The backdrop of the mountains of Big Bend creates an amazing, eye popping experience and one a player will never forget.
Designed By Ryder Cup Captain and Hall of Fame Inductee Lanny Wadkins, Black Jack’s Crossing is a mix of mountain holes and desert vistas. The scenery is just amazing - it is hard to believe this is a golf course in Texas! But the views of the Rio Grande on the last 5 finishing holes is a friendly reminder that you're still in Texas.
The course measures just over 7400 yards long from the back tees and is a challenge to the best of players. There are also 3 shorter tees, the shortest measuring just over 5000 yards making the course pleasurable for everyone. The fairways are generous but sometimes seem small due to the 180 feet tee to green elevation changes. The greens are medium in size but tricky and fast with great undulation.
The Lajitas area is rich with unique history. The pro shop is in what was once the Lajitas Trading Post (ca. 1800s) where folks from both sides of the border once frequented. The hallowed ground of Black Jack’s Crossing is the very same ground where General Black Jack Pershing confronted Pancho Villa - the bullet holes in the walls are proof! Additionally, the Longhorn Museum sits next to the pro shop occupying a wing of the former Trading Post.
Bring the Camera.
Rates: $90.00 to $90.00
Service is very good, the range is adequate, and the pro shop has the basics. The course has not yet been rated for slope and rating.
Here's How Texas Outside Determines the Scorecard Rating
The Texas Outside rating scale ranges from 1 to 10 – a perfect 10 course would be something like this: links along a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean and bordered by tall trees; lush fairways on rolling hills with lots of natural hazards; water (which is crystal clear) on most of the holes; immaculate greens (but they are undulating and tough); lots of variety and character (each hole is completely different and includes blind shots, elevation changes, doglegs, and significant challenges); perfectly manicured traps with the whitest and prettiest sand you’ve ever seen; a nice club house with great food and a 19th hole; a GPS; plenty of beverage carts or your own cooler and ice; and it only costs $40 bucks! What this means is that you probably won’t find any 10s in Texas – try Cabo San Lucas, Pebble Beach, or some of the Hawaii courses!
All of the above determines the overall score for the golf course. In other words, we like courses that are pretty, fun, very challenging with a lot of variety, and fairways and greens in excellent condition – all for $40. We also tend to play the courses that are affordable for the masses, which means in the $30 to $80 range. We rate hard and we haven’t found a 10 in Texas yet – don’t worry we haven’t given up and we’re still looking.