Great Golf at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa

Deep in the heart of Texas, you’ll find a gem of a Texas golf vacation resort at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio. This beautiful AAA Four-Diamond resort defines the “full-scale destination resort” moniker with 27-holes of championship golf, a luxurious spa, a fun-filled water park, award-winning dining and much more to keep the whole family entertained. All of this fun in the Texas sun is situated around classic accommodations reminiscent of a grand ranch house.

You really never need to leave the secluded setting of the resort with all of its wonderful amenities and dining. It’s easy to forget that you’re in charming San Antonio, with all of its own wonderful attractions. The resort is adjacent to the family fun destination of SeaWorld of Texas and a short drive to other top San Antonio attractions such as The Alamo, San Antonio’s River Walk, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme park.

But for those of us who love golf, the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa offers up a golfers delight at the Hill Country Golf Club. With 27-holes, a wonderful practice facility and the challenges of Texas hill country design, you’ll understand why the course was named one of the top 10 new public course in the U.S. by Golf Magazine when it opened up. The facility has also garnered attention as one of the top golf venues in the Conde Nast Traveler Golf Poll.

Award-winning golf course design firm Arthur Hills and Associates took great care to not only take advantage of the undulating terrain that they got to work with in South Central Texas but also took great care to preserve the natural landscape. The result is three different 9-hole golf courses, each with its own splendid character.

From the moment you arrive at the clubhouse, you’ll get the country club treatment. Sharp attendants take care of your every need before you head out to one of the three 9-hole courses to get your round started. The Oaks, Creeks, and Lakes Courses feature undulating meadows, wooded ravines, and a layout that challenges both your strength and your mind. The beautiful ponds partner with the strategically placed bunkers and grassy hollows to test your game on each hole.

Each nine plays to a par 36 and ranges from 2300 – 3500 yards based on the four tee choices. The different sets of tees accommodate players of all skill level and the course is particularly “women-friendly”, winning a prestigious award on Golf for Women magazine’s Top Fairways list. It’s difficult to pick a favorite of the trio, so hopefully you’ll have the opportunity to play a few days and get to experience all three at least once.

The Oaks Course plays to 3,438 yards from the black tees and offers a nice balance in length of holes. As the name implies, you’ll have towering oak trees to contend with so be sure to study the holes from the tee. There are definitely preferred sides to the fairway as you set up for your approach shots into the par 4 holes. Don’t just pull the driver out on the 400-yard par-4 holes…you’ll need to think your way through all holes at the resort and a lesser club off the tee may be the right play.

The 420-yard fourth on the Oaks will certainly challenge your strength and accuracy. You’ll need to be long and accurate off the tee in order to set up for an approach over a creek to a difficult green. The fifth and eighth may be the easiest par 3 set of all the nines, although a short tee shot on the fifth will cost you a penalty into the creek so be sure to use enough club. You’ll finish your side with a nice downhill par 5 and an opportunity for birdie as you approach into a huge shared green with the Creeks closing hole.

Another good tip to remember when playing at the Hill Country Golf Club is to definitely keep the ball below the hole on your approach shots. Downhill putts aren’t much fun and you’ll find three-putts the norm if you aren’t below the hole. That’s probably true on most any course but it feels even more pronounced in the Texas Hill Country.

In 2005, the resort reconfigured its original 18-hole course to accommodate a new 9-hole course to bring the facility to a 27-hole track. Many of the new holes are found on the 3429-yard Creeks Course. This nine has some great character and an opportunity to score on the opening two holes before being challenged with one of the toughest par-3 holes on the golf course, the 222-yard third. Par is an excellent score on this demanding hole.

You’ll then face the ‘creeks’ in the Creeks Course beginning with the beautiful par-5 fourth, a true three-shot route to the green at 538 yards and water protecting the green. The difficult seventh earns the number one handicap on the side and with good reason. A creek runs along the left and in front of the green on this dogleg left. You’ll finish up with a tempting downhill par-5 and an opportunity to hit a big drive off of a high-plateau tee. Water and bunkers protect the massive green but you may have the green light to swing away on your approach if you keep it left.

The Lakes Course is the longest of the trio, checking in at just over 3500 yards from the back tees. You’ll face your first stern test on the long par-4 third. Keep your tee shot left to have an angle at the tough green protected by sand on the left and a lake long and right. You’ll have fun on the short par-4 fifth, where your best bet is a long iron or hybrid off the tee to the right side of the fairway leaving you a wedge over a creek to a severely sloped green.

After the easy fifth, you’ll face four demanding finishing holes. The sixth is the first of two tough par-5 holes on the Lakes side. The tee shot has a dangerous lake on the left and a dry creek bed that twists from the left of the fairway and then right through it. Your second is to a narrow landing area before you’ll approach the well-protected green with water on the right. After a demanding par-4 seventh, you’ll tee it up against tall trees on the par-5 eighth, a 560-yard sweeping dogleg left. Stay right off the tee or you’ll struggle to the green.

You’ll enjoy the amenities and facilities at the golf club, including GPS systems in the golf carts offering exacting yardages and handy tips. Prior to your round, you can make yourself comfortable in the locker room facilities before warming up on the fantastic practice facility with a wonderful chipping green, large putting green, and expansive driving range.

It’s easy to work up an appetite during a round and you should check out the fine food and setting in the clubhouse overlooking the courses after you post your score. The Cactus Oak Tavern serves typical yet tasty American cuisine, including burgers, salads, and sandwiches in a casual setting with televisions and a pool table. Take some time to visit the pro shop for great selection of resort golf apparel and equipment.

While golf might be the primary reason for your visit to the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, you should consider the reason why the resort chose to put the word “Spa” in their name. The answer lies in the extraordinary Windflower Hill Country Spa. Located across the resort from the golf facilities, the tranquil spa is a throwback to the late 1800s and early 20th century, including a conventional red barn. The “Tee Time” package is perfect for the golfer after a day in the hot Texas sun, consisting of the Golfer’s Massage and a rejuvenating mini-facial and pedicure.

The spa is reserved for the adults of the family, but don’t think for a second that there isn’t plenty to do for the entire family. The resort truly does have something for everyone to keep as busy or relaxed as they wish. You’ll be able to bicycle around the nature trails (bike and helmet rentals are available) or jog around the clearly marked trails. Since the hotel is a certified Audubon sanctuary, you’ll have the chance to see some of the 100 species of birds that call this place home. Let the kids play on the playground complete with slides, swings, tetherball, and volleyball set.

But perhaps the most fun will be had at the centrally located four-acre water park. Float on an inner tube along the 950-foot Ramblin’ River or play in the sand at the man-made beach. For some fun in the water, you can play water volleyball in the free form activity pool. For the adults, there’s an adult-only Texas shaped pool with waterfall or an adult-only hot tub in its own private grotto.

Hyatt Hill Country Resort- Like many of the resorts in the Hyatt family, the kids programs are second to none. Camp Hyatt is an award-winning children’s program that takes great care of your kids aged 3 to 12 while you head for the links or the spa. In the Texas spirit, the camp has supervised activities such as hunting for arrowheads, learning how to read the stars or indoor crafts. You can also give your youngsters a taste of the relaxation experience at the SPAhhhT Youth Spa, with facials, massage, body treatments, and nail services for the under-17 set. Teenagers will also appreciate the Underground Teen Space, a hangout spot to check e-mail, play video games, and slurp up a smoothie.

With so much going on outside, it’s no surprise that classic Hill Country accommodations are outstanding. The hotel’s Town Square is at the heart of the resort and is home to a century-old Live Oak tree. You can sit on shady Aunt Mary’s Porch in the morning while planning the activities of the day. Inside, the grand lobby tastefully balances the elegance of a world-class resort with the liveliness of a family vacation spot. The 500 guestrooms surround scenic courtyards and a peaceful serenity when night falls.

Of course, a world-class resort wouldn’t be complete without outstanding dining and The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort does not disappoint. If you’re in the mood for a good cup ‘o Joe, head over the Hill Country Coffee & Creamery. Enjoy pastries and juice in the comfy lounge chairs with Wi-Fi service. For something a little more hearty mosey on over to the Springhouse Cafe, serving a buffet breakfast. For lunch, there are scrumptious sandwiches, soups, and salads, while for dinner you’ll enjoy juicy steaks, perfectly prepared pasta and seafood. The Antlers Lounge is the Hill Country Hyatt’s signature restaurant, named for the chandelier made from 500 pairs of antlers (all naturally shed). Serving traditional Texan cuisine, you’ll enjoy some Bison Tenderloin while sitting near a welcoming fireplace and tables set for your privacy.

If you’re looking for something to do outside the resort, you’ll have plenty of choices including the 33-acre San Antonio Botanical Gardens with a special rose, sacred, and authentic Japanese garden. The San Antonio Zoological Garden and Aquarium is home to over 750 species, including kangaroo, rhino, and leopards. Go and visit Shamu, the Clydesdales, penguins, and dolphins at SeaWorld. For some great rollercoaster action, head on over to Six Flags Fiesta Texas where you’ll get quite an adrenaline rush from the rides known as The Rattler, Superman Krypton, and Poltergeist.

Guests are be able to pre-arrange all their activities before even leaving the house with Hyatt’s E-concierge program. From the comforts of your computer log onto http://www.hyatte-concierge.com, and you’ll be able to make dining and recreational reservations, as well as tee times, transportation, and more. For extra customer service, the Hill Country Hyatt participates in the Babies Travel Lite Program (www.babiestravellite.com). You’ll have all of baby’s needs delivered right to your hotel, from formula to diapers, and everything in between, making this a truly family-friendly resort.

The award winning Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa is the most welcoming of resorts, making you feel right at home in the most luxurious of settings. So, pack your bags along with your Stetson and head on over to the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa.

For golf information, please visit the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa website and check the Hill Country Golf Club website for special offers.

Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa

This iconic resort, on Penang Island, off the Malaysian coast, reopened September 28th after a 21-month rehab, much needed after 33 years of action.

I wanted to check out the ‘love of life and its pleasures’ that Rasa Sayang means, but the usual one-night stand had to be extended since I arrived at 10pm and left at 6.30am. As my car drew up after the 45 minute ride from the airport, I was met by a posse of absolutely charming employees and taken upstairs to room 2522, on the fifth – top – floor. May we take your photo? Gosh, how would this look, after such a long day.

Once alone, I quickly ordered room service, unpacked and, hey presto, dinner arrived. For a simple salad and pasta request I got a wheeled table with white china and crispest white linens, highlighted by an old-gold ikat mat that matched the orchids. The napkin was stylishly folded through a striped shell napkin ring. Dishes were covered metal hats that could have been designed by Philippe Starck – and the al dente penne, liberally covered in what seemed like a no-calorie ‘cream’ soy sauce with baby asparagus bits, was totally delicious. Designer baths, hinting at the elixir of youth and wellness, are complimentary, and a rose petal and pink French clay special had been drawn in the marble bathtub that was sexily out on my balcony. I slunk into it, hoping there were no Peeping Toms around, wallowed marvellously, and collapsed into bed.

In the morning I had a good look around my room, a 680 sq ft Premier category in the Rasa Wing, the super-luxury category of what is now a 304-room resort. The space flows, from marble foyer to marble bathroom, with one glass wall (with blind) looking into the bed part of the main room, which is divided by a ten-foot work desk with lots of electric sockets and speedy wired broadband – there is wireless in public areas, including gardens. The bed is like a mass of white clouds, its bed head a wall of silk panels in the room’s colours, namely golds, persimmon, soft brown. The mini bar comes with a blue martini shaker, the wall-set flat-screen is Philips, the safe has a little box for jewellery, and the notepaper has my name on it. Light switches are all labelled (someone has a lot of common sense, here).

Through the all-glass wall fronting the terrace, I could now see how fabulous the grounds are. Nine of the trees on the total-30 acre estate are protected rainforest species, apparently over a century old. The newly-landscaped walkways and immaculate lawns include a circular arena for weddings. The wing has its own curvilinear salt-water pool – down one S-shaped wall, you can swim past 27 small horizontal water jets into a water protuberance (like the sticking out part of a jigsaw piece) which is a vitality pool. Beyond are shady lawns with wood lounge chairs and tables. Beach concierges bring you discreet wireless bells: ring, and someone comes running, or perhaps cycling, to take your order. Beyond this is the sandy beach, which from later this month will have a full dive centre.

My wake-up run took me around all this, and the executive (that is to say bijou) golf course, and pair of tennis courts, and the neighbouring, more-casual, Garden wing of the hotel. I looked back up at the Rasa wing’s roofs, each of which is built in typical Minangkabau style, like two big open books, spine up, the whole then sprayed with dark brown paint. I admired the clever layout of balconies which means no-one can in fact see anyone having their outdoor baths.

The theatre-style breakfast buffet, in Spice Market, was copious, with fabulous juices-to order, and Greek-type home made yogurt and exotic

fruits. There is Malay hot if you want it, or Chinese, English, Japanese, or anything: all serving stations are decorated with mammoth sculptures of brightly-coloured spices from a local merchant. There is a good gym but most guests, who were predominantly European during my stay, prefer to spend the day outside, being energetic but in the main lounging in a private area somewhere in the grounds. This is a resort to get lost in, if you want. Rasa guests can also lounge in their lobby, which serves complimentary-everything day and evening long. There are 550 employees for the whole resort, and every one seems to know every guest’s name: perhaps the arrival photos are used as aide-memoirs.

It was fortunate that I had a reservation at CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La, which appears to be doing thriving business from both sexes. Even getting there is an experience. You hardly realise there is a winding meter-wide walkway that, shielded by a tall bamboo walls, wraps around that curvilinear pool. After 60 steps I found myself in a ten-sided Tibetan house, topped by a giant bell. I was led to Namshe, one of 11 ‘homes’ in the adjacent ‘spa village’. Inside, a foyer led to full bathroom one side, the treatment room the other. Beyond, shielded by an eight foot stone wall and more bamboo, was an outdoor tub for two. My feet were washed, my face was treated, my feet massaged while the mask set. Delicate bells awoke me (a treatment is a great place for a quick shut-eye).

Back in my room, butler Syed had returned my laundry, in a big brown leather box, with interior compartments, each laundered item individually wrapped in crisp tissue paper. The bowl of whole fruits, under a gauze hat, had been replenished. It was time for dinner at the Feringgi Grill, where couples seemingly anonymous by day have been transformed by smart-casual shirts for him and mostly sleeveless-long frocks and quite a lot of jewellery (hers). Walls here are old bricks, the carpet cranberry, table linens white. Add candelabra bearing three twisted gold candles, and mottled green display mats produced by a local glass blower, and view into the night garden or, looking in, across to the kitchen. There is lots of table-side service, with real flamb├ęs performed with theatrical panache. Regulars head straight for the beef, mostly Australian. 60% opt for the kobe-style wagyu, which is three times the price of merely grain-fed. Rasa Sayang attracts the value-seeking connoisseur rather than the quality-less penny-pincher.

My bed had been turned down, and my photo, taken the previous night, stood in a souvenir leather frame with the hotel’s name on it. Clever. No wonder there are so many repeat guests here. The night was all too short, room service breakfast arrived with enough of that yogurt to keep centenarians living for many more decades. Downstairs, still pre-dawn, GM Arbind Shrestha – surely the only Nepalese-American GM in the ultra-luxury hotels industry – waited. Well, he said, I am a hotelier. This is my job, and passion. Butler Syed was also there, and he came with me all the way back to the airport.

All Inclusive Palace Resorts – Playacar Palace Riviera Maya

The Playacar Palace is an exceptional all inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, situated just south of Cancun on the Caribbean Sea. This modern retreat is in the heart of the Mayan Riviera, which is renowned for its luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants and the second longest barrier reef in the world. With its white sand beaches, clear blue green waters, and proximity to the Fifth Avenue shopping district, the Playacar Palace is in an excellent location and an exceptional environment where you will be able to discover the true heart of the Riviera Maya.

All of the hotels two hundred and eight beautifully appointed rooms have double Jacuzzis, twenty-four hour room service and balconies, most with a sea view. The new “Palace Beds” will guarantee a restful slumber. The state of the art bedding is finished with lavish sheets, duvets, shams and five pillows. Each room has a satellite TV with remote, mini bar, liquor dispenser, coffee maker, and individually controlled A/C. For guests’ convenience, purified water, in room digital safe, alarm clock, hair dryer, bathrobe and slippers, wireless internet and iron and ironing board are provided as well.

The outdoor pool has a swim up bar. Lounge chairs are available at both the pool and the beach, with beach towels provided for free. Guests who prefer shade rather than sun can take a soothing rest under any of the beach palapas. Just a stroll away is a luxury spa and golf club (also a part of the All Inclusive Palace Resorts brand of destinations), which offers an eighteen-hole golf course and a state-of-the-art spa facility. Guests of the Playacar Palace can stay at one and play at both!

Meals can be enjoyed at any one of the fabulous restaurants and bars in the hotel, all of which have a relaxed dress code. The Cafe del Mar in the central lobby has buffet dinners of international and Mexican cuisine and is also open for breakfast and lunch. The Terrazza offers Italian cuisine. The MoMoNoHaNa in the central lobby brings fine Asian cuisine. The Aquabar is a pool and snack bar offering service until 11 pm. The Luna Lounge serves drinks with Thai hors d’oeuvres in the evening until 2 am. The Cielo Bar in the lobby is open all day until 1 am. So as you can see, there will never be a lack of food and drink at the Playacar Palace, not matter what your tastes or what time you wish to eat or drink!

Guests of the all inclusive Playacar Palace resort can relax knowing they’re in a unique environment in a historic playground that is sure to make any vacation a memorable one. The splendor of the Playacar Palace has everything anyone needs for the total enjoyment of vacationers.

One visit and you’ll enjoy fun in the sun, beautiful beaches, strolling around town, spa treatments, golf, recreational activities, fine dining, entertainment and fun activities…all at affordable all inclusive prices!