Any new course opening in the United States is a big deal these days. When that course is the only Jack Nicklaus design in the nation for this year as it is in Texas Hill Country at the Horseshoe Bay Resort, then with that, mi amigos, you have hit the trifecta.
On Oct. 30, none other than the Golden Bear himself, the 72-year-old golf legend, Jack Nicklaus attended the grand opening of Summit Rock Golf Club, located on a 1,600-acre high ridge above Horseshoe Bay Resort and Lake LBJ about 70 miles west of Austin.
The par-72 layout is slated to be the centerpiece of a private club and golf community featuring homesites, family compounds, cottages and cabins.
The golf course is a rugged beast, routed across the ridge through rock ledges, outcroppings, ravines and giant oak trees, and is consistent with Nicklaus’s history of designing challenging layouts. The course has earned its 76.0 rating and 145 slope.
“The Hill Country, as a whole, is beautiful and creates opportunities for unique and interesting golf course designs,” Nicklaus said at the grand opening. “You have a lot of natural features in the Hill Country that allow you to just place quality golf in there and I think we did that at Summit Rock. If you look at all the courses we have done in the Hill Country, the properties are fairly rolling with an abundance of rock features and outcroppings, little ravines, and a lot of gorgeous, mature trees. You have all that at Summit Rock, along with nearby Lake LBJ and beautiful vistas.”
Playing about 6,500 yards from the member tees and tacking on 700 more from the tips, the Bermudagrass fairways have generous landing areas that can lengthen tee shots by catching some of the slopes on the many downhill shots. The elevation change throughout the course is several hundred feet with the peak shots coming at over 1,700 feet above sea level.
The bent grass greens are reasonable and appropriate for the difficulty from the tee and the fairways. There aren’t any crazy grades on the very slick putting surfaces but feature a challenging mix of tiers, bowls and long-flowing slopes. As with any well-designed golf course, getting yourself short-sided in the wrong place can make it nearly impossible to get the ball near the hole on your chip.
The 50 sand bunkers on Summit Rock are often more directional than penal and don’t tend to be as punishing as on a lot of other Nicklaus courses. Many of the green sites feature openings in front to accommodate getting the ball on the surface for the more recreational player.
The teeth of the golf course await on the back nine, opening with three tough holes, including the brutish 433-yard par 4-10th which, even with healthy roll on the tee shot, leaves a 200-yard shot into a green hung off the hill to the right and guarded by a spreading oak tree on the left.
The tee shot at the 200-yard downhill par 3-12th is the most difficult on the course, playing into a kidney-shaped green with a marshy hazard left and swirling winds.
Covering over 7,000 acres, however, the entire Horseshoe Bay Resort offers so much more.
There are three more golf courses – all designed by the legendary course architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. – Slick Rock (1971), Apple Rock (1986) and Ram Rock (1981). Jones, who practically invented the self-promotional course-architect genre once said, “I know of no area that has a more interesting variety of golf than Horseshoe Bay. I rank this among the best in the world.”
Hyperbole aside, the courses at Horseshoe Bay are all very good. Slick Rock is probably more of the resort type, while Apple Rock is a bit tougher (136 slope) and more scenic as it plays along Lake LBJ. Ram Rock is a tough one with narrow fairways, random rock outcroppings and ultra-quick Crenshaw bent grass greens.
Perhaps the most intriguing course at Horseshoe Bay, however, is the Whitewater Putting Course. It’s a par-72, 18-hole track, complete with waterfalls, bunkers, fairways, water hazards, dwarf Bermuda greens, lavish rose gardens and exotic birds. It’s even lighted for night play.
Accommodations can be had at the 249 room Horseshoe Bay Resort Marriott Hotel, the adjacent Paseo Vacation Apartments or The Waters at Horseshoe Bay Resort, which offers luxurious lakefront living. The latter two come in one-, two- or three-bedroom units.
Other amenities include several dining options, four pools, a beach club with cabanas at lakefront, a full service marina with boat, jetski and kayak rentals.
For those inclined to a little pampering, Bayside Spa offers the full range of massage and body treatments.
For non-golfers, tennis is taken seriously at Horseshoe Bay. The Whitewater Tennis Center has 16 adult courts with red clay, ProGrass and Laykold hard surfaces. There are also kid-sized courts.
Whatever the reason for traveling, Horseshoe Bay has it all covered in a Texas-sized way.
Although Summit Rock intends to be a private club, access is available to guests through what they call the Discovery Package where couples can receive golf for two at Summit Rock, premier accommodations and dinner for two. More info is at 830-598-5000 or summitrockhsb.com, as well as hsbresort.com.