Can the Flintrock Falls Course at The Hills Country Club in Lakeway really be 15 years old? Seriously? That’s like asking a friend if his kid still plays with Duplo blocks and having him inform you the kid just got accepted to Rice. Time indeed flies. Sometimes with rocket fuel.
In two short decades, the Lake Travis-area suburb known as Lakeway has taken amazing shape around the daring 7,051-yard, par-72 Jack Nicklaus/Jack Nicklaus II design and the posh residential community that surrounds it. Lakeway has been transformed from one of Austin’s sleepiest vacation/retirement enclaves into one of its most vital suburbs and one of the most sought after residential destinations in the region. And, according to The Hills membership director Laurie Harris, “Increasingly, the membership at our club mirrors the community now. Young active professionals and families are taking advantage of the Lake Travis lifestyle now more than ever. The energy in this community is incredible.”
With two Nicklaus-designed golf courses and 18-holers Live Oak and Yaupon (collectively branded as Lakeway Country Club) and the state-of-the-art World of Tennis facility, The Hills Country Club is one of the most dynamic private club offerings in the region.
With its original 18 hall layout, The Hills Country Club has one of the most revered courses in the state. With its iconic Hill Country vistas and beautiful use of natural creeks, waterfalls and elevation changes, this Jack Nicklaus Signature course has stood the test of time and remained a sentimental favorite among Hill Country golf aficionados. Having hosted a PGA Tour Champions and a Web.com event in the past, the Hills has packed a lot of history into its three-and-a-half decades.
In more ways than one, represents Flintrock Falls The Hills’ “next generation” course and club environment. Situated in a more recently-developed part of Lakeway, The newer course favors more swashbuckling style of play. Meanwhile its location, in the heart of the community driven by families with active lifestyles, suggest it’s going to be the course that grows along with this rapidly-evolving suburban oasis.
Just three miles from the original Hills clubhouse, practice facility and gold academy, Flintrock Falls features its own clubhouse with first-rate dining and fitness amenities. Golfers find Flintrock Falls is similar to The Hills in that they are both situated in the Hill Country and make artful use of natural rock formations, streams and plentiful oaks. From a design standpoint, however, Flintrock presents several more risk reward opportunities and dials up plentiful variety on its strategic dogleg holes.
Director of golf Rufus Brijalba says “For a pro or a golfer who keeps solid shots in play, this course has more scoring opportunities (than The Hills course). It’s more gettable. However, the high handicapper sees more trouble and hazards on Flintrock Falls that just won’t come in to play for the scratch golfer. When the mid to high handicapper has to carry two water hazards on number three, a double hazard on a lengthy par five, that’s a tall order. Bogey is a really good score. Those golfers are going to feel that the easier course is The Hills where you can run it up to the greens a little more easily.”
Early in its history, this course was tabbed as having difficult-to-hold (and putt) greens. Swift green speeds and brutal false fronts on some greens gave members either a decided home course advantage or nerve-wracking matches down the stretch. These days, superintendent Aaron Clary works hard to make these surfaces- which are more challenging than average- manageable for players of all skills.
Overseeding with rye grass in the winter helps keep the greens running smooth for much of the year. “It’s a fair test but you have to play this course strategically and you need to play it a few times before you learn the nuances and how to avoid the shots that run off the greens,” Brijalba warns.
Unique pacing is a hallmark of this course. This is evident with three par 5s (holes 13, 16 and 18) creating scoring opportunities down the final stretch. “This is maybe the most fun stretch on the course, where you may be able to get some of the shots back that you lost in the middle of the round,” Brijalba says.
Flintrock Falls also showcases a memorable collection of par threes. Holes two and six are scenic gems. Number two features a rippling creek right of the green punctuated by a cascading waterfall. Meanwhile, the three one-shotters on the second nine are no less eye-catching but make their statements with length. From the tips, the 12th hole stretches to 232 yards, while 15 plays to 195 yards and the brawny 215-yard 17th has a huge green that meanders and swoops just enough to rattle the nerves a little.
“We have a great mix of par 4s on this course but I think number nine (a sweeping dogleg-left that plays to 459 yards from the tips with a creek running down the left of the fairway) is one of the toughest holes in the city,” Brijalba says. “You have a very small landing zone, so you lay up with a five-wood or hybrid, and you may have a full six-iron in from a downhill lie to an uphill green that runs away from you. So it’s, it’s mind-boggling.”
To continue to grow the club in a way that fits the profile of Lakeway’s surging demographic growth, The Hills Country Club is offering an attractive membership platform for the 44-and-under crowd. Junior memberships may be obtained for a $6,000 initiation fee (plus monthly dues) and at age 45, the member may choose to retain the full Hills Golf or Champions Golf membership under new terms. Top-tier Hills members are part of the renowned Club Corp Network, allowing them gold and dining privileges at top clubs, courses and resorts across the city and country.
Club life in Lakeway is a bit of an extension of the lake lifestyle. “Our members are pretty attached to the laid-back quality and the down-to-earth essence of the club,” says Harris. “They want to play their golf here, and they want to dine and celebrate, and do their business. Some bring their computers, work out at the World of Tennis and go to their parties here. We aspire to provide facilities that allow them to do everything here with us.”
The Hills Country Club staff prides itself on making its large club operation feel like an intimate family environment. If that feels like the right fit for your next club, learn more at www.thehillscc.com.
By Carl Mickelson
OTL Golf Writer