Summit Rock Golf Club at Horseshoe Bay sits on a towering bluff overlooking a sprawling expanse of Hill Country, yet it’s not just the location that’s breathtaking. The natural settings of several of the holes on this Jack Nicklaus Signature design, showcasing natural creek beds and washes, rocky hillsides and rolling ﬁelds of native ﬂowers combine to make a round here unforgettable. Every golf course designer will bend your ear about how well his course “blends” into the land, but here, it’s seamless. The natural features are revealed, not exploited.
“This property has signiﬁcantly more elevation change than any other course I’ve done in Texas, even the other ones on the Hill Country,” Nicklaus says. “We were fortunate that the land had that gentle climb up to the upper areas of the course. The views are just exceptional.”
Summit Rock is the fourth course built as part of Horseshoe Bay Resort (the first non-Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design on property) and it’s the only one of those open exclusively to the club’s highest membership tier.
Director of golf Steve Hatch says the 7,258-yard, par-72 layout shows a kinder, gentler Nicklaus than some of the Golden Bear’s previous designs. “This is a very playable Jack Nicklaus golf course. You see some generous landing areas because Mr. Nicklaus knew there would be days when the wind blows 30 miles per hour. When those days come, those wide landing areas don’t seem so wide,” Hatch says. “There’s bailout on every hole and not too many forced carries.”
Summit Rock features lush Bentgrass greens, a treat for players accustomed to Bermuda and an adjustment for those not familiar with the subtleties of Bent. “These greens have some severe undulations, so we never get them ridiculously fast. There’s a premium to you hitting the right spots on these greens,” Hatch says. “That said, these greens are fair. I feel like I can two-putt from anywhere here.”
The “upper section” Nicklaus and members refer to is holes 3 through 10 and, on a clear day, you’ll see 40-mile views from that section’s highest points. Beautifully framed golf holes like the 448-yard eighth (with an elevated green, well guarded by a deep-faced sand trap short and right) and the lengthy par-3 12th (ﬂanked by hillsides and colorful native areas).
The 11th, 12th and 13 holes cascade down into a rugged, wash-like terrain. This section feels like Hill Country, sure, but it also feels almost prehistoric, adorned by exposed granite and wild native plants. One might stop and wonder if this area looked much different 1,000 years ago.
Nicklaus’s take on a short par-4 is the downhill seventh. Playing 323 yards from the tips, this wide hole sweeps down then back uphill and is split by a strategically-placed “Dare Ya” fairway bunker. “The biggest advice I can give is, if you’re a strategic player, use the fairway bunkering for direction. These bunkers make good aiming points on many holes. This golf course sort of shrinks and widens depending on the setting topography, so you always have to pay attention to the landing areas,” Hatch advises.
Even in the Hill Country, few courses play along such an ever-evolving landscape.
“The routing makes round on this golf course seem a little like a mountain expedition up and down that rock,” Hatch says. “So many people say this routing is unlike anything in Texas. It’s one of the best uses of land I think I’ve ever seen.”
Another ﬁne touch at Summit Rock are the elegant comfort stations on holes 5 and 13, offering an assortment of snack food, beverages and chef-prepared delicacies to help keep your energy up during the round. Only members and guest of members can play Summit Rock, however golf course is fantastic lure for potential real estate clients.
“We seeing solid growth from the membership and the real estate sides,” Hatch says. “We love the energy that the new membership brought to Horseshoe Bay,” Hatch says. “The new folks mix well with our established membership and we really feel like we’ve brought in a new era for this club.”
Hatch says, with new healthcare facilities and award winning schools in the area, Horseshoe Bay and Summit Rock should continue to flourish. “I look at Horseshoe Bay in a similar way to the way people looked at Lakeway back in the late 80s. That seemed like a world away from Austin, but now it feels much more connected and it’s like its own city grew before our eyes. It’s hard to predict a timetable, but I think there will come a time when Horseshoe Bay really does feel like an extension of greater Austin. There’s so much out here that people want in their lives,” Hatch predicts.
Play Summit Rock once and you can bet, you’ll also want it in your life.
By Carl Mickelson
OTL Golf Writer