Review of Hills Country Club – Flintrock Falls Course
The Hills of Lakeway, which is owned and managed by Club Corp, offers it's members two very different clubs to enjoy and 72 holes of outstanding golf. The Hills Country Club is private and home to the Flintrock Falls Course and the Hills Course. Members also have access to Lakeway Country Club which has two excellent public courses – read our review of Live Oak Golf Course and Yaupon Golf Course to learn more about each one of these two courses.
Nestled in the heart of the Texas Hills Country, The Hills of Lakeway presents a secluded retreat just off the shores of beautiful Lake Travis. In addition to two spectacular Jack Nicklaus designed courses, members can enjoy tennis, a fitness center, swimming pools, and social amenities, Members can also improve their game at the Academy of Golf which was designed by Jack Nicklaus and includes a 500-yard learning center with target greens and three beautiful, championship Austin golf holes. Tom Kite ranks it as the #1 golf training and practice facility in the country.
Flintrock Falls is a spectacular 18 holes of golf that plays through the Austin Hills and an upscale community with beautiful homes dotting the rolling hillsides. The front nine was designed by Jack Nicklaus and a member told us that Jack designed it just after his hip surgery and apparently was still feeling a little cranky and designed the course as such. The back nine was designed by Jack Nicklaus II and it has a completely different look and feel and at times you might think the he was trying to make it tougher than front – which most everyone agrees that he was able to accomplish.
Both Flintrock Falls and the Hills are demanding but Flintfrock Falls is generally regarded as the toughest of the two courses thanks to tighter tree lined fairways, lots of bunkering, and what some would label as a tricky back nine. The Hills is more forgiving off the tee box but much more challenging on the approach shots to more demanding green complexes. Both nines are very scenic with rolling fairways, panoramic vistas of the hill country, huge beautiful homes, and a cascading waterfall on the signature 173 yard par 3 second hole.
With a rating ranging from 126 to 145 and yardages of 5089 to 7051 yards, you best come prepared for a test of your skills when you play Flintrock Falls and make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew. During your round you will encounter some of everything that makes golf fun, frustrating, and expensive (I lost 4 balls!) – blind shots, tight twisting fairways, forced carries, tough pin placement, creeks bisecting the fairways, risk reward opportunities, plenty of strategically placed bunkers, elevated tee shots, uphill as well as downhill shots, and challenging greens. You'll need to think your way around this 18 and deploy some of your best course management and club selection skills if you want to score well. But don't let that discourage you, Flintlock Falls is fun, fair, scenic, and a blast to play. Each hole is very unique and different and the second time you play this 18, the easier it becomes as you learn where to place the ball off the tee as well as where to try and stuff it on the green.
Some examples of what makes Flintlock Falls fun as well as challenging include:
- #3 is a 551 yarder and the #1 handicap thanks to a creek that bisects the fairway twice requiring accuracy from tee to green
- the 450 slight dog leg right #5, which is Jack Nicklaus's favorite hole, requires a decision off the tee box thanks to a huge bunker plus three trees in the middle of the fairway – play left for a safer but longer approach shot, risk it and try to fly the bunker and trees, or try and hit it through a narrow slot between the bunker and trees for an shorter shot to the green
- #14 is a blast – a great risk reward opportunity off the tee to try and fly 5 big bunkers to cut the dog left followed by a downhill shot to a green guarded by tees in the front and 3 bunkers
- three challenging par 3s (232, 195, and 215 yards) on the back nine that have some combination of a big downhill shot, strategically placed bunkers, raised challenging greens, or a creek to carry
- the 516 yard #16 is a blind shot over a lake, followed by downhill shot that requires accuracy to position your approach shot to a challenging green complex
- #13 and #14 are a minefield of bunkers that you'll need to avoid – 12 on one and 11 on the other
The fairways on Flintrock Falls are a tad tight thanks to trees and or creeks. A scattering of beautiful homes line the fairways but most are set well back under the trees and shouldn't come into play unless you really spray the ball. The fairways are rolling and contoured with plenty of elevated tee boxes and both uphill and downhill shots. When we played the fairways were in very good condition and the first cut was playable. Miss that and you're under the trees, in a creek, or lost in the native areas, or worse yet in someone's pool in their backyard!
The greens were still transitioning but were in very good condition, ran at a good speed of around 10, and are very true and hold the ball well. The greens are all shapes and sizes from small to average and the front nine is home to a number of long skinny oblong greens that are tough to hit the first time you play Flintrock Falls. On the back some of the greens have significant slope where you'll most likely watch your ball roll back down to the fairway. The majority of the greens are raised, well guarded, and have some combination of slope, tiers, or undulation. You'll do well if you can hit a high soft approach shot to the green.
The bunkers were in perfect condition with soft fluffy thick sand that was a joy to play out of – however, they are now missing a lot of sand that I took home in my hair, pockets, and shoes! The Flintrock Falls bunkers range in size from small pot bunkers to some huge multi-fingered monsters. And most are steep and deep.
Bottom line – a fantastic track that you need to do whatever it takes to get to play it. Fun, scenic, demanding, and lots of variety.
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The clubhouse is upscale with locker rooms, restaurant, bar, and a well stocked pro shop. The practice facilities are excellent. The service is what you would expect of a first rate private club.
Erin is director of golf for all courses.