Sunday, June 05, 2005

Hill Country's New Nine

Hill Country Golf Club, part of the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, has added nine new holes to its existing 18. The new nine opened in early May, and I had a chance to play the new layout last week.

Verdict: Bravo!

The Hyatt course now has three nines called, respectively, the Lakes Nine, Creeks Nine and Oaks Nine. The nine new holes do not make up one of the nines, however; seven of the new holes are incorporated into the Creeks Nine, and the remaining two are part of the Lakes Nine.

If you've played the Hyatt Hill Country before, the Oaks Nine is the former back nine, unchanged. The two best holes at the Hyatt were the former Nos. 5 and 8 which are now, respectively, Nos. 3 and 6 on the Lakes Nine.

Those are still the best two holes on the course, but they get some competition from several of the new holes (the new holes were designed by Arthur Hills, artchitect of the original 18, and some re-jiggering of the former front nine was necessary so that all three of the new nines would begin and end at the clubhouse).

Most of the new holes are on the Creeks Nine, and several of them are short, risk-reward par-4s. No. 2 is 344 yards from the tips and is pretty much straight-away, a nice birdie opportunity. The fourth hole of the Creeks is a great one, a 538 par-5 whose green is tucked behind a pond that features a rock-wall face. Going for this one in two takes guts. A layup to the left on your approach takes the water out of play, but brings a deep front bunker into play.

The sixth hole is only 301 yards from the blacks (it was playing only 244 yards from the blues on the day we played it), but it's not easy. Sure, you can try to drive the green, but to do so you'll have to carry some tall oaks on the left of the fairway, plus a creek, to reach the elevated green. The trees are only about 50 yards in front of the green. Most will want to play to the left, where the creek is a much shorter carry. The fairway, taking this route, doglegs about 70 degrees to the right for a short approach.

The seventh is another winner among the new holes, a strong dogleg left with a wide, rocky creekbed down the entire left side until the green appears. The creek then cuts in front of the green, which sits on a tiny ledge behind the creekbed (a rock wall fronts the green as well). It's a tricky approach to a very shallow green.

The new holes are, in short, a terrific addition. I've always thought the Hyatt Hill Country to be the most underrated course in San Antonio. The locals aren't crazy about it because, to be blunt, it's not an easy course. It's one of the tighter, more challenging courses in San Antonio - yet it also contains about a half-dozen short, risk-reward par-4s that are a ton of fun. And also what is quite possibly the best par-5 in the Alamo City. If you are "long and wrong," you might not enjoy the Hyatt course. If you enjoy a challenge, this course is for you.

Either way, it costs around $135 to play (unless you are staying at the resort), which might also explain why it doesn't get as much local traffic!

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