The Summit Rock layout at the Horseshoe Bay Resort is the only private layout at an impressive 72-hole facility. It’s a Jack Nicklaus Signature course which was opened by the Golden Bear in 2012. The other three courses at the resort – Apple Rock, Ram Rock and Slick Rock – are all Tom Fazio tracks that appeared over a fifteen year period between 1971 and 1986.
Occupying a 200-acre property, the Summit Rock course is laid out in two distinct compartments; a lower, flat playing area (containing holes 1, 2 and 13 to 18) and an upper, more rugged section (with holes 3 to 12) which offers impressive views of nearby Lake Lyndon B. Johnson and the Hill Country.
Feature holes include short par fours at 4th and 13th, and tough par fives at the 5th and 18th. All four par threes can stake a claim as “signature hole” on the scorecard but perhaps the best of these holes is also the longest, the 230-yard 12th.
Just over seven years old -- Summit Rock is the private club associated with the Horseshoe Bay facility. The course is segregated from the rest of the property and the isolation serves the playing of the game quite well.
The opening two holes belie what the golfer will soon experience They are fairly flat and simply provide a way to stretch the muscles for the challenge that follows.
Following the par-5 2nd -- you climb uphill to terrain that will ultimately provide the true "summit" experience. The par-3 3rd lists at 175 yards but the carry to the elevated target makes the hole play a bit longer.
Holes 4 and 5 are good but when you arrive at the mega-demanding par-3 6th you face a clear execution requirement. The hole plays substantially uphill and the green wraps itself around a very deep frontal bunker. The green also features a spine that splits one side of the green from the other. The key is taking sufficient club to make the carry required.
The short par-4 7th is a risk/reward driveable par-4 and it's done well. Early on in Jack's design career the involvement of short par-4's was not exactly done well. The 7th plays 323 yards but there's plenty to decide upon when at the tee. A series of trees near the green mandate awareness in determining how bold or cautious one plays from the tee.
The inward side closes out with two solid par-4's.
When you reach the 10th tee you are now taking on the strength of the course. This superlative hole slides slightly downhill before rising. The hole does move to the right and for those daring enough to take on the major challenge it is possible to attempt to cut the corner. The shot needed will need to marry a prodigious stroke with uncanny accuracy. The green compliment the hole in a big time way. Placed on an angle from the fairway the green is well-protected by a frontal bunker on the right side. When the pin is cut deep into the green and near the right side it takes nothing less than a jewelers touch to flight one's approach near to the target. The consequences for failure are swift and certain doom.
The 11th is another long par-4 but plays considerably downhill -- again to a green angled and protected by a solitary bunker on the right side. The main drawback with holes 8 thru 11 is that each moves on a left-to-right manner. A bit of variety would have been a real plus.
The downhill par-3 12th is a superb hole. Nicklaus allows for the weaker player to use the ground in front of the green to bounce the ball into the target. Two bunkers protect the left side and the green is aided by a rib separation between the front and rear sections.
The short par-4 13th is even better than the 7th. You commence from an elevated tee and the hole plunges downhill for its 347 yards. The fairway beautifully pinches in at the 280-290 yard area. Players have to decide how aggressive or conservative they wish to be. The green is also kidney-shaped with a frontal bunker. Just a soli change of pace hole.
The final five holes return to flatter topography and holes such as the par-5 14th and par-3 15th are good but hardly compelling on the design side.
The long par-4 16th at 478 allows for the big tee shot. The key is avoiding a pesky water hazard just to the left of the green. The par-4 17th, one of the few holes at Summit Rock, turns left in the drive zone. The bunker placement and green design are nicely done.
The closing hole at Summit is one of the best par-5 holes I have played from the handiwork of Nicklaus. The hole can play into the prevailing wind and at 582 yards the hole also plays slightly uphill. The key rests on the tee shot because without a properly played shot the player will be on the defensive for the remainder of the hole.
There is a barranca which cuts across the fairway -- for those who find rough the wherewithal to carry that area can be daunting. The green is sloped from back to front and protected by a bunker on the right side with located in the far left corner.
The Summit clearly has a number of fine moments to relish. The routing is an interesting one as the round starts and finish on the flatter land near to the clubhouse. For those fortunate to come to Horseshoe Bay it's imperative that a round on the Nicklaus layout be high on the agenda. The other courses at Horseshoe Bay provide varying level of quality -- the Summit stands comfortably apart and clearly above all of them and provides a rush of one's pulse as you enjoy the rugged natural beauty of The Hill Country.
M. James Ward