Courses We Love: Lighthouse Country Club
Lighthouse Country Club
Set amidst the rolling hills about an hour west of Austin, sits a hidden gem in the Texas Hill Country, Lighthouse CC. Originally established in 1968, but redesigned in 2006 by Jerry Slack and Leon Howard. Lighthouse was formerly named Packsaddle Golf Club until the name changed in the fall of 2011 when new owners Rick & Mercy Howe purchased the bankrupt property and revitalized the golf course. From the back tees, the course plays 6,558 yards and to a par of 71 with a bit of an unusual routing. The front nine is much longer with only one par 3 and one par 5 and winds through the wooded areas and exposed granite of the gently rolling property. The back nine is much more open with many holes bordered by native grasses and features two par 5s and three par 3s for a par of 35. What makes Lighthouse CC a hidden gem is its interesting architecture and most notably its greens. When we played, they were as good and fast as the greens we played at Spanish Oaks (top 10 course in Texas) the prior week. Add to that the easy walkability and sub $40 greens fees and you have yourself a great value near Austin.
The first hole at Lighthouse is a mid-length par 4 from an elevated tee and the first of five straight par 4s to open the front nine. There is a tree about 290 off the back tee on the left side that must be avoided, so a drive down the right side will leave a clear shot to a kidney shaped green with a lions mouth bunker in front. However, if the pin is on the left side of the green, a drive on the left to challenge the tree is needed.
The 2nd hole is short par 4, about 340 off the back tee, and a dogleg left. There are a lot of options off the tee. You can lay back with an iron and play right of a cluster of fairway bunkers or take 3 wood and try and fly the bunkers. Driver is even possible as the whole plays downwind and the fairways are really firm. However, there is a pond that wraps around the outside of the dogleg and cuts up just short and right of the green that must be avoided. The green itself slopes back-to-front and your approach needs to be below the hole or a three putt is possible.
The 6th hole is the first par 5 on the course and a really fun hole to play. The 537 yard hole doglegs slightly left and the drive is relatively wide open, so you can let it rip. Where the hole gets interesting is on the 2nd shot. There is a large oak tree at about 200 yards out that needs to be avoided if going for the green. However, what lies over the hill will really determine your strategy. There is a large granite outcropping starting from 100 yards short of the green on the right side and the left side is pinched by some small trees and long grass that must be avoided, so a layup needs to be well back of this leaving a good look downhill to the green. If you go for it, there's no real bail out area, so you better hit the green!
The 7th is the only par 3 on the front nine and plays to 130 yards downhill. The green is a bit of a throwback push up that falls off on all sides.
After two long par 4s to close out the front nine, the back nine opens with a cool risk/reward par 5. The tee shot has shades of #9 at TPC Sawgrass with water running all the way down the right side and across the fairway at about 325 out. The green is one of the cooler ones on the course, well situated into the hillside. It slopes back to front with the slope with steep drop-offs short and right.
The next few holes play over gently rolling terrain before coming to the last par 5 on the course, the 17th. The longest hole on the course, this is a true three shot hole, generally playing back into the wind. The drive must avoid some native grasses on the right and a few trees on the left. A creek runs across the fairway at 100 yards out, so laying up short of that is a must. There's a bunker short and in the middle of the green, so laying up to the side of the flag is important to get a good angle to make birdie.
The final hole, like Pasatiempo and another favorite Brora, at Lighthouse ends with a par 3. A par on the final hole is a great way to finish this hidden gem. Have you played Lighthouse? What do you think?