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Hyatt Lost Pines Resort's Wolfdancer Demands Attention
A trip to the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort just east of the Texas capital city of Austin lulls you into a splendid bliss, thanks to its call for serenity and relaxation and a feeling you're far off the beaten path.
Hyatt Lost Pines Resort
A combination of the resort's Texas-themed hotel, its lavish spa, an unmatched lazy-river pool and environs create a world of things that recharge one's battery. For golfers, there's also plenty that commands and demands attention.
Here in the rolling hills along the banks of the Colorado River and among stands of tall "lost" pines is Wolfdancer Golf Club, a 7,205-yard, par-72 course designed by Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates. The track, which opened in June 2006, makes the most of the region's terrain and natural beauty and occupies about 150 acres of the 405-acre Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort, located about halfway between the Austin airport and the town of Bastrop.
The Hyatt Lost Pines Resort is two miles off the main road, and it feels secluded, thanks to it being surrounded by sleepy farms and the 1,100-acre McKinney Roughs nature preserve, and set just across the Colorado River.
Native American legend says that wandering tribes planted the Loblolly seedlings here to remind them of the magnificent trees to the east, but it's generally believed the "lost pines" are hardy survivors from the last Ice Age. The Wolfdancer name pays tribute to the local Tonkawa heritage of Central Texas.
The Lost Pines region in Bastrop is separated from the better-known East Texas Piney Woods by some 80 miles. While nearly all of the "lost pines" grow in a narrow, 13-mile strip on either side of the Colorado, a stand of 38 acres in McKinney Roughs sits 10 miles further west of the main forest. These woods are the westernmost tract of the country's great Southern Pine belt.
At Wolfdancer there are plenty of pines but even more ancient oaks, cedar elms and pecans. The trees affect play, but not so much as you feel you'll need an axe for your 14th club, as the sparse groupings - some of it naturally occurring, some the result of skilled selective-clearing - act to keep you out of trouble instead of being punitive.
On many golf courses, an architect is lucky to have two desirable golf environments in which to create distinct golf holes. At Wolfdancer, Hills and Forrest had three: high prairie, forested ridgeline and a sparsely wooded floodplain along the river bank.
Wolfdancer No. 3
Most of the fairways at Wolfdancer are fairly wide, while much of the challenge comes in the approach shots. There are lots of randomly scattered steep-faced bunkers just waiting for your ball, and No. 8 sports the 15-foot-deep "Big Mouth" that guards the fairway. The greens are large and undulating and kept quick but fair.
The fairway at the 603-yard par-5 third seems nearly as wide as it is long, with the view from the tee creating a dilemma. Fifteen randomly scattered fairway bunkers accentuate the heathland quality on this ridge-top hole while also creating a dozen different lines of play. Perched at the terminus of this broad ridge on the property's highest point and surrounded by long strips of deep, flat-bottomed, grass-faced bunkering, the scythe-shaped, elevated third green offers a 360-degree view of the course and surrounding countryside.
Wolfdancer No. 6
A leaning oak overhangs the front-right corner of a comma-shaped green on the tough, 594-yard par-5 fifth, and No. 6 (a 166-yard par-3) brings you firmly back to Earth, thanks to its smallish green framed by bunkers on the right and a cascading waterfall on the left.
Wolfdancer No. 12
No. 12 at Wolfdancer is one of the prettiest and most challenging holes in Lone Star State. The 155-yard, drop-shot par-3 features a green that seems to cling to the side of a mountain and looks like a tabletop from the tee, which sits atop a ridge with a 180-degree view looking down on the remainder of the course, the Colorado River, the entire resort and far into the distant horizon. Be sure to have camera with you on this tee.
Then things change - and get a lot harder - when you leave the 12th green and descend to the river valley below. The final six holes run back and forth in the flatlands along the Colorado and cut through the old, broad-canopied oak, cedar and pecan trees.
First up is the long (470-yard) dogleg-right 13th, which takes two great shots to reach in regulation and an even better performance on its elevated green to make par. Mirroring the 13th in length and difficulty is the 478-yard par-4 16th, which also turns left to right and plays maybe two clubs longer if the hole is placed behind the ridge that splits the green in two.
Playing at 207 yards and with the Colorado River just to the right of its perched putting surface, No. 17 is, by far, the toughest one-shotter on the back nine at Wolfdancer. But with a little daring you might get a shot back at the closer, a par-5 which - at just 526 yards - is reachable in two.
Again, No. 18's tiny, plateaued green sits hard by a bank (it's a cliff really) that falls off steeply into the waiting river. Unlike many short par-5s, the risk-reward scenarios here aren't reserved for big hitters only. The second landing area on 18 is divided, somewhat diagonally, by a man-made crossing hazard 10 feet high and speckled with pot bunkers and native grasses. Lay-up safely left of this one-of-a-kind landform and your short pitch to the green is essentially blind. Flirt with the right side and the river and you're rewarded with a much easier approach.
Wolfdancer offers five sets of tees and from the tips is rated at 76.1 and sloped at 137. The track has been lauded as the No. 6 on the Best Courses You Can Play" in Texas and No. 56 "Top 100 Resort Golf Courses for 2009," both by Golfweek magazine.
Lost Pines Satisfies off the Course as Well
Away from Wolfdancer, relaxation is the M.O. at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort. The experience is highlighted by Spa D'jango, the resort's full-service 20,000-square-foot spa and eight separate dining options.
Recreational amenities include a water park with multiple pools, including a 1,100-foot flowing river pool and water slide; Camp Hyatt children's program; as well as bike riding, an equestrian program, kayaking, rafting and fly-fishing on the Colorado River, and more than 16 miles of hiking trails. The resort also offers more than 60,000 square feet of indoor function space and 230,000 square feet of outdoor function venues.
For additional details or a tee time, visit www.lostpines.hyatt.com.
Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Business District magazine in Austin and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com), which features news on golf and the Longhorns.
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