LOST PINES, Texas -- Finding Lost Pines -- a 6,000-acre region of rolling land beside the Colorado River littered with loblolly pines between Bastrop and Austin -- isn't so hard these days.
Simply take the main road east from Austin, Highway 71, towards Austin-Bergstrom Airport and keep going 13 miles east until you see the entrance to the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines on the left.
This most unique region of the state has been well known by those in the "Texas Triangle" for years. And especially so since 2006, when the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines and Wolfdancer Golf Club debuted. Families and corporate groups have escaped their city lives for nature, far removed from city life and where the evening stars still shine bright.
While Lost Pines and Bastrop are especially popular spots regionally, this area was in national headlines last year for tragic reasons, as wildfires from the 2011 summer drought destroyed nearly 600 homes in Bastrop, as well as 96 percent of the treasured forest in Bastrop State Park. (Though the nine-hole golf course was miraculously spared.)
Luckily, the fires never spread to Lost Pines and Wolfdancer, several miles east of the fire's epicenter. These acres are still shady, littered with wildlife, wildflowers -- plus countless ways to enjoy it all.
While the Austin area's Barton Creek Resort and Horseshoe Bay boast four golf courses each, Hyatt Regency Lost Pines is home to just 18 holes at Wolfdancer Golf Club. (Wolfdancer also offers public tee times, while the other two only allow play from resort guests.)
It would certainly be easy to find enough land out here for another course or two, as the 405-acre resort is just part of an 1,100-acre nature preserve and science center, McKinney Roughs. But golf here is just one of many ways to take in the outdoors in this unique piece of Texas.
The resort hangs its 10-gallon hat on displaying the best of what makes the state unique, from numerous dining venues that celebrate Texas cuisine to offering outdoor fun of all sorts. Activities are especially family-friendly, with petting zoos, horseback riding and a large pool area and a water park large enough to accommodate 495 occupied guest rooms on a summer day. Organized day camps, rock climbing and even a kid's spa aim to keep kids off the couch and under the sun.
Adults, meanwhile, can find plenty of relaxation and dining sophistication, plus evening movies and shows under the stars. Or retreat to a quiet and secluded pool at Spa Django that overlooks the golf course before or after a massage or beauty treatment. Miles of trails can also be explored from the foot of the resort at the base of the Lower Colorado River. The river can also be explored with kayaking excursions, fishing and sunset floats.
Calling the acres at Lost Pines suitable for golf would be an understatement for Wolfdancer Golf Club, as part of the land beside the river was acquired from local golfing legend Marjorie "Tiny" Leach. Leach not only owned a western store in Austin but also won the State Amateur Women's title.
A yardage more than 7,200 yards to go along with a slope/rating of 76.1/137 means the course competes with the sternest of golf courses from Austin to Houston. But what should really strike the eye of golfers from any set of tees is Wolfdancer's various playing environments.
Several holes, such as the par-5 third hole, play on exposed high ground that make for the property's best views. Others play through rolling, forested land, such as the par-5 fifth, that substitutes long views for its own secluded, forested fairway corridor. After the elevated, short, par-3 12th hole, the remaining holes play on low ground beside the river.
While the course demands plenty of muscle, the routing presents lots of breathers. The back nine, for example, has two short par 4s, the 11th and 15th holes. And while two par 5s flirt with 600 yards in length, the course's finale is the shortest of the four at 535 yards; an easy green light to reach the green in two with a good drive and cooperating wind direction.
Before or after the round, the clubhouse is home to the restaurant Major Neighbor's, which serves up breakfast tacos, fried pickles and plenty else to go along with a most sensory Texas golf experience.
June 5, 2012