Highland Lakes and Lago Vista: A one-two punch on the scenic shores of Lake Travis

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

LAGO VISTA, Texas -- There's nothing "muni" about the nature-filled setting at city-owned Lago Vista Golf Course and Highland Lakes Golf Course, playing through scenic rolling hills overlooking Lake Travis west of Austin.

Highland Lakes Golf Course - fawns
Deer are plentiful at Highland Lakes Golf Course.
Highland Lakes Golf Course - fawnsLago Vista Golf Course - hole 9Lago Vista Golf Course - hole 10
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Lago Vista Golf Course

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The Lago Vista Course is Lago Vista resort’s original track, designed by Leon Howard in the late 1960s and renovated by Dave Bennett in 1992. The golf course has four water holes, more than 40 bunkers, and dramatic elevation changes of up to 100 feet.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6579 yards | Book online | ... details »
 

Originally opened under private ownership in the 1980s, Lago Vista and Highland Lakes are now owned and operated by the City of Lago Vista. Each course, located a short drive from one another, plays to a similar yardage with five sets of tees ranging between 5,100 and 6,500 yards. The club has a steady membership that shares the course with weekend visitors to the lake, city residents and golfers from nearby Cedar Park, Round Rock and Austin.

You certainly don't get lake views like this near Cedar Park and Round Rock. High points on both Lago Vista and Highland Lakes afford views of the lake, while rock outcroppings and mature trees help to frame holes. Fans of wildlife will be particularly pleased with the small army of deer that calls Highland Lakes home. My round in the spring was filled with small white-dotted Bambi-looking fawns.

Lago Vista and Highland Lakes: The courses

A big appeal to Lake Travis is the striking hills surrounding the lake, and that's the backdrop at both courses. While few holes are flat, many feature elevated tees, lower fairways and elevated greens.

Perhaps the most eye-popping undulating hole is the par-5 15th at Lago Vista. It plays from an elevated tee to a fairway below and then trudges back uphill to a green, making the 535-yard hole play far longer. The ensuing hole may very well be the most scenic at the two courses, a short par 4 playing from an elevated tee high above Lake Travis before ducking back into the trees.

While the golf courses have yardages that were built in the 1980s, there's nothing easy for today's golfer about the par 3s here. Just about all of them are intimidating, perhaps none more than Highland Lakes' 196-yard seventh hole that plays over trouble to a very narrow elevated green. Lago Vista even finishes with a par 3, a 201-yard shot to a green between two large oaks.

The biggest difference between the two courses, and why Lago Vista currently sports a 4.1/5.0 rating over Highland Lakes' 3.5/5.0, are the conditions. Lago Vista's are superior thanks in large part to the fact it has an effluent water supply.

"It's in the best shape I've seen in the six years I've been here," said Eric Cupit, the general manager at both courses. "I've had members who have been here 20 years tell me it's in the best shape they've ever seen it."

Highland Lakes, on the other hand, gets its water from Lake Travis, which has been at alarmingly low levels in recent years. So while Highland Lakes is at the mercy of rainfall and drought conditions, Lago Vista's reliable source allows for wall-to-wall overseeding with rye grass in the winter months, a rarity in Texas Hill Country, particularly for a daily-fee course. Highland Lakes overseeds its greens and tees only.

Lago Vista and Highland Lakes: The verdict

Lago Vista and Highland Lakes present an affordable game of golf in the heart of boating country. While both courses are built among a residential community, the homes are offset far from playing corridors and usually tucked behind trees, which helps make every hole seem like its own little island.

Each layout has its selling points, but if you had to pick between the two courses, Lago Vista would win out thanks largely to its conditioning and facilities. At Highland Lakes, the city was unable to acquire the clubhouse when it purchased the course, so the building is sitting defunct and there is only a small walk-up window pro shop and snack bar. Lago Vista, on the other hand, has a beautiful clubhouse overlooking the lake with a pro shop, full restaurant, the American Girl Grill, plus tennis courts and a full driving range.

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.


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