My Town: Where I play golf when I'm at home in Houston

By Travel ArticlesMay 4, 2012, 4:00 am

HOUSTON -- Maybe I'm a little biased, since I've lived here for much of the past 25 years, but I think public golf in Houston is underrated.

While there aren't any truly great public layouts in the Houston area, there are probably more quality courses than any other large metropolitan area in the country. And the best part is that most of it's really affordable.

And while Houston often gets a bad rap for being flat -- ala Florida -- it's actually pretty diverse. Most of the courses on the north side, for example, are cut out of dense forests, meaning the Texas wind you always hear about really isn't much of a factor unless it's blowing off a lake. Woodforest Golf Club at Fish Creek in Magnolia, Cypresswood in Spring and Augusta Pines Golf Club in Spring all have tree-lined fairways and target golf. There is plenty of water and challenge. All three are in great shape, and all of them are current or former sites of significant tournaments.

And if you're looking for some bargains on the north side, check out Texas National in Willis as well as Wedgewood and the Links at Westfork in Conroe.

Conversely, the courses south sit on the coastal bend portion, fewer trees and a lot more wind since they are much closer to the coast. That means you have to be able to flight your ball on courses like Wildcat Golf Club, Moody Gardens Golf Course in Galveston and Clear Creek Golf Club in League City or Country Place in Pearland. There's very little to block the wind, which can be particularly strong in the summertime from the south.

Perhaps my favorite golf course is in the middle of the city and the one where I have the hardest time getting a tee time. Memorial Park, which underwent a renovation in 1996, has been ranked among the top munis in the country by several national publications. Site of the annual city championship, this 1936 John Bredemus design is more than 7,000 yards long and is still a bargain with green fees less than $50. It uses a lottery system on the weekends for tee times.

It's also a treat to play the Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club, site of the Shell Houston Open. From late fall to spring, you get tour conditions as they prepare it for the PGA Tour event with heavy overseeding. And since it's played right before the Masters, it's prepped like Augusta National, so the conditions are flawless. It's also just minutes from George Bush Intercontinental Airport, so it's the perfect arrival or getaway course. Redstone, however, is more expensive than other public play in town -- around $175 and morning guests have to take a forecaddie (included in the green fee, but doesn't include gratuity). Still it's a great deal compared to the premium course in other markets, and the practice facilities are among the best in the country.

Also close to the airport on the northeast side is Tour 18. The original copycat course has been around for 20 years, but I never grow tired of negotiating Amen Corner, figuring out the par-5 sixth from Bay Hill or challenging the 18th from the Blue Monster of Doral.

Really, I could go on and on. The 36 holes of Black Horse, on the northwest side, is a terrific Hardy-Jacobsen design. Eagle Pointe in Mont Belviue, east of Houston, is worth the drive. The Falls, west of Houston in New Ulm, is where architect Jay Riviere wasn't just the architect; he lived there. In Katy, west of Houston, the Club at Cinco Ranch and Meadowbrook Farms are real quality plays, and a little farther west, in Brookshire, the 27 holes of River Ridge is another worthy road trip.

In all there are close to 100 courses open to the public, but if you're really lucky, try to get on some of the city's private courses. I love River Oaks, the only Donald Ross design in the area; Champions, a former Ryder Cup site and host of the PGA Tour Championship, and Braeburn C.C. are among my favorites. Then there's the Clubs at Kingwood, a ClubCorp property that offers 90 holes of championship golf, and the 36 holes at Carlton Woods, which has impeccable conditioning and great layouts by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio. Like the public golf scene, the private club collection in Houston is under-appreciated as well.

Where to find grub

There's no zoning in Houston, so you'll never have trouble finding a gas station, convenience store or restaurant. As far as I can tell, it's the fast food capital of the world, but there are lots of good quality sit-down restaurants here as well.

My budget generally doesn't allow Papa's Steakhouse, one of the best of its kind in the United States, but if you've got the funds, you won't be disappointed.

I have found the Galleria area to be particularly rich when it comes to eateries, wine bars and clubs. If you like Japanese, there's a great little sushi place on Richmond Avenue called Oishii. The prices are reasonable and the quality terrific. It's small and assuming, so there's often a wait, but well worth it.

I also like Papa's and Goode's barbecue joints, which you find all over the city. And although I don't think Houston is great for Tex-Mex, Ninfa's and Lupe Tortillas are pretty good choices.

My favorite Houston eatery, however, is Beck's Prime. I challenged a well traveled friend of mine once that he would have the best hamburger of his life there. He had his doubts, but after eating at The Woodlands location, he agreed. Luckily, there's also a location at Memorial Park Golf Course, combining one of my favorite courses with my favorite grub.

Things to do in Houston

I'm a sports nut who loves the local teams, but I'm particularly fond of going to Major League Baseball games at Minute Maid Park downtown. The park ranks as one of the best in baseball, and when the roof is open, the views are terrific.

The city also has great theater and museums, plenty of venues for live music like the Toyota Center and The Woodlands Pavilion, and lots of parks and greens spaces. And did I mention the winters are very mild, akin to what you might get in central or northern Florida?

Some other fun destinations include Space Center Houston in Clear Lake, the Kemah Boardwalk and the Strand and Moody Gardens in Galveston.

No, we're not exactly a tourist destination, but there's no shortage of fun stuff to do here. Really, Houston, I don't have a problem living here.

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.