THE WOODLANDS, Texas – The forecast this week for the Champions Tour's Administaff Small Business Classic is, well, pretty good. Highs in the 80s, lows in the 60s with only a slight chance of rain: that's pretty good around here. And for golf enthusiasts in the Houston area this week, there's no excuse not to go. Admission, for the second straight year, is free.
The event, which was won by John Cook last year, is being played at the Tournament Course at The Woodlands. Formerly known as the TPC at The Woodlands, this Robert von Hagge/Bruce Devlin design played host the Houston Open from 1985-2002, so much of the field has plenty of experience playing the course. In fact, several players in the Administaff field, such as Hal Sutton, Fulton Allem, Fred Funk and Jay Haas, won Houston Open titles on the former TPC course.
The difference is that the golf course is now private, so it's not accessible as it once was, but there are plenty of great daily fee options in the area.
Just down the road from the Tournament Course is The Woodlands Resort and Conference, which has been undergoing renovations and affords guests access to two golf courses – the Oaks Course and Panther Trails. The Oaks is closed to outside play from its members and resort guests, but Panther Trail, redesigned a few years ago by Roy Case has limited availability to daily fee play.
A little farther north in Magnolia is Woodforest Golf Club at Fish Creek, an excellent 27-hole daily fee facility designed by local PGA Tour pro Steve Elkington. The course has been consistently praised for its outstanding Tif-Eagle greens.
Another option is the former home of the Administaff Small Business Classic, Augusta Pines, which is just down the road from The Woodlands in Spring, Texas. Developed and designed by Tour 18 Inc., Augusta Pines is sort of a fusion of Augusta National and Pinehurst with a gargantuan white clubhouse.
Of course, you could also try the original Tour 18 Golf Club in Humble; the current home of the Shell Houston Open, the Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club, located near the big airport; or any one of scores of daily fee options in the area. In Houston, it doesn't get any better than fall golf.