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Window Shopping: Bargain golf in Houston

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The good news is that the site of the Shell Houston Open, the Redstone Tournament Course in Humble, Texas, is a public golf course anybody can play. 

Even better perhaps is the fact that it's by far the most expensive public golf course in the Houston area, which means public golf around the Bayou City is some of the most affordable in the country. The Rees Jones-designed Tournament Course will cost you around $175 to play, including a forecaddie. But hey, they've got this thing prepped like Augusta National, so it's really not a bad deal. After that, you're not likely to find a public course in Houston that even approaches triple digits, and most of them are $60 and below.

Couple that with the fact that the Houston area offers a large variety of good quality daily fees, and it's really not a bad place to plan a golf vacation, especially this time of year when the weather is ideal.

Any discussion of Houston golf has to start with Memorial Park, a 1936 John Bredemus design that was renovated in 1996. Located in the heart of the city, this parkland course hosts the Greater Houston City Amateur and was once home of the Houston Open. It's not always easy to get a tee time (there's a lottery system on the weekends) but the 7,000-yard championship test is well worth it at under $50 for a green fee.

Other premium daily fees include the 36 holes of BlackHorse Golf Club on the Northwest side (designed by Peter Jacobson and Jim Hardy), Wildcat Golf Club near Reliant Stadium (where the Astros and Texans play), the Greg Norman-designed Meadowbrook Farms in Katy on the west side, Cypresswood Golf Club in Spring and Tour 18 near Bush Intercontinental Airport in Humble.

But there are a whole lot more daily fee courses that can be dirt cheap to play, especially when booked online.

The Golf Club at Cinco Ranch, for example, in Katy, was just renovated last summer and is in spectacular shape. Designed by late Houston architect Carlton Gipson, this par 71 stretches to nearly 7,000 yards, with plenty of water, bunkers and sloping greens. I saw a number of afternoon tee times on GolfNow for $27, including cart.

Another cool play is The Falls Resort & Club out in New Ulm. It's about 60 miles west of Houston, but well worth the trip. The late Jay Riviere (also from Houston) designed the course and also lived there. Now managed by Troon Golf, you'll find some of the most interesting bunkering and greens complexes (not to mention wildlife) in Southeast Texas.

Some other courses worth checking out are Texas National in Willis just north of Houston, and Country Place Golf Club in Pearland, south of the city. Both are now run by Gantz Management Group, which has made great strides in the past couple of years bringing both courses into shape.

And if fast greens are what you're looking for, go to Cypress Lakes Golf Club on the northwest side of town or Woodforest at Fish Creek in Magnolia. Woodforest will host a Champions Tour qualifier this year as well as the state pub links championship and a U.S. Amateur qualifier. At $50 green fee during the week, it's actually one of the more expensive plays around town, and well worth it with its outstanding conditioning and design. 

But many of these other courses, which would also include Clear Creek Golf Course in League City and Wedgewood Golf Club in Conroe, can be had for next to nothing, sometimes well under $25.