Rees Jones-designed course is an oversized Texas masterpiece
HUMBLE, Texas – From the tee shot on the 395-yard first hole to the final putt on the immense green at the 487-yard 18th, the Tournament course at the Golf Course of Houston in Humble is all about space and how you make the most of it.
The par 72, 7,425-yard layout designed by Rees Jones is an oversized Texas masterpiece, just the kind of track you’d expect to see host a PGA Tour event – and it did for 14 consecutive years ending in 2019.
Located 16 miles from downtown and five miles from George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the Golf Club of Houston occupies more than 376 acres of wooded terrain surrounded by wetlands, lakes and native wildlife. The Tournament course – the younger brother of the adjacent Member course – has been open since 2005.
Jones believes the daily-fee Tournament course’s natural space is what most overwhelms players, from those on Tour to everyday golfers.
“The course has a wonderful flow to it,” he said. “It has beautiful, old-fashioned bunkers, carved like those on courses built in the Depression Era. But the Tournament course was built for today’s golfers, giving players chances to make birdies on several holes and forcing them to work to make pars on others.”
Jones brought in former PGA Tour player David Toms to consult on the design, and the Louisianan provided a lot of access and input. “I think the course is challenging, but fair,” Toms said. “There is a good variety of par-4s, par-5s and, particularly, par-3s, so that not one type of player has an advantage.”
The feeling of isolation is wonderful as its fairways and sight-corridors are free from any housing, leaving players with a feeling of being away from the loud city life that is actually just around the bend.
Greens Bayou winds through the routing to serve as a water hazard; nine holes involve water that encroaches close to putting surfaces. Because of low-mown green surrounds, balls can roll off the greens and end up wet.
With five par-4s stretching 440 yards or more, it would be easy to say the course favors big hitters. Not quite, as the track challenges all elements of the game thanks to a pleasing mix of short holes, dramatic par-3s and a sense of fairness throughout.
One of the more interesting holes on the Tournament course is its shortest par-4, the 335-yard 12th. With water down the entire right side, longer hitters may be tempted to take a shot at the green; shorter hitters also have a chance as one of the tees is only 238 yards.
The last four holes are a gauntlet. The 609-yard par-5 15th has wetlands right and a creek that crosses the fairway in the landing area and is anything but a routine three-shotter. The 16th is a 200-yard par 3 with splendid bunkering and a green at a diagonal, with the back-right pin placement particularly demanding.
It’s time to bring out the big stick for the two final holes. The 487-yard par-4 17th has a creek about 300 yards off the tee and fairway bunkers along the right. Adding to the task is that this hole usually plays into the wind.
The par-4, 484-yard finisher is a real knee-knocker, even for touring pros. A lake runs along the entire left side and the approach leaves little margin for error, with water left and a huge bunker right. If you ever watched the Houston Open when it was played here, you know how tough that hole was for the best golfers in the world.
There is little doubt that some of the holes on the Tournament course play long, but expect to pick up some yardage if you can find the speed slots in fairways to get more run.
The Golf Club of Houston has a state-of-the-art practice range with a 100,000-square-foot double-ended teeing area, seven target-greens ranging from 100-300 yards, and an extensive short game practice area. A 33,000-square-foot clubhouse features two pro shops (one members-only), dining areas and a bar, spacious locker rooms, and an outdoor terrace with views of the course.
When I go to Houston, the Golf Club of Houston’s Tournament course is always on my must-play list and it should be on yours’ too.