Best of Public 2014 – Houston

Best of Public 2014 – Houston

 

 

Best Overall – BlackHorse Golf Club, South Course

It is a difficult task, earning the spot as the Best Overall Public Golf Club in the Houston area. Even more difficult, however, is the task of keeping it.

In 2013, it was a tight race for the top spot on our list, with the South Course at BlackHorse Golf Club narrowly edging out a handful of suitors, most notably it’s sister course, the North Course.

Again in 2014, the race was as tight as it could be, with multiple facilities presenting a compelling case for the top spot. When the dust cleared, however, the reigning champ proved strong enough to retain it’s crown as the best in Houston. The South Course at BlackHorse Golf Club is your Best Overall Public Golf Course for 2014.

The BlackHorse club as a whole sets itself apart from the rest of the city with the impressive practice facility and teaching center, the stately clubhouse and Jake’s Grill, the beautiful surrounding area and terrain that frame both courses perfectly, and the service of the staff.

So, we end up in the same position as we were a year before – pitting the two courses against each other for the top spot. The North and South courses are excellent tracks, and playing either one is a great experience; in the end, however, the ascetics and challenges of the South Course’s finishing holes pushed it to the top.

Designed by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy, the South Course tips out at almost 7,200 yards, but it’s not the distance that gives the course its teeth. Rather, it’s the wonderfully placed hazards and the way Jacobsen/Hardy force golfers to strategize on every hole. The course plays through a slew of trees such as elm, oak and ash, with a water hazard on all but three holes.

While it is true that there are those that prefer the layout of the North Course, we believe the final six holes on the South side make it a truly special golf course to play. Winding through a vast sand quarry filled with various flora and fauna, hole Nos. 13-18 on the South Course rival any stretch in the state.

At $109 on a Saturday morning, it may be hard to imagine ponying up that type of cash to play golf. We highly recommend it, and are convinced that once you get on the course, you’ll feel like you got a hell of a deal. We promise you’ll enjoy your round and clearly see why the South Course is our Best Overall Golf Club in the Houston area for 2014.

 

 

 

Top Luxury ($75 and Above)

  1. BlackHorse Golf Club, North Course
  2. Golf Club of Houston, Tournament Course
  3. Woodforest Golf Club
  4. Meadowbrook Farms Golf Club
  5. Augusta Pines Golf Club
  6. High Meadow Ranch Golf Club
  7. Tour 18 Houston
  8. River Ridge Golf Club
  9. Wildcat Golf Club, Highlands Course
  10. Wildcat Golf Club, Lakes Course

Continuing on as the leader in this category, the North Course at BlackHorse Golf Club in Cypress is one of the gems of the Houston golf scene. It may get overshadowed by its sister course, but this Peter Jacobsen design is just as strong, and more challenging. The North Course twists and turns through lakes, wetlands and a roving creek, and each hole should challenge the best players.

It is hard to beat the overall experience of the Golf Club of Houston’s Tournament Course. Conditions, service and amenities are top notch on the Tournament Course, and the fact that it hosts the Shell Houston Open* gives it some extra flair. The Rees Jones layout and challenging and fun, and can play quite difficult. Now that the course’s new manager, Escalante Golf, have a year under its belt, we expect the Tournament Course to again challenge for the Best in Houston title next year.

Making its presence known for the second year in a row in the Luxury category is the Steve Elkington-designed Woodforest Golf Club. Located in Montgomery, Woodforest has 27 superb holes that are in top-notch condition 365 days a year. The holes wind through a grove of pine and oaks trees, adding to the aesthetic value of the course.

Located out in Katy, Meadowbrook Farms Golf Club continues to shine as one of the most enjoyable tracks in the area. This Greg Norman design is kinder to players than most of his courses, and the varying terrains and settings, from trees to creeks to native prairie areas, make each round unique.

Located in Spring and designed by Tour 18, Inc., Augusta Pines Golf Club may be one of the most beautiful courses in the city. We love the back-to-back island green finishing holes, including the par-5 18th, and the practice facility is a great place to hone your game. Plus, if your daughter or girlfriend is looking for a wedding venue, check out the stately Augusta Pines clubhouse.

The unique, six-hole loop concept at High Meadow Ranch Golf Club is one of the coolest design features in Houston. The Tim Nugent/David Ogrin track has a Hill Country feel away from the suburbs, and we love the fact that you can play a quick six holes after work if you live in the area.

Looking for a golf fantasy wonderland? Look no further than Tour 18 Houston in Humble. This layout honors the top golf holes in the United States, and includes such gems as “Amen Corner” at Augusta National, the “Blue Monster” at Doral, the island green at TPC Sawgrass and other famous holes. No surprise, the layout makes Tour 18 Houston a top tournament venue.

While it is a trek for almost the entire area, River Ridge Golf Club way out west in Sealy is deserving of any golfer’s attention. The Jay Riviere design features three distinct nines, each cutting through a thick grove of pecan trees. The all three nines are situated along the Brazos River, and annually has some of the best conditions in the entire state.

Wildcat Golf Club on the south side of town has both its courses in the Top 10: the Highlands and Lakes. Roy Case designed both of these beauties. The Highlands Course gives the player a links-style experience with the elevation changes of a course in the Hill Country; the Lakes Course features dramatic elevation changes and a plethora of water hazards.

 

*Note: In the print edition, it was mistakenly stated that the Tournament Course “used to” host the Shell Houston Open. That is incorrect, as the course will again host the tournament in March 2015.

 

 

Top Mid-Priced ($51-$74)

  1. Cypresswood Golf Club, Tradition Course
  2. Eagle Pointe Golf Club
  3. The Wilderness Golf Club
  4. Gleannloch Pines Golf Club
  5. Moody Gardens Golf Course
  6. Timber Creek Golf Club
  7. Texas A&M University Golf Course
  8. Cypresswood Golf Club, Cypress Course
  9. The Golf Club at Cinco Ranch

For the sixth year in a row, the Tradition Course at Cypresswood Golf Club takes the title in this price range. Located in Spring, the Tradition Course is a spectacular Keith Foster layout that has hosted numerous Souther Texas PGA events and has shown up on national lists of the best public courses in the country. It is a fair, challenging track with hazards scattered throughout the course.

Out east in Mont Belvieu sits Eagle Pointe Golf Club. Due to its location, Eagle Pointe may still be a bit unknown to some, but it is an exceptional course that features striking elevation changes, tight fairways and a slew of uniquely challenging and exciting golf holes.

Another great track that’s a little out of the way is The Wilderness Golf Club in Lake Jackson. This stellar Jeff Brauer design is one helluva challenge, and a scenic one, as it boasts a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary designation.

A course that made a nice jump last year and continues to impress is the Jay Riviere-designed Gleannloch Pines Golf Club. Gleannloch Pines is a 27-hole facility that features wide landing spots, subtle breaking greens and various design features around the putting surfaces.

Moody Gardens Golf Course is still reaping the benefits of the major upgrade it received a few years ago (when it was formally named Galveston Municipal). It is a great place to play golf along the Texas Coast (located on Galveston Island), and some of the course overlooks the water. We also like the 500 palm trees that populate the holes, which give it a tropical feel.

Also on the south side of the Houston golf scene is Timber Creek Golf Club. Besides having three delightful nine-hole courses, Timber Creek has a most-worthy clubhouse and practice facilities.

Claiming a spot in the rankings for the second year in a row is the newly redesigned Texas A&M University Golf Course. Local course architect and A&M graduate Jeff Blume redesigned the course a few years ago, rerouting some of the holes and changing the layout in multiple locations. What once was a tired, beaten down track is now a flashy, well-designed course that is a great bargain.

While the Tradition Course at Cypresswood gets all the credit, it’s sister course, the Cypress Course, is a worthy track at a great value. While it gets a lot of spillover play when the Tradition tee sheet is full, we recommend checking it out on its own merits. We are sure you will find it worthy.

Tucked inside a sprawling suburban neighborhood in Katy is The Golf Club at Cinco Ranch. Designed by Carlton Gipson, Cinco Ranch does a nice job of making you feel like you aren’t in the middle of a neighborhood, despite some of the residential homes coming into play on some of the holes.

 

 

 

Top Intermediate-Priced ($40-$50)

  1. Memorial Park Golf Course
  2. Quail Valley Golf Club, El Dorado Course
  3. Battleground at Deer Park Golf Club
  4. Oakhurst Golf Club
  5. Texas National Golf Club
  6. Evergreen Point Golf Club

The no-brainer for the top of this category is Memorial Park Golf Course. A main stay in the Houston golf scene for decades, Memorial Park may be the most popular track in town (even weekday tee times are hard to come by). The Beck’s Prime built into the clubhouse is a great place to eat, and the jogging trail that surrounds the park is always crowded.

The El Dorado Course at Quail Valley Golf Club was left for dead until actions were taken and Jeff Blume renovated the golf course. It also helped transform the Quail Valley community back into a residential hotspot.

Located in southeast Houston just outside the Beltway, the Battleground at Deer Park is a unique track in that each hole is named after a certain aspect of the Battle of San Jacinto, which took place nearby. Outside of its military homage, Battleground is a fun course that is always in solid condition.

Just off Interstate 69 (formerly I59) in Porter is Oakhurst Golf Club. The Dave Marr and Jay Riviere design is know for its towering pine trees that frame the fairways, and also for having some of the friendliest cart girls and clubhouse employees in Houston.

A true gem in the northern part of town is Willis’ Texas National Golf Club. The course is the quintessential east Texas track: elevation changes, giant trees lining the fairways, serene water features and an abundance of pine needles. This is a course that players of all skill level will love.

Located in Baytown, Evergreen Point Golf Club is a course that is known as much for its quality service and homey feel as it is for its exceptional golf course. Plus, the location is away from the crowded Ship Channel, giving you a nice, quiet experience.

 

 

 

Top Value-Priced (Under $40)

  1. Kingwood Cove Golf Club
  2. Raven Nest Golf Club
  3. Quail Valley Golf Club, La Quinta Course
  4. Columbia Lakes Resort and Conference Center
  5. Brock Park Golf Course

For the fourth year in a row, Kingwood Cove Golf Club tops our list as the best course in the Value-Priced category. In the last five years, the course has improved by leaps and bounds, and 2014 was no different. The staff at Kingwood Cove works hard to create a great experience for players, and that hard work is really paying off.

Located in Huntsville, Raven Nest Golf Club has a rare attribute: students in the Sam Houston State PGM program learn the ways of the golf course management business – both operations and agronomy – at the course. The course was designed by Tripp Davis, and with the constant attention it gets from the students, it is always in good condition.

The El Dorado Course might get all the love at Quail Valley, but the La Quinta Course at Quail Valley Golf Club is also a worthy golf option. It is actually the preferred of the two by many of the regulars, because it gets a lot less play and is less congested.

Located about an hour south of downtown, Columbia Lakes Resort and Conference Center gives players the chance to play a Tim Fazio golf course without having to stress their wallets. The facility is also a great place for meetings, large weddings and retreats.

One City of Houston track that doesn’t get the fanfare it deserves (until now) is Brock Park Golf Course. It’s a decent layout and one of the few public golf options on the northeast side of town. Both of those qualities make it a popular attraction.

 

 

 

Top Outlying Courses

  1. River Ridge Golf Club
  2. The Wilderness Golf Course
  3. Moody Gardens Golf Course
  4. Texas A&M University Golf Course
  5. The Falls Golf and Country Club
  6. Raven Nest Golf Club
  7. Texas National Golf Club
  8. Columbia Lakes Resort and Conference Center
  9. Stephen F. Austin Golf Course
  10. Faith Bridge Ranch Golf Club

These days, what is considered the boundary of the “Greater Houston Area” is very tough to define. The city and surrounding suburbs are spreading like wildfire, and what were empty lands and sleepy towns just a decade ago are now part of the metropolitan area. While the courses in this category should be “outlying,” don’t let that discourage you from making the trip to play these great tracks.

River Ridge Golf Club takes the top spot in the outlying category. It is about 45 miles west on Interstate 10 from downtown, but the Jay Riviere design is worth the drive. All 27 holes wind through a grove of pecan trees, and the Brazos River comes into play on many of them.

The Wilderness Golf Course in Lake Jackson is another worthy course outside the Houston area, as it features a spectacular Jeff Brauer design that cuts through the native wetlands and lush forests. Plus, if you get hot during your round, its just a quick trip south to the beach.

Moody Gardens Golf Course in Galveston underwent a $16 million renovation five years ago, and now the Jim Hardy/Peter Jacobsen design has really come into its own. While there are no holes on the Gulf of Mexico, there are several that play alongside Sydnor Bayou.

After its much-needed renovation, the Texas A&M University Golf Course is once again a course worthy of playing. All of the beat-down flaws of the former layout have been addressed, but you still get the great views of Kyle Field.

Located west of Houston near Columbus, The Falls Golf and Country Club is a great place to take a daytrip. There are many country comforts to enjoy in the area, and the golf course isn’t too shabby as well.

The best-conditioned course on this list might be Raven Nest Golf Club, thanks to the students at Sam Houston State University. Plus, it is right off the highway, which makes getting in and out (and back home) very convenient.

In northeast Houston is Texas National Golf Club, a great place to get the East Texas golf experience without driving 3 hours. The course is a tranquil place, sloping and rolling through gigantic pine trees.

Columbia Lakes Resort and Conference Center significantly reduced their rates in 2013, thus making it even more enticing to play. The noted architect built the course when he was just getting started in the business, and revamped it in 1989.

Those looking for a challenging round in a picturesque setting can head to San Felipe and tackle Stephen F. Austin Golf Course. The layout sits in a pecan tree farm and is nestled by the Brazos River.

Located on FM 359 on your way to (or from) Hempstead, Faith Bridge Ranch Golf Club is a scenic little 18-hole track that is a fun and relaxing place to play. It isn’t a long golf course, but there are enough trees and water hazards to present problems if your shots veer too far off target.

 

 

 

Best Overall Value

  1. Memorial Park Golf Course
  2. Best Value Under $70: The Wilderness Golf Club
  3. Best Value Under $60: Oakhurst Golf Club
  4. Best Value Under $50: Quail Valley Golf Club, El Dorado
  5. Best Value Under $40: Kingwood Cove Golf Club

It’s just hard to beat Memorial Park Golf Course, which is why it often finds itself named the Best Overall Value. For one, Memorial Park is a solid, fun golf course to play, and it’s under $50. Secondly, Beck’s Prime is a great food spot; and lastly, it is in the city, making it easy to get to for many golfers.

At $65 on the weekend for a non-resident, The Wilderness Golf Club in Lake Jackson is a must-play, even though it is a bit of a hike.

It is no surprise to see Oakhurst Golf Club named the Best Value Under $60. The course offers everything you could want – a great track, friendly service and a well-run clubhouse.

Those with wine tastes and beer budgets should hit up two outstanding layouts – the El Dorado Course at Quail Valley Golf Club and Kingwood Cove Golf Club. Even though both of these courses raised their rates in 2013, it’s still amazing that these two charge less than $50 for a weekend morning round.

 

 

 

Tour 18 Houston

 

Best Place to Hold a Corporate Event

  1. BlackHorse Golf Club
  2. Tour 18 Houston
  3. Wildcat Golf Club
  4. Cypresswood Golf Club

Not only is Houston a golfer’s paradise, but many of the courses have great facilities for corporate events, gatherings, weddings or any other special occasion.

BlackHorse Golf Club earns the top spot in this category once again because it has the top two golf courses in town, a staff well versed in efficiently setting up events, and plenty of room for post-tournament festivities.

Tour 18 Houston is a popular place for business events and gathers because of its hardworking staff and unique layouts. If you are looking to hold a tournament here, Tour 18 can meet your every need.

Wildcat Golf Club is a great event option for those on the south side of town. Its 36-hole facility is great for golf tournaments, and the proximity to Houston Hobby airport makes it easy to get in and out of the city for out-of-towners.

Like Wildcat but on the north side of town, Cypresswood Golf Club is a top tournament venue and conveniently located near George Bush Intercontinental Airport. And with 36 holes, Cypresswood can accommodate almost any sized event.