HOUSTON - Ever since the New England Patriots clinched atrip to their second Super Bowl in three years, it's impossible to surfthrough the television stations without seeing quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady was at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., as a guest of George W. Bushduring the State of the Union address. And ESPN's Outside the Lines featureda profile on "The Prince of Boston" for the first half of its nightlyhalf-hour show.
You know his story: While attending the University of Michigan, Brady was the back-up quarterback to Brian Griese. After one season as the starter and another sharingtime, the Patriots took a chance on him in the sixth round. The unknownbecame a superstar.
The same could be said for Houston, the site of Super Bowl XXXVIII, as agolf destination.
Here's what we know: Houston is the country's fourth largest city with arestaurant on every corner in the downtown section and a legendary nightlifescene - everything the NFL wants in its host city for the final game of theseason.
But most golfers aren't aware that Houston has more than 150 public golf courses, andthe rates go down in the winter, unlike Florida and Arizona. The averagetemperature in late January or early February is in the mid-60s, making fora comfortable setting.
So, in honor of this generation's Joe Montana - if Bill Walsh said it, it must be true - here's a Brady Bunch of golf courses that are solid plays duringyour Super Bowl trip. And who knows, maybe Houston earns consideration thenext time you want to flee the frigid protection of a wool cap for a10-gallon golf experience.
The best option is 18 miles north of downtown Houston in the sand flats anddense pine forest of Spring, Texas. Cypresswood Golf Club is a scenicand secluded 54-hole facility. The Tradition Course hosts Stage 2 of the PGAQualifying School. The Keith Foster design is a throwback to the StrategicSchool days of Alister McKenzie and Donald Ross. But for high handicappers,the Tradition Course might not be the best choice. Fairways are tight and aball in the trees might as well be dressed in Leavenworth prison fatigues.The good news is that there aren't any hidden obstacles.
This course will force golfers to use every club in their bag. Conditionsare superb and the locals consistently rank it the best in Houston. EvenGolf Digest got into the act, ranking it the fourth best public course inthe state of Texas, and 20th overall. The other two courses, Creek andCypress, were also honored by Golf Digest as "Best New Course" in the statein 1988 and 1989, respectively. Green fees through March start at $60.
In addition to traditional style course, the novel Tour 18 Golf Cluboffers a chance to play replicas of the best holes in America. Tour 18copies Augusta National's Amen Corner, TPC Sawgrass's famous island-greenpar-3 17th, and select holes from Pebble Beach, Merion, Oakmont, Colonialand Doral for $59 to $95. The holes will feel like the real thing to thosewho've never played the real courses before. After improvements to itsgreens and tee boxes, Tour 18 is a top-flight facility. It's the most talkedabout course in Houston and a must play for any visitor. Appropriately, Tour18 is located in a northeast suburb called, "Humble."
Bring your humble pie to the Woodlands Resort and Country Club for theTPC Woodlands, former home of the Shell Houston Open. The courseplays 7,118 yards from the back tees and 5,326 from the front withrespective ratings of 73.1/136 and 72.1/128. Local publications rate it atop 10 public course in the state because two tough finishing holes,fairways as good as Augusta National's and greens like the TPC Sawgrass.With the forced carries and island greens, this course is a tough test forhigher handicaps. This Robert Von Hagge and Bruce Devlin design is known forits par-5 13th hole, a forced carry off the tee and lay up short of watersurrounding an island green.
For those who struggle to break 90 on a regular basis, check out thenorthwest town of Cypress and play BlackHorse Golf Club. With sixtee boxes to choose from, it's playable for any handicap. However, golferswill still have to navigate around lakes, wetlands and native trees. Theclub offers two 18-hole golf courses, North and South. The wetlands are thecenterpiece of the North Course, while the South Course offers an authenticsand quarry to test your skills. Both courses will offer unique shotselections with the mounds, bunkers and elevated greens. Rounds range from$55 to $75 if you print the coupon off its Web site(blackhorsegolfclub.com).
If you like the sounds of BlackHorse, you'll love Redstone Golf Club;both courses were authored by Jim Hardy and Peter Jacobsen. It's the newhome of the Shell Houston Open, probably because it's more forgiving thanthe TPC Woodlands. Redstone only has a few forced carries and subtle greens.But price is where the two Hardy and Jacobsen courses part company. A roundat Redstone could cost between $145 and $160. And if you need anyjustification for the green fee, just realize the course was so well done,it lured famed instructor Dick Harmon to be its director of golf. Andanother big name, Rees Jones, is designing a second course at Redstone.
While we're dropping names, Greg Norman's Meadowbrook Farms in Katy,Texas was ranked among the "Best Golf Courses in Texas" by Golf Digest in2001. The gently rolling fairways are framed with native prairie grasses andwildflowers. With an aesthetic design and exceptional turf conditions, thiscourse is a must play. The layout meanders through creeks, lakes andwetlands. The club specializes in group outings, but it also accommodatesthe individual player with a high level of service. Rates range from $60 to$85 for individuals.
Let's tally it up: a killer throwback course, a TPC, a replica course of thegreatest holes in America, a couple of forgiving but challenging tracks anda phenomenal Norman design. That's a strong lineup, one worthy of a SuperBowl host city. In other words, if Tom Brady lives up to the hype and turnsout to be the next Joe Montana, you can say you were there ... and it wasthe second best part of your weekend.
January 21, 2004