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The fan-friendly home of the Shell Houston Open is the Golf Club of Houston Tournament Course. It was designed especially to host a PGA TOUR event by renowned architect Rees Jones and player consultant David Toms.
The 7,457-yard, par-72 layout was carved out of woodlands lush with oak, pine and cypress trees. It is an open-to-all, daily fee course, which gives every golf fan the opportunity to tee it up where the pros play.
Free of commercial or residential real estate development, the course has wetlands filled with native plants and flowers. The routing plan of the course gives fans easy access via fairway crosswalks to move from front nine to back nine in order to follow tournament action.
Jones, noted for his work on U.S. Open venues, has now designed three courses in Houston. The other courses include Shadow Hawk Golf Club and The Houstonian Golf and Country Club.
Construction on the Tournament Course began in November of 2003 and the grand opening took place in August of 2005. Another plus about the facility is its proximity to The First Tee of Greater Houston/Shindeldecker campus, operated by the Houston Golf Association. That facility, which includes a three-hole, par-3 course and a 6,720-square foot Learning Center named after the late Dick Harmon, is located adjacent to the HGA offices and Tournament Course.
Again, placement off the tee is important. The generous landing
zone of this slight dogleg right, narrows considerably between the
opposing fairway bunkers. Deep sand bunkers guard both sides of the
multi-level putting surface.
Daily hole location influences proper positioning of the tee
shot, in order to achieve the optimum approach angle into the
green. Water protects the front and left portions of this uniquely
sculpted putting surface. Accessing the rear and right pin
placements will be especially challenging.
This long par 4 requires a solid drive, followed by a long
and accurate approach shot. Missing the tee shot to the right
results in an extremely difficult recovery shot. The fairway bunker
is long and right, with plenty of landing area between it and the
lake guarding the left of the hole. The left and front-left
portions of the green are protected by sand. A tightly-mown
chipping hollow sits right of the green.
This intimidating tee shot must carry the wetland and avoid the
long "strip" bunker, adjacent to the left of the fairway. A well
struck tee shot, played with a slight draw, gains extra roll and
results in a shorter approach to a green protected by water along
its front and left.
The first par 3 of the round is also the shortest, but certainly
not to be taken lightly. Club selection is influenced by tee
location and wind. Water awaits any shot pulled slightly left of
the green. Depending on the hole location, saving par from the sand
on the right can also be quite challenging.
A definite birdie and potential eagle opportunity, as two
well-played shots will reach this deep and receptive par 5 green.
However, bogey is also a possibility, as the fairway approach
narrows considerablly into the green and is flanked by the lake on
the right and a cluster of deep sand bunkers on the left.
This longer par 3 features a wide aporoach ramp and subtle green
contours. Short-siding a left-side pin, in the adjacent sand
bunker, presents a difficult up-and-down to save par.
Regardless of the tee angle selected for play, accuracy off the
tee is paramount to set up the desired approach shot into the
elevated and multi-tiered green. Any approach shots short or right
of the green, will roll to the base of the slope, setting up a
challenging chip shot.
Perhaps the most demanding driving hole on the course. Water
guards the entire right side of the fairway landing area, while a
small sand bunker sits on the left, at the far end of the driving
zone. The large green is protected by water on the right and deep
sand bunkers on the left and rear.
This "risk/reward" hole provides the opportunity for an exciting
eagle or a frustrating bogey or worse. The fairway landing area and
apporach into the green are sized and shaped to encourage driving
the green. However, any attempt to do so that is pushed right, will
land in the lake. A safer play, to the left of the fairway, results
in a more difficult approach. Thr green is deep, receptive and
features a lower "trough" across the center, offsetting higher
plateaus in the front and rear.
Precise placement of each successive shot on this hole becomes
increasingly more critical, in order to secure a birdie. A series
of sand bunkers parallel the generous first landing area. Flirting
with the bunkers on the left of the second landing area, provides
the ideal angle to access the smallish, back-right position of the
The putting surface contours of this scenic par 3 create
distinct cupping areas and reward an accurate tee shot with an
excellent birdie opportunity. Deep sand bunkers flank both sides of
the green, creating a challenging recovery to an adjacent hole
The first landing area of the longest par 5 features a
right-to-left cross slope and narrows slightly opposite the left
fairway bunker. The second shot must favor the right side of the
fairway, close to the sculptured bunker, to obtain the ideal angle
into the diagonal green.
The angle of play and varying wind conditions will greatly
affect the difficulty of this hole. Regardless, the green is
receptive from either set of tees and contoured to reward accuracy
with a shorter and more level putt.
This challenging par 4 requires two well-struck shots to reach
the green. Carrying the left fairway bunker off the tee results in
added roll and a significantly shorter apporach shot into the
elevated green. However, a failed challenge to carry the steep face
of this bunker prevents any chance of reaching the green.
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