There are SO many great public golf courses in Houston. Choosing which one to play is not an easy task! But help is at hand.
Houston is known as the ‘Energy Capital of the World’. This is in part due to so many of the world’s oil and gas companies having a base in the city. It is large, cosmopolitan and modern.
It is also a wonderful city to visit for a long weekend. And where there is a long weekend, there is surely time for a quick round of golf?! If so, have a look through the list below and hopefully one of these will inspire you!
See also: What are the best golf courses in Texas?
The best public golf courses in Houston
|1||Golf Club of Houston (Tournament Course)|
|2||Memorial Park Golf Course|
|3||Cypresswood Golf Club (Tradition Course)|
|4||BlackHorse Golf Club (South Course)|
|5||Tour 18 Houston|
|6||Wildcat Golf Club (Highlands Course)|
|7||Bay Forest Golf Club|
|8||Clear Creek Golf Club|
|9||Wildcat Golf Club (Lakes Course)|
|Value for money||Bay Forest Golf Club|
|Groups||BlackHorse Golf Club|
|Clubhouse||Golf Club of Houston|
|Views||Wildcat Golf Club|
1. Golf Club of Houston (Tournament Course)
We kick off our list of the best public golf courses in Houston with an absolute pearl of a club, Golf Club of Houston. It is located up in Humble, about a half hour’s drive north of the city.
This great club has been around since the 1960s when the first fairways were carved through the untouched bayouland and wetlands by the great George Fazio. Over time the club has continued to grow in stature with today being recognised as one of the finest golf clubs in Texas, let alone Houston.
Golf Club of Houston is home to two championship courses, the Member’s Course and the Tournament Course.
It is the Tournament Course which is open to the public. Yet rest assured, this is no step down in quality. It was built in 2005 to host the Shell Houston Open, which it did for a number of years until 2019.
Rees Jones, with the support of David Toms, was brought in to oversee the work. The objective here was to be big, bold and challenging. A layout which would challenge the tour pros whilst able to receive the general public.
Fairways were constructed through a large natural forest. Vast water hazards and deep bunkers were created. Thick rough lines the fairways. This is not an easy round and one of the few times where your choice of tee location could make or ruin your day.
The conditioning is second to none and from the first hole to the last, you will be loving every minute…even if your scorecard looks horrific!
2. Memorial Park Golf Course
A huge jump up these rankings for Memorial Park Golf Course, largely due to its complete transformation in 2019. But let’s just take a step back quickly.
Golf has been played at Memorial Park since 1912 when there was a basic 9-hole routing. The 18-hole layout was designed by John Bredemus and opened for play in 1936. Past the midway point of the twentieth century, from 1951 to 1963, Memorial Park was the host of the Houston Open.
However slowly, as the years passed, this municipal course was more and more in dire need of a make-over and some serious TLC (tender loving care!).
So we fast forward to 2019, with the decision to commission the Tom Doak Renaissance Design Firm. This was a major $13.5 million project with the view that Memorial Park should once again host the Houston Open.
Today, this project is completed and the course is magnificent. Doak’s team, along with some strategic input from Brooks Koepka, have revitalized and reinvigorated this once tired layout.
There are very few bunkers with just 19 in all. But in typical Doak fashion, the green complexes are second to none. Most feature a varying degree of shaping and contours.
The course offers a number of risk reward opportunities from the tee. Whilst there is an emphasis placed on having a tight short-game.
For a municipal course, it’s not the cheapest, with non-resident rates starting around $90. But from an architectural stand-point, it is well worth visiting Memorial Park. It was also selected to host the Houston Open again, shortly after the project completed!
3. Cypresswood Golf Club (Tradition Course)
Between Humble and Spring, north of Houston, is the fantastic Cypresswood Golf Club.
First things first, the location. This is a gorgeous plot of land surrounded by a dense verdant landscape.
The club is positioned right next to the sprawling Spring Creek Greenway, around 40 miles of green space for all kinds of outdoor activities. The meandering Spring Creek flows down the eastern side of the plot bringing with it a diverse wildlife.
There are two fine championship golf courses, the Tradition and the Cypress. Both are considered as some of the finest public tracks in the city. But for me the Tradition Course tops it.
Designed by the great Keith Foster, this is a traditional design with rolling fairways and deep, challenging bunkers. So good is the terrain here, Foster declared it as some of the best he has worked with in the whole of Texas.
Fortunately for us, he followed up that bold statement by building a sterling golf course.
There are some wonderful short par 4s and most of the par 5s are pretty special. The green complexes are some of the best you’ll play in the Houston area.
Depending on when you come and play, there are some good value tee times. For example, twilight green fee rates in midweek start from $36 up to $46.
4. BlackHorse Golf Club (South Course)
North west of the city, heading out on the Hempstead Highway, is BlackHorse Golf Club. When you reach Cypress, you take a left off the highway, heading south and after around 5 minutes you’ll reach the club.
This is yet another golf club with two championship layouts, although there is a clear favorite here, the South Course.
It was created by the design partnership of Jacobsen Hardy. Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy officially joined forces in 1995 and have slowly but surely built up a reputation as one of the most talented duos around.
When working on the South Course, they were in large part indebted to the landscape they inherited. Stunnings wetlands and meadows surrounded by a blanket of greenery in the form of dense vegetation and hardwoods. Mature trees include live oaks and pines.
Bisecting the plot in an east to west line, is the Big Cypress Creek along which there is plenty of wildlife.
But from a routing perspective, things really come to life on the back nine. There are several holes which are routed along an old abandoned sand quarry. These are great fun and bring an element of variety you just didn’t see coming.
This is without doubt one of the premier public golf courses in Houston. Travel + Leisure even recognised it as one of ‘America’s best 100 courses for $100 or less’.
5. Tour 18 Houston
The term ‘novelty course’ never really does a club any favors. Immediately things like ‘inauthentic’ or ‘gimmicky’ jump to mind. But there are many great examples of courses which replicate a design feature or style to great success.
Just one example is the Golf Clubs at The Tribute, up the road in Dallas.
There they have a mock links style layout replicating aspects of famous golf courses across the British Isles. There is also the Old American, replicating specific features from some of the grand classic Golden Age American courses. Both are fabulous.
So if applied correctly, this can be done well.
Here at Tour 18, the concept was simple. Replicate some of the greatest holes across a number of tournament courses in the U.S. This includes Augusta National, Sawgrass, Pebble Beach, Doral, Pinehurst, Merion, Oakmont….the list goes on.
In fact Augusta National has the greatest presence, with holes 5 through to 7 mirroring the ominous Amen Corner’s three holes.
Now I’m going to point out the obvious point, but clearly they’re not the original. Despite the painstaking recreation of these holes, there is only so much they can do. There is also the challenge of relatively flat Texan terrain to contend with.
But….if you come here open minded, looking to have a blast and fun with some of your golfing buddies, then you’re in for a treat. The whole point is Tour 18 doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is unpretentious, quality golf.
Very few of us will ever play many of these great courses. So I’m all for a bit of Tour 18 action.
See also: What are the best public golf courses in Dallas?
6. Wildcat Golf Club (Highlands & Lakes)
South of the city, just 15 minutes drive, is the vast public facility of Wildcat Golf Club. You’re so close to town the skyline is visible at most points across the course. As is the impressive NRG Stadium just up the road.
There are two sprawling golf courses at Wildcat, the Highlands and the Lakes. Both were designed by Roy Case. Case’s design career was largely based on the east side of the U.S. and around the Caribbean.
At Wildcat, both courses are great and deliver on quality, affordable golf.
The Lakes is a fine layout which starts at an elevation of 100 feet and slowly makes its way down. It is then you start to contend with the numerous expanses of water which come into play on seven holes. From the tips the course stretches to over 7,000 yards.
The Highlands is just shorter, coming in at 6,954 yards but is absolutely no push over. Its style is more Texas Hill Country with gently undulating fairways and a number of elevation changes. But throw in the prevailing winds, a litany of bunkers, forced carries and the occasional ravine, this is challenging stuff.
As a duo, the two courses work really well together. If push came to shove, I would pick the Highlands course to play. This is mainly because you need to really plot your way round and think strategically about every shot.
But whichever you choose, you’re in for a good time at Wildcat Golf Club.
7. Bay Forest Golf Club
Another of the best public golf courses in Houston is Bay Forest Golf Club, sometimes known under the moniker of La Porte Bay Forest Golf Club.
Regardless of how you know it, Bay Forest has for many years been considered one of the best publicly accessible courses in greater Houston. It is also the only Houston course on the Texas coast, being just a stone’s throw away from Trinity Bay.
The natural bayside setting is wonderful and all the more surprising it is just a 35 minute drive from central Houston. The site features a significant amount of water, with bayou-fed waterways and lakes ever present. Mature trees are dotted round the site offering some respite from the wind.
The course was designed by Jay Riviere and opened for play in 1988. Riviere has ably incorporated all the various creeks and waterways into the routing. So much so, this is not a course to spray the ball off the tee.
In fact, it’s fair to say Bay Forest is considered one of the more challenging public courses in Houston. Water is always lurking, whilst the rough is penal and the greens are fast.
That said, it’s a great day out and a fantastic test of golf.
8. Clear Creek Golf Club
Twenty minutes south of downtown Houston, located close to Pearland, is Clear Creek Golf Club. It’s in close proximity to The Medical Center and The Galleria.
The club is located in the huge Tom Bass park, a 115 acre recreation destination with a whole host of facilities. One of those being the popular public golf facility.
Clear Creek first appeared in 1987 and was designed by Ken Dye, Joe Finger and Baxter Spann. The threesome designed a wonderful and intriguing links-style layout.
The terrain is wide open and relatively flat, with the occasional ravines offering some change in elevation. This is most noticeable on the par-5 11th hole, which stretches 555 yards and finishes with an approach over a ravine.
Throughout the round you’ll encounter plenty of bunkers and water, with the latter in play on 7 of the 18 holes. Other highlights include double dog-legs, tight fairways and tricky green complexes.
There are a number of golf courses all bustling against one another to climb onto this list. But Clear Creek just nudges its head above the others and is a worthy addition to the best public golf courses in Houston list.
What is the best public golf course in Houston, Texas?
The best public golf course in Houston, Texas, is the Tournament Course at Golf Club of Houston. This superb layout was designed by Rees Jones and David Toms and opened for play in 2005. For many years it hosted the Shell Houston Open. The club is located in Humble, north of the city.