Many courses have a “signature” hole, but the Islands route at The Clubs of Kingwood features two holes that have gathered chatter in one form or another.
The first is No. 6, a double-dogleg par five that was named “National Hole of The Year” by the Golf Course Architects Society of America. The hole is defined by its gutsy shortcut, which takes the second dogleg out of play: Players who drive left off the tee can opt to carry a corner of the San Jacinto River, through two pockets of trees, to an eagle putt. Complicating matters is a pair of trees that sit in the middle of the fairway. One’s choice of route must be steadfast before they begin.
Despite that hole’s awards, the closing number may be even more renowned. That’s the kind of reputation that comes when a hole is named “Golf’s Toughest Finishing Hole” by Golf Digest. This reputation is cemented by a large lake left, another lake inset within a pair of split fairways (which are equally skinny), and then finishing up the long par five with a shot to an island green. You may be praising Joe Finger’s name at No.6 and cursing it by the time the round ends.
The Island Course at Kingwood CC has a little bit of everything. Like it’s sister course Deerwood, just down the street, it is also a Joe Finger design. Its former bar was where the window bar bet scene from Tin Cup was filmed. If you are going to score, you need to get off to a good start.
The first hole is a short welcoming par five. It bends right, favor the left side off the tee and be wary of the water hazard that sneaks in on the left. The 2nd leans a bit to the right. Too far right and you will have tree trouble. Favor the left but not too much lest you end up in a fairway bunker. The 3rd is the shortest and rated the easiest hole with front left and right bunkers. The 4th leans right and I think it plays much tougher than it is rated. There are fairway bunkers and trees right and the fairway does get squeezed, but left is better. The multi-tiered redan green is well protected by a multitude of bunkers. I have a complicated relationship with the fifth hole a big dogleg left. As an unapologetic hooker, this hole fits my eye and it is the hole I birdie the most. There is a water hazard filled with brackish east Texas swamp water, a large tree on the inside elbow and a bunker on the outside elbow. It is a “how big is your appetite” tee shot. The green is elevated and protected front and buck with bunkers. One day I was playing with a couple and I was in position A on the left side of the fairway waiting to hit my approach. The guy dumped it in the bunker and the gal hit a power top left headed for the hazard. It wasn’t too far from me so I ran on its line with the hope of trying to stop it before it went into the hazard. I finally stopped it about a yard short of the water, at which point my other leg slipped, I landed on my caboose and proceeded to slide into the muck and the mire. First thing I did was look for gators and then worked at extricating myself from my predicament. The woman was real appreciative, but they kept their distance from me after that as I am sure I was quite fragrant. The 6th is a highly decorated par five. It bends right then big dogleg left with a water hazard on the inside elbow. You can get home in two by going left and then hitting a hero shot over the hazard and skirting the trees and bunkers. Conversely, if you play it as a 3 shotter, you will need to hit a precise 2nd shot. Too far left and you will be blocked out, too far and you are through the corner. Good hole. The 7th is a long par four and is rated the 2nd toughest hole and I do not know why. A decent drive will leave you with a mid to long approach. The 8th is a mid-length par three that is well protected by bunkers and water in front. The dogleg left 9th is the toughest hole on the front, regardless of what the card says. The fairway narrows in the landing area and water runs down the left side to the green with swamp right.
The back starts with a hole that is eerily similar to 9 except no water. The 11th is a reachable par 5 and it is also similar to an earlier hole, this one being the 6th. If hit a big drive down the left side you have a risk/reward shot to the green. I feel this one is easier than the one on the 6th, but I have never successfully executed it. If you play it as a three shotter, just like y6, you need to hit a precise 2nd shot. The 12th is a mid-range forgettable par three. The 13th and 14th are opposite hand par four doglegs, just about the same yardage from all sets of tees. The 15th is a long beast of a par four with a stream cutting across the fairway about 180 out. The 16th is a sneaky par four with water down the left side and a fairway bunker in the landing area right. The fairway narrows past eh bunker and the water hazard slides right. Best line is just left of the bunker. The 17th is the longest par three and I have hit driver on occasion. The 18th is a very interesting par five with an island green, hence the name. The safe play is play it as a three shotter down the right side. Even with that approach, you will water left on your drive and second shot and then a water carry on your approach to a green that is less receptive from that angle. Playing left, considerably shortens the hole, but there are still many challenges. The fairway left is tight and is a water carry, envision a donut and place that in the middle of the hole. The center of the donut in this case is another water hazard. A good drive down the left side that isn’t left enough or fades, could go thru the fairway and into the other water hazard. If you don’t hit it great or have a bad lie, the best course of action may be to hit wedge to the other side of the donut to set up a shorter approach. I have splashed three balls on this hole multiple times. I have tried a myriad of strategies on this hole and I think praying works best.
A course I always enjoy playing.