The Tournament Course,
1730 South Millbend Drive,
Texas (TX) 77380,
- +1 281 863 1540
1.5 miles S of The Woodlands
Members and their guests only
Robert von Hagge, Bruce Devlin
The Tournament course is a former Houston Open venue and this Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin-designed layout was the first of the four 18-hole courses to appear at The Woodlands Country Club in 1978.
The following edited extract is taken from Daniel Wexler’s The American Private Golf Club Guide:
“The Woodlands is perhaps Texas’s most golf-oriented address, with its 63-hole Country Club long standing as the cornerstone of area development. The standard-bearing Tournament course has only existed in its present form since Robert von Hagge reworked his own 1978 layout in 1985.
While offering little ground breaking design, it remained capable of holding spectator interest with its plentiful use of water, especially at holes like the 158-yard 3rd and 414-yard 7th. Most memorable, however, are the old TV holes like the 382-yard 17th and the 442-yard 18th, each playing to pond-flanked greens.”
The club hosted the Houston Open from 1975 to 2002 and The Tournament course was also the venue when Anne Sanders claimed the second of her four U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur titles in 1989.
It is always easier (i.e.shorter) to write a review after Mark White as his detailed review and perspective I almost always agree with. The Woodlands is what one expects. It is a very predictable course. I have played it several times, but the most fun i had playing it was over 25 years ago when they were redoing the greens and the tees. The tournament was bass akwards, teeing off at the green and playing to the tees. Amazing what came into play.
The Woodlands Tournament course, designed by Bruce Devlin and Robert von Hagge is a fairly traditional golf course. Once home to the Shell Houston Open and now home to the Insperity Invitational on the Champions tour, it is a flat course whose primary defense is its length, doglegs, while integrating ponds.
It is not a course that will excite you. This course could be located in Florida as it uses water on many holes while being flat. There are no “wow” holes although there are a few holes with some interesting design characteristics. Everything is “fine” here. One will find adequate challenge due to some interesting green complexes. However, there is nothing that will catch one’s eye enough to truly contemplate it. The playing lines are obvious. The greens have adequate tilts and slopes but do not really offer anything unique. The fairways are generous enough with the ability to recover other than if one finds the water.
A design “flaw” is that most of the par 4’s are the same length, typically between 400-420 yards in length from the back tees.
It sits inside a fairly modest housing development in the large are called the Woodlands,,located near Houston.
The course is a par 72 with the Black tees at 7025 yards, rated 74.4/138. The Blue tees are 6608 yards rated 72.1/133. There are three sets of lesser tees. We played the Blue tees on a very soggy golf course. Tropical storm Beto had passed through the area the previous three days, dropping in excess of 10 inches of rain which closed many course (including Bluejack National where I was scheduled to play). The Woodlands Tournament course was one of the few courses in the area to be open. Perhaps we should have played the White tees at 6296 yards given there was no roll on the ball and much of the fairways were wet enough that our feet made a small splash with every step. As such this is likely not a “fair” assessment given the course conditions that also resulted in slower green speeds.
The course has markers on every hole denoting something famous/exciting that happened during the years of the Shell Houston Open. I think this detracts from the course.
1. Par 5 – 516/485. A benign opening hole as a dogleg right with an outer corner bunker. The green has three fronting bunkers to a green sloped back to front and raise.
2. Par 4 – 371/359. There is a forced carry of 150 yards for this consecutive dogleg right with bunkers on both corners that narrow the fairway. There is a centerline bunker about 45 yards short of the green and two bunkers short of the green on the right that present some difficulty in one is coming in from the right side. The green sits slightly uphill and is wide, but shallow.
3. Par 3 – 162/151. One plays over the pond with the green set right against the water. The green is long but shallow with three bunkers at the rear. The right side of the green is particularly thin. This is a nice par 3.
4. Par 4 – 413/368. Water can come into play off the tee for longer hitters. The pond stretches almost halfway down the fairway on the right before crossing in front of the green. Three trees are placed before the beginning of the pond off the fairway. The green has a fronting bunker and a bunker on each side. None of the bunkers looked too difficult. There is a bailout area to the left side of the green which is one of the better greens on the course.
5. Par 4 – 456/410, As mentioned, there are a few holes on the course with interesting design characteristics and this is one of them. There are no bunkers on this hole but the fairway is narrower and has more trees on both sides. The green is long and narrow with fall-offs to either side. This is the longest par 4 on the course.
6. Par 5 – 573/560. This long dogleg left offers two bunkers right off the tee. The second shot must carry cross bunkers that pinch into the fairway at the turn. There are four bunkers in total beginning about 150 yards from the green. There is a large oval bunker short of the front left of the green which is thin and angled to the left. This green has a large tilt to it. It is a strong par 5.
7. Par 4 – 414/397. This hole is somewhat the opposite of the fourth where on this hole the pond comes into play halfway down the fairway but on the left. It is fronted by a bunker. The pond then cuts the fairway by half to a green that sits off to the left. The green has two bunkers at its rear and is another thin green pressed against the water on the left. I liked this hole the most on the front nine.
8. Par 3 – 237/215. This is a long, bland par 3 with a bunker on the left side. The hole plays uphill and has an undulating green. I did not find anything unique or interesting about the hole.
9. Par 4 – 418/385. This hole has out-of-bounds down the left and a 40 yard long bunker on the right side. There is a pond following the bunker but it should not be in play. More troublesome are the three bunkers fronting the small green. I feel the green is too small for the hole.
10. Par 4 – 421/390. This hole is a substantial dogleg left where only the right side of the fairway gives one a good chance at seeing the green. It has two bunkers on the inner corner and one large one on the right. While this is the first time the corner of the dogleg has flanking bunkers on opposite sides, due to the severity of the dogleg it is too difficult as the inner corner also has overhanging trees. The green has an overly large bunker on the front center to a green that has a thin right side. While this hole requires a precise drive, it is one of my least favorite on the course owing to the difficulty of the hole.
11. Par 4 – 417/380. This is a straight hole where the drive must avoid the two bunkers down the left with another bunker on the right placed even farther from the green. There is a large mound in the center of the green that results in four separate sections of the green. I think this is an interesting feature for this hole given the unknown of the ball landing on the center of the green and releasing to a position that one might not expect.
12. Par 4 – 384/370. For a golf course devoid of much visual appeal, this hole offers some attractiveness as a dogleg right with an inner long bunker on the right with a tree hanging over it. There is a long rise in the middle of the fairway where longer hitters will try to fly over it while shorter hitters will lay up short of it. The green is long and narrow with a bunker on the front left and middle right creating a challenging back right pin position.
13. Par 5 – 533/517. One tees off with a forced carry over water that should be easily cleared. The bunker on the right is in the landing area of this slight dogleg right. Landing in the bunker actually creates an easier decision for a layup shot before a pond that surrounds the green creating an island green. Longer hitters will try for this large green in two. It is a decent risk-reward par 5 although I am a bit surprised there are no bunkers on the island green.
14. Par 4 – 190/173. This is an interesting par 3 with the right half of the green requiring one to play over the water. There is a center bowl dictating the type of shot one needs to play. The left side of the green is very shallow with a front and rear bunker while another bunker is at the rear on the center-right that essentially means the entire back of the green has a bunker. The green is sloped sharply towards the water. Due to the knob, if one misses to the left side of the green in the bunkers or off the green, playing to a center or right side pin is difficult to judge the break. I like the hole.
15. Par 5 – 521/497. One plays over a pond that does not present any defense to a dogleg right with an inner corner bunker. This hole offers a narrower fairway. The green is fronted by a bunker on either side to a green placed more on the left side of the fairway. The green has nice internal countering. Missing to the right or rear of the green offers a good chance of recovery. This is one of the easier holes on the golf course.
16. Par 3 – 175/158. I cannot make up my mind whether I like the design of the green or not. The green is very thin at the back half and has two bunkers right and one to the left. It is a unique idea as it leads to a shot that has to be very straight to get close to a back pin. The green is sharply slanted back to front. My other two playing partners did not care for the hole.
17. Par 4 – 382/366. This sharp dogleg left is a difficult hole with a thin fairway and a pond on the left side. The approach shot is likely from a downhill lie and needs to go over the pond to a green set hard against the water with a small bunker on the left and a bunker at the center rear. The right side of the green is very shallow. The hole is dramatic but I think the design of the green is poor.
18. Par 4 – 442/427. This is the best hole on the course as a slight dogleg right with the pond on the right reachable off the tee. There are scattered trees down the left side. The pond pinches into the fairway. The green is in the shape of a boomerang with the pond fronting it and four bunkers placed at the rear. We had a front left pin position so we did not get to experience the full breadth of the hole. The green tilts to the front but the left side is predictable.
The Woodlands Tournament course is fun to play but does not offer anything architecturally unique. Very little of the design, including the contours of the greens is interesting. The ambience of the course is lessened by the housing, which is apparent on many holes. The bunkering is exactly what one would expect in terms of size, depth, and shape. One should play here only if they do not have a more interesting course to play. It is a good course for the professional tournament as there are numerous opportunities for birdies and double bogies.
The most striking thing about the Woodlands Tournament course to me are some of the green complexes. The 11th has one of the most fun greens I've ever played, with a massive knob right in the center that gives the approach shot in a lot of character. The 14th green has a good one as well; one that can produce possible holes in one when the hole is cut up front. I found that out personally, when I saw my ball taking the slope and looking like it had potential to go in, but ultimately I "settled" for birdie.
With only one or two exceptions for each, I think the holes featuring water are vastly superior to those that do not. Strategy and shot values are much more at stake with water in play here. Those that are dry are mostly straight out in front of you and don't require a great amount of thought; grip and rip kind of holes, mostly. 17 and 18 are two great finishing holes (water comes into play on both, for what it's worth) that can produce a wide variety of outcomes. Really good to settle a professional event, which has been showcased at the Insperity for the Champions Tour, and possibly the PGA Tour's Houston Open down the road.