Links lite in Texas: The Clubs at Houston Oaks to open soon

Houston area is getting a new premium golf course: The Clubs at Houston Oaks

The Houston area is getting a new golf course soon, and it is designed by the architect who crafted the top-ranked course in Texas.

The new course is coming to Houston Oaks Family Sports Retreat near Hockley, about 45 minutes northwest of downtown Houston. And with the new course, which was designed by Chet Williams, the private club is also getting a new name to more emphasize the course, according to the new vice president of marketing and operations, Mark Steinbauer.

It will now be called The Clubs at Houston Oaks, which includes golf, tennis, rod and gun, dining and more. The club's new name brings more attention to the club's biggest amenity, the new golf course, which replaces the old one there.

"He blew it up," said Steinbauer, who opened the highly acclaimed Clubs at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas 15 years ago. "None of the holes are the same."

Williams -- who also designed Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas, the top-ranked course in the state, according to the Dallas Morning News -- crafted the new course between the mature oaks and rolling terrain that once had 36 holes as the old semi-private Houston Oaks Golf Club. Construction of the new course began in 2015. It is nearly grown in and could have a soft opening as soon as November, when prospective members may come and tour and perhaps play the course. A more formal grand opening is being planned for the spring around the time of the Shell Houston Open.

Williams, once a senior design associate for Jack Nicklaus, calls the course a "links lite" design.

"Each time you play Houston Oaks, you're going to notice new features and the intricate movement of the fairways that are reminiscent of a links course," Williams said. "You'll have to think your way through the course. With the century-old oak trees and the first class surroundings, you're going to see a great course which is really just the icing on the cake of an outstanding facility we have here."

The par-71 course (35-36), which replaces the 1956 Ralph Plummer design that was once part of the original Tennwood Country Club (owned by Tenneco then), will play at just under 7,000 yards from the back tees. On the front nine, there are several new hole and greens locations to provide not only a challenge but to capture the property's beauty, embracing the natural surroundings. The back nine takes advantage of the current landscape, but all the bunkers have been enhanced with modern Texas Sports. The tees, fairways and rough have all been planted with the new Celebration Bermuda, a modern grass which was first used in Florida, but has rapidly gained popularity in courses across the U.S. The greens used current new tiff Eagle grass while the native area will have Bahia grass in various areas.

"I've taken 25 years of experience to build the best with the best support from owners at this facility," Williams said. "It will be challenging for the best players, fun for the families and junior players. Everything fits here at Houston Oaks."

Video: Tour the first and second holes at Houston Oaks

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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Houston area is getting a new premium golf course: The Clubs at Houston Oaks