Texas golf courses that let you play where the tour pros play

There are four regular PGA Tour stops in the Lone Star State, plus the 2016 addition of the WGC Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club. Three of these venues are open to the public, either as a daily fee or by staying at the resort. Texas also has two Champions Tour events, one Web.com Tour event and an LPGA stop. Of those, just one, the site of the San Antonio Championship on the Champions Tour, is open to nonmembers.

Here's a look at the four Texas golf venues that host professional tour events and how to play them.

PGA Tour: AT&T Byron Nelson Championship, Irving

TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas, par 70, 7,166 yards: Originally designed by Jay Morrish with the legendary Byron Nelson and Ben Crenshaw serving as player consultants, this Dallas-area course has gone through a few incarnations over the years, including a renovation in 2007 by D.A. Weibring that resulted in some dramatic changes on several holes, including the par-4 18th, where a lake was added, trees were removed and the green was shifted. The course has been criticized by some tour players, but recreational players love the pure greens and variety of holes and shot values.

How to play: The TPC Course is one of two courses at The Four Seasons Dallas Resort, and both are technically private, but open to resort guests. Which means you have to stay there to play there. Your best bet is to book a golf package, but if you're staying there, you can play the TPC course for $250 rack rate or $120 during twilight.

Memorable tournament moments: Unlike Houston PGA Tour stop, where Tiger Woods has never played, Woods not only played, but also won it in 1997. It's also where we got our first glimpse of Jordan Spieth in a PGA Tour event. At age 16, he not only made the cut at the 2010 Nelson, but was tied for seventh after 54 holes. He eventually wound up in a tie for 16th. In gratitude to the Salesmanship Club for giving him that sponsor's exemption, Spieth, who became the second youngest player to win the Masters in 2015 behind Woods, said he will play in his hometown PGA Tour event as long as he can.

Former Byron Nelson sites you can play: The AT&T Byron Nelson Championship goes back to 1926 when it was called the Dallas Open and played at a number of private clubs. One of those private clubs is now open to the public. Designed by Perry Maxwell, the Golf Club of Dallas was home to the PGA Tour event from 1958-1967. The 6,719-yard par 70 has 52 bunkers, a lake and a winding creek that comes into play on seven holes. Best of all, the course is affordable with green fees under $50.

PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open

Golf Club of Houston, Tournament Course, par 72, 7,422 yards: Designed by Rees Jones with player consultant David Toms, The Tournament Course at the Golf Club of Houston (formerly known as Redstone) is one of the few courses in the region to overseed. In fact, it's overseeded heavily with rye and bentgrass on the greens to simulate conditioning at Augusta National, where the Masters is played the following week in most years.

How to play: Unlike the others on the list, the Tournament Course is a daily-fee golf course. Forecaddies are part of the package (gratuity separate) and green fees are around $175, which is really a bargain compared to most PGA Tour courses around the country. It's a great collection of holes, but not exactly a walk in the park with long stretches in between the first and second holes and 17th and 18th. The par-4 18th, which can play as long as 500 yards, is one of the most difficult holes on tour.

Memorable Tournament moments: The Houston Open has only been played on the Tournament Course since 2006, but there have certainly been some memorable moments. In 2014, Matt Jones holed out a pitch shot from off the 18th green to win in a playoff. Phil Mickelson, whose wife and mother had been treated for cancer in Houston, won in 2011 with a sensational weekend that included a course-record 63.

Former Houston Open sites you can play: In its 80 years, the Houston Open has rotated to several venues, including Memorial Park, which is now home to the Greater Houston City Amateur. Other former Houston Open sites open to the public are Sharpstown Municipal and Quail Valley, which used to be a country club but was rescued from a developer and renovated by the suburb of Missouri City.

PGA Tour: Valero Texas Open

AT&T Oaks Course, TPC San Antonio, par 72, 7,435 yards: Designed by Greg Norman with player consultant Sergio Garcia, the AT&T Oaks Course is one of the most difficult on tour. With its ragged edge bunkers, tight fairways and sloping greens, it's a tough course for pros and amateurs. Still, it's matured nicely over its six-year existence, and many PGA Tour players are not only embracing the challenge, but say it's one of best-conditioned courses on tour. There's also a bunker in the middle of the 16th green, ala Riviera.

How to play: Like the TPC Four Seasons Dallas, in order to play the TPC San Antonio, you have to stay at the resort. In this case, it's the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort, the largest JW Marriott in the United States with more than 1,000 rooms. Rack rates are similar to the Four Seasons, so golf packages are recommended.

Memorable Texas Open moments: The Oaks Course has an even shorter history than the Tournament Course at G.C. of Houston, having opened in 2010. In the first year of playing host to the tourney, Adam Scott came back from five shots down to win, shooting 66-67 in his last two rounds -- both played on Sunday because of a complete washout on Friday. In 2011, Kevin Na set a Valero Texas Open record with a 16 on the par 4 ninth hole Thursday, the second highest single hole score in PGA Tour history.

Former Texas Open sites you can play: The Texas Open is actually the third oldest tournament on the PGA Tour, dating back to 1922. Over the years, the event has moved to several venues, including a few that now open to the public -- the A.W. Tillinghast-designed Brackenridge Park; Willow Springs Golf Club; and the Resort Course at La Cantera, a delightfully fun Morrish-Tom Weiskopf design that hosted the event from 1995-2009.

Champions Tour: San Antonio Championship

AT&T Canyons Course, TPC San Antonio, par 72, 7,106 yards: Designed by Pete Dye with player consultant Bruce Lietzke, the Canyons has plenty of Dye features -- including dozens of pot bunkers -- but is more forgiving that most Dye courses. With wide fairways, large greens and less severe bunkers that are found on many of his designs, the course is better suited for resort play than the AT&T Oaks Course. The course also has a links feel through much of it with more elevation change than the Oaks.

How you play AT&T Canyons Course: See above under AT&T Oaks. You have to stay at the resort or play with a member.

Memorable moments: The Canyons Course has only been the site of the San Antonio Championship, which is played in the fall, since 2011, when it took over for Oak Hill Country Club. That first year, the popular Fred Couples ran away with the title, winning by seven shots over Mark Calcavecchia. In 2014, Michael Allen birdied three of his final four holes en route to victory.

Former sites of the San Antonio Championship: The tournament, which has been known as several names, including the SBC Championship and Vantage at The Dominion, has always been played at private clubs, including The Dominion.

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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Texas golf courses that let you play where the tour pros play