Conditioning, layout and challenge make Clear Creek Golf Club in Houston a clear-cut favorite
HOUSTON -- The first surprise concerning Clear Creek Golf Club is that it's in the city of Houston. Just barely, mind you, but it is Houston, despite its country feel, its location next to Tom Bass Park and the fact that there's not a house in sight.
From downtown Houston, Clear Creek is less than 15 miles away, but Pearland is right next door. Clear Lake, NASA and Friendswood are all close, too, so this expansive golf course, which has never looked better, is in the center of a large population area. Yet, it still feels isolated.
It's a great feel. From one hole to the next, you never think you're in the middle of a metropolitan area that has more than 6 million people.
Clear Creek Golf Club's reputable design
Opened in 1987, the county-owned course at Clear Creek Golf Club was designed by the firm of Finger, Dye and Spann. It's a group that has collectively and individually designed some of the best courses in America as well as Southeast Texas. For example, the late Finger and his associates did work at Augusta National and Deerwood Club in Kingwood; Dye is responsible for top-100 Paa Ko Ridge Golf Club in New Mexico, and Spann crafted the excellent Black Mesa near Santa Fe.
Like those courses, every hole at Clear Creek is different. The course measures nearly 7,000 yards from the tips, but wide fairways -- for the most part -- and a lack of forced carries from the forward tees make this course playable by all levels. Elevated greens complexes are interesting and undulated, and you'll find deep bunkers on every hole.
The course actually starts out with a couple of pretty tough holes -- the No. 5- and No. 3-handicap holes on the course, respectively. The second, for example, is a 430-yard par 4 with a fairway bunker on the left side and water guarding the green on multiple sides.
Clear Creek Golf Club's hardest hole is also on the front nine: the ninth. From the back, it's 451 yards with a lake running along the approach on the right.
This is a golf course, however, that gets more interesting as you get into the round. The back nine, which plays more than 3,500 yards, has a number of interesting holes, including a 598-yard par 5, the 13th. After that, the course gets even more interesting, starting with the 177-yard, par-3 14th.
"That whole stretch is really good," said Chris Lacher, general manager at Clear Creek. "On the 14th, when that pin is tucked behind the bunker on the right, that hole is really tough. Then on 16, it's really a risk-reward hole. I usually hit a 6-iron off the tee there. "
The 16th is just 344 from the tips, but going for the elevated green with a hazard area front left is a big risk. The 17th is just less than 400 yards, but there's trouble left off the tee and plenty of tricky places to put pins, making it the No. 4-handicap hole. And the 18th is 440 yards and often plays into the wind.
Clear Creek Golf Club: The verdict
While Clear Creek isn't a budget golf course by any means, it is a good value. At $48 on weekend mornings and discounted in the afternoon, you'd be hard pressed to find a better course anywhere for the money.
Add to that Clear Creek is in excellent condition -- even in the winter time when they overseed greens and tees -- and you have a real enjoyable experience. In fact, Clear Creek is in better shape now than it was in when it opened 25 years ago, and it's certainly matured well with a number of pines and oaks having grown up to come into play on a few holes.
The course also has expansive practice facilities, including a grass range and large putting green. Clear Creek also offers a player-development program that allows golfers to pay a small monthly fee for unlimited practice and other discounts.
Inside the clubhouse, you'll find a helpful staff, both in the golf shop and clubhouse grill. And speaking of the clubhouse, it was renovated in 2008 after being heavily damaged by Hurricane Ike.