Conditioning, layout and challenge make Clear Creek Golf Club in Houston a clear-cut favorite

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

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.

Clear Creek Golf Club - 17th
With water to the left, the par-4 17th is the no. 4-handicap hole at Clear Creek.
Clear Creek Golf Club - 17thClear Creek Golf Club - No. 9Clear Creek Golf Club - No. 15Clear Creek Golf Club - clubhouse
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Clear Creek Golf Course

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The Clear Creek Golf Course is a flat, wide-open links-style track loaded with water and bunkers. The only sort of elevation changes you'll experience come from the ravines that route through the course and the undulating greens.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6917 yards | Book online | ... details »

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.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

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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