Don't 'manage' game at Redstone: pull out driver and thump it

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

HOUSTON, Texas ­ Ever get tired of those golf courses that require "game management?" Does it frost your preserves when they tell you to keep your driver in the bag, and "manage" your game, "play smart," and "lay up?"

That's what old folks and pimply-faced guys with teeny-tiny biceps do ­ manage their games, play smart and lay up.

Golf is a game where whacking it is half the fun ­ most of the fun, actually. Who cares what you do the rest of the time as long as you cream it off the tee? You paid good money for that high-tech driver and you damn sure want to use it.

Well, go to the Redstone Golf Club in Houston. You can be the man you've always wanted to be at this long-john club about 25 minutes from downtown Houston.

"My advice is, I'd step up to every hole with the driver," said Redstone head pro Derek Crouse.

Of course, there is a catch. You can't be a drooling gorilla off the tee here. You have to be able to hit it relatively straight. Still, there won't be any layups off the tee ­ no baby 3-woods or sissy long-irons.

"That's why the pros like it so much out here," Crouse said of the course that hosts the Shell Houston Open, the only PGA Tour stop in Houston. "They can step up and hit driver every hole. Of course, you can't hit it too far left or right, but you can't hit your driver too far, and that's what they like."

What's not to like? This is a man's course in other ways ­ no gimmicks like misplaced waterfalls, pot bunkers, railroad ties, split fairways, bizarre bunker complexes, greens that fall off into oblivion or the like. It's just 7,508 yards of mano a mano ­ a man and his driver.

"There's no tricks, no goofy holes where you can hit good shots and be penalized," Crouse said. "You sort of get what you see. It's not easy at all, but you don't have to hit miracle shots. If you hit good shots out here, you're going to have a good round."

There is nothing girly about the greens either.

"Other than No. 7, there's not a lot of tricky undulation," Crouse said. "There are curves and subtle movement, but you're not going to have three or four breaks on a 30-foot put or where the pin is going to be in an unfair place to get to."

The course rears up and displays its machismo in particular on the closing holes.

It starts with a long, straight par-5 on No. 15 with a huge oak tree blocking your approach on the right side of the fairway, and then moves to two long par-4s: the 474-yard 16th and the 475-yard 17th.

The 16th is tree-lined and the green drops off left to water with a series of bunkers right. If you land five yards short of the green on the 17th, you're in the water. Don't baby it. No. 18 is "only" 448 yards, but there is water the length of
the fairway left.

The verdict

The course has other attributes other than just its length. It is very well-maintained, for example, though the greens were very slow on a recent outing in mid-November: officials say the greens will get faster as the overseeding takes hold.

It has a lot of pines and some oaks, but there is little rough to lose your ball in on this open and airy course.

On the down side, the course is part of a master-planned community and plays through a neighborhood and has a fair number of homes along the holes.

Also, the green fees are a bit pricey: $130 weekdays and $145 weekends, though those are constant year-round: no shilly-shallying around with seasons.

Stay and play

The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa is a centrally located hotel for golf in the Houston area, sitting on an 18-acre tract of land smack in the bustling heart of the city, adjacent to the Galleria and Memorial Park

It looks like something an old, oil baron might have built to impress his missus. There are floor to ceiling wooded views, wood parquet floors, dark wood paneling and a roaring, gas fireplace in the big, comfortable lobby.

You can get a workout other than golf ­ the Houstonian Fitness Club and Trellis Spa is a massive thing ­ a 125,000 square-foot facility that has more than 30 certified personal trainers.

There are three pools, a rock-climbing wall, boxing ring, eight tennis courts and a full-court gym for basketball and volleyball. The hotel is also affiliated with the Redstone Golf Club, home of the Shell Houston Open. The hotel concierge can arrange tee times and transportation.

The hotel has 288 guest rooms, 32,000 square-feet of meeting space and all the up-to-date technology business types could want.

Dining out

Olivette is the Houstonian's main restaurant, serving American food ­ definitely try the Southwest salad with shrimp, but stay away from the mini-burgers - they are mini and few.

The Manor House is adjacent to the hotel, open daily for lunch and the Center Court Café is at the Houstonian Club.

Fast fact

Redstone will host its last Shell Houston Open next year, after which the tournament will go to the adjacent Rees Jones-designed course now under construction.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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