For sale: Woodlands Resort and Meeting Center mixes meetings with tons of golf

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

THE WOODLANDS, Texas - The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center has been up for sale since this past summer, so officials there can't accurately predict what's in store for the future.

Still, the resort is one of the more popular destinations in the Houston area for corporate planners who want to mix business with golf, with its focus on meetings and multiple courses to choose from.

"We were dealing with one potential buyer for a while, and that wasn't working so we've moved on to the next in line," said resort spokesperson Jasmine Avery. "We've been in this process since July, so there's a whole lot we don't know. We may, in the future, not get sold."

The resort, in a wooded setting about 30 minutes north of Houston, offers 60,000 square feet of meeting space, all of which is in the main building, which also includes the property's four restaurants. The guest rooms are spread out around the rest of the property.

"About 80 percent of our business is meetings," Avery said. "Golf just helps out in the meetings arena. That's our main business. We are a founding member of the IACC (International Association of Conference Centers) and we have 32 dedicated meeting rooms, some of which can be split into more meeting rooms, like our grand ballroom, which is 13,500 square feet and can be split into three meeting rooms."

The resort emphasizes what it calls a "productive learning environment."

"We specialize in conferences, so we have an on-site audio-visual staff and we sell what's called a 'complete meeting package'" said Avery. "So basically, when you're a group, you can come in and we'll give you one price that includes your hotel room, your conference room, your audio-visual, three meals and coffee breaks."

About 75 percent of the Woodlands meetings business comes from Texas, and of that around 60 percent comes from the greater Houston area. Most of the rest comes from the northeast. Typically in the south and Texas, the meetings business is seasonal.

"Most of the people up north don't want to come here in the summer," Avery said. "But, we have golf 365 days a year."

With the possible sale of the resort looming, there have been changes to the status of the golf courses. The Oaks and Panther Trails will be the two resort/public play courses starting the first of next year, while the TPC will revert to a private club.

The nearby Woodlands Country Club has a 27-hole Arnold Palmer course and an 18-hole Gary Player layout.

The Oaks does have a woodlands feel - with many of its namesake trees scattered about - though you ride over busy thoroughfares several times during the round, and there are homes along many of the holes. The homes are quiet and tasteful though, sitting stolidly in the tony, residential neighborhood in which the course winds through.

Panther Trails is the more interesting of the two courses. It was originally designed by Robert Van Hagge and opened in 1975. Roy Case was called in to re-design it two years ago and the result is basically a completely different scheme.

They moved 135,00 cubic yards of dirt and 25,000 tons of sand. They replaced the mutated Bermuda with ultra dwarf Bermuda, installed USGA built greens, spiffed up the drainage and irrigation system and added new cart paths and wood bridges. Lakes were moved and bunkers renovated.

"We also have a tournament coordinator that can help with all tournaments or even if you're doing a smaller golf outing," Avery said. "We have great culinary - we can do box lunches or on-course food."

The Woodlands also has a spa and fitness center with exercise room, saunas, steam rooms, massage and a full-service salon.

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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