Cypresswood's Tradition: A Return To The Past

By David R. Holland, Contributor

SPRING, TX -- Step back in time.

Step back to when the golf courses created in the 1920s by Alister MacKenzie and Donald Ross offered a strategic game.

Today that vision is shared by golf course architect Keith Foster. His vision to create more traditional courses took on a dramatic form when The Tradition was opened in 1998 at the Cypresswood Golf Club in the sand flats and dense pine forests just north of Houston.

"Golf started out as a strategic game," Foster says. "You played the ball down and braved the elements. An interesting fact remains among all golfers who play the game. If you could walk and play the hallowed ground at Augusta, Cypress Point or St. Andrews instead of some new techno-course, which would it be? I'm sure the majority, if not all, would choose the wonderful classics. I'm afraid much of today's game is just entertainment."

The Tradition is 7,220 yards of rich green fairways, enormous bunkers, ravines, creeks, ponds, tall pines, live oaks and even magnolia trees. This old-style course will challenge you to hit it straight or suffer the consequences of deep woods. On three holes you must negotiate tucked pin placements behind stacked stone walls fronting ponds.

And once you reach the greens you will find Floradwarf Bermuda, a new strain developed by the University of Florida, which can be a slick as bentgrass.

Dick Forester, a mainstay of Houston golf since 1944 and pro emeritus at Cypresswood says: "The Tradition is a classic course. What you get is what is right in front of you. There are no gimmicks or hidden obstacles. You just step up to the first tee and play the hole."

Director of Golf Kelly Walker says when the PGA Tour School was held here that he didn't hear a discouraging word from the pros. "It's long and old school, but there's room to use the driver and you will have the opportunity to hit all your clubs. One publication's recent poll of pros rated it No. 1 in Houston. It's fun, fair and scenic."

Marketing Director Scott Atkinson said he walked into the foyer in front of his office one day and Greg Norman, Hal Sutton and Steve Elkington were standing there talking to Butch Harmon, who formerly headed Cypresswood's school of golf. Harmon coaches a guy named Tiger Woods.

The Tradition's No. 1 handicap is "Stone Pond", No. 4, that is 448 from the tips. When the pin is situated right you will probably face a scary shot to what appears to be only a finger of green with water in front and back. If you hit the left bunker you must escape to the green with water in the back.

No. 5 is a dramatic, bending par-5 dogleg right measuring 606 from the rear. No. 8 is called "Double Vision" because this 196-yard par-3 has two completely different sets of tees as does No. 14, a 185-yarder with a huge magnolia tree and a massive waste area in your vision.

Look for Carnoustie's "spectacles" on the par-3 11th, a serious 236-yarder. These double-O bunkers are in your line of sight and will gobble up mis-hits and might strain your depth perception.

High-handicappers will look in amazement at "Double Gulch" at No. 15, a 394-yard par-4 with a tiny sliver of fairway between gulches daring you to clear both hazards. No. 16 is a 472-yard par-4 followed by the shortest par-4 test at 318 yards. But it is dotted by six bunkers and a pond to the right.

Finish your memorable round with the par-5, 546-yard finale. The second shot must carry a creek and a bunker in the middle of the fairway. Keep it right and you will have a straight entrance to a long and narrow green with a waterfall in back and left of the putting surface.

The Creek and Cypress courses were designed by Rick Forester, son of Dick Forester, founder of the Houston Golf Association. (Watch for a feature story about the elder Forester in May's

In 1988 Golf Digest named Cypress best new course in Texas. Placement is key on these courses with many dogleg tee shots and rolling lies in the fairways. Try to join a group with someone who plays the courses frequently because on many holes if you are on the wrong side of the fairway you won't have a clear shot at the flag. You will be forced to hit low punch shots, fades or draws hoping for a miracle shot and on some holes you will face towering trees right in the middle of the fairway.

Located 18 Miles north of downtown Houston, between U.S. 59 and I-45, 1½ miles north of FM 1960 on Cypresswood Drive.

Green Fees: Weekday Cypress and Creek with cart, PinMark GPS, $47. Weekday Tradition with cart, yardage book, GPS, $65. Twilight fee offered on Cypress and Creek. Weekend Cypress and Creek $55.25. Weekend Tradition $75. Seniors and Juniors can play on weekdays before 11 a.m. for $11.50 walking. Juniors play for that rate all day. Cypress and Creek offers walking at reduced rate.


Awards: All three courses have won "Best New Courses" awards from Golf Digest. The Cypresswood complex of 54 holes won Golf Magazine's "Top 10 Places You Can Play" award in 1999.

Editor's Note: Senior Writer Dave Holland is on a golf tour of Texas. Look for upcoming reviews on some of Texas' elite courses -- Meadowbrook Farms Golf Club, Horseshoe Bay, ColoVista Country Club, Legacy Hills Golf Club, Bridlewood Golf Club, Chase Oak's Blackjack Course and others.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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