Tour 18 Houston: Can't Dilly-Dally, But You Will Dream Of History
HUMBLE, TX -- The starter has just called you to the first tee at Tour 18 Houston. As your caddy hands you a new super-charged Tour Distance Titleist SF, your mind wanders gazing down at the tall pines on the right of the finishing hole at Harbour Town. It's 440 yards from the back, a No. 1 handicap par-4.
The starter tells you the course is all yours today. There are no other tee times scheduled. You can take your time and enjoy the scenery of 18 of America's greatest hole replications. You can hardly wait to reach Amen Corner. You imagine how it will be to stare down the Mickey Mouse ears' bunker that fronts the par-3 of Disney's Magnolia course.
On the left 225 yards ahead, the narrow fairway suddenly juts out to the left like a huge nose coming from a cartoon-character's head. This is the bail-out, and anything too far left is in the marsh. You decide your target should hug the trees on the right, giving you an approach to the green without a marshy carry.
Then, the huge red-and-white lighthouse catches your eye.
That's when you wake up.
It was just a dream. A lawsuit forced Tour 18 to remove the lighthouse.
It was just a dream. You can't really stroll casually through this unique layout. It dawns on you that there is no dilly-dallying around at Tour 18. When your putt drops you gotta move. There's no stopping on the green to soak in the imagined history and day dream.
You will, however, have plenty of time to soak up the history on the tees and waiting in the fairways.
Sorry folks, if you are expecting to play without waiting for the group ahead of you at Tour 18 forget it. There's just too much demand. Sixty thousand show up here every year since it opened in 1992.
Despite the golfers herded here for the novelty and despite a slower pace of play, you are going to enjoy this round of golf. Only the grumpiest of golfers can't realize that Tour 18, whether it be in Humble or Flower Mound, is a gift to all classes of golfers. Where else can you play 18 simulations of America's great golf holes in one day?
Where else can you play great holes of Augusta National, Pinehurst, Bay Hill, Pebble Beach, La Costa, Colonial, Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, Oak Tree, Sawgrass, Desert Inn, Merion and Doral all in one location?
OK, how about pace of play? Tour 18 Houston has gotten lots of feedback on that. The official statement is: "Tour 18 was rated 4 hours and 50 minutes by the Texas Golf Association." And Tour 18 promises they will be looking at ways to improve. Another thing, during peak season, you will probably have to play in a shotgun format teeing off 7:30 or 8 a.m. or 12:30 or 1 p.m. Since Tour 18 is such a conglomerate of holes put together, this should not be a negative factor.
Scott Brady, Tour 18 Houston's Director of Sales and Marketing, says the biggest positive is customer service. Every golfer is provided a comment card. "Our service has been recognized as outstanding," Brady said. "From the parking lot to the practice area to the course, we get great comments on our service."
And when the bermuda goes dormant in the winter, everyone is appreciative of the overseeding program at Tour 18 Houston and Dallas.
"It's just a different golf experience," said Jim Rhodes of Houston. "It's not a golf course I care to play every day, but I've been here several times and love playing Amen Corner and the island green of Sawgrass. That's a classic lineup. I've also played the course in the Dallas area, but I like Houston better because of the pine trees. Houston is a lot better suited for Amen Corner just because of that.
So how good are these simulations? Amen Corner is excellent. You can almost feel the Masters' gallery as you top the hill at No. 11 and see the scoreboard. Vijay Singh's name tops it and they change it every year with the current year's winner and top finishers. And when you see the lake to the left of the green and all that bailout room to the right -- well, you might play it safe.
Sawgrass' island green is a banner challenge.
Pebble Beach's No. 14, a 565-yarder, doesn't even come close. The only thing that even resembles the original is the green -- which is one of the silliest greens in golf. You have a high plateau left and a deep bunker fronting that. Then the green falls off to the right like a ski slope.
The simulation of Colonial Country Club's No. 3, the start of the Horrible Horsehoe at the famous Fort Worth layout, is 470 yards of cruelty. This is a pretty good copy. The one at Tour 18 Houston might even be tougher because the left side seems even more tight to the fairway than in Cowtown.
All in all both courses of Tour 18 are not to be missed. It's a shame that the company doesn't have more planned. Hopefully that will change.
What's going on with Tour 18? Acutally, the company has split. Tour 18 Dallas and Houston are now Arnold Palmer Management properties. Another group named Tour 18 Inc., has just finished a course in Spring, TX, just south of The Woodlands, named Augusta Pines. You can check it out at www.tour18.com or www.augusta-pines.com.
Tour 18 Houston
FM 1960 East
Humble, TX 77338
Telephone:281-540-1818 or 800-856-8687.
Corporate Events: Tour 18 Houston will help you fill your tournament field and increase participation. Call Scott Brady, Sales Manager, at 281-540-1818 or 800-856-8687 to book your corporate event.
Awards: Golf Digest rated Tour 18 as the 17th "Best in State" course for 1997-98.
Directions: From downtown Houston take Highway 59 north. Turn right on FM 1960. Look for the Tour 18 sign on your right approximately two miles.
Tour 18 Houston Hole by Hole:
Here is the par and yardage from the championship tees for each hole at the par-72, 6,782-yard Tour 18, and the course and hole each simulates:
No. 1: Par 4, 440 yards, 18th at Harbour Town, Hilton Head, S.C.
No. 2: Par 5, 543 yards, sixth at Bay Hill, Orlando, FL.
No. 3: Par 4, 335 yards, third at Pinehurst's No. 2 Course, Pinehurst, N.C.
No. 4: Par 4, 354 yards, 18th at Inverness, Toledo, OH.
No. 5: Par 4, 455 yards, 11th at Augusta National, Augusta, GA.
No. 6: Par 3, 155 yards, 12th at Augusta National, Augusta, GA.
No. 7: Par 5, 465 yards, 13th at Augusta National, Augusta, GA.
No. 8: Par 4, 386 yards, fourth at La Costa, Carlsbad, CA.
No. 9: Par 3, 140 yards, 17th at the TPC at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra, FL.
No. 10: Par 5, 518 yards, 10th at Desert Inn at Las Vegas, NV.
No. 11: Par 3, 190 yards, sixth at Disney Resort's Magnolia Course, Orlando, FL.
No. 12: Par 4, 470 yards, third at Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, TX.
No. 13: Par 5, 565 yards, 14th at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, CA.
No. 14: Par 4, 425 yards, third at Oakmont, Oakmont, PA.
No. 15: Par 4, 361 yards, eighth at Shinnecock Hills, South Hampton, N.Y.
No. 16: Par 4, 370 yards, 11th at Merion, Philadelphia, PA.
No. 17: Par 3, 170 yards, eighth at Oak Tree, Edmond, OK.
No. 18: Par 4, 440 yards, 18th "Blue Monster" at Doral, Miami, FL.
Where to Stay:
The Sheraton North Houston Hotel
15700 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
Houston, TX 77032
Sales Fax: 281-442-8301
Located at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, The Sheraton North has just finished a $5.5-million renovation which included a complete facelift to the property's 420 guest rooms, 30,000-square feet of meeting space, including its 240-seat amphitheater. One of the big changes at the property was the addition of Smart Rooms®, guest rooms equipped with a private fax machine which also serves as a copier and printer. Each guest room now includes a coffee maker, hair dryer, iron/ironing board and adjustable shower head.
The Sheraton North Houston Hotel also added a sports bar, The Draft, which offers 16 televisions with direct satellite feed for up-to-the-minute sports broadcasting. The hotel's casual, three-meal restaurant, Maxwell's Cafe, also was completely refurbished.