If you ever travel to Houston, Texas to tee it up on the golf course you are likely going to play a course that has Champion Bermuda greens. Most southern courses are going to Champion Bermuda because it is more durable during the hot and humid summer months. There is a very strong root structure and you will not find ball marks on greens.
Unfortunately, Champion Bermuda poses a number of problems for those that are coming from Bentgrass greens. The first problem is Champion Bermuda is often very hard. If a course has recently switched to Champion Bermuda greens you are going to find it nearly impossible to spin the ball on the greens; even with a sand wedge or lob wedge. There have been instances in which I hit a 120 yard shot straight up in the area and it still bounced as high as the flag and off the back of the green.
For this reason, you will need to learn to play short of the green or on the front of the green. Your ball is going to roll out on Champion Bermuda. Do not expect to hit the ball to the hole and be able to spin it back the way you can on Bentgrass greens. Front pin locations are nearly impossible; especially when they are protected by greenside bunkers. Sometimes it is better to just take your medicine and land short of the green and hope for the best.
This is one of the reasons I do not enjoy Champion Bermuda greens. There is a lot left to change when the ball rolls up to the green. You cannot throw an 80 yard shot at the pin and hot it stops on a dime. I am very good with my wedges and can spin them back on a dime on Bentgrass greens. This is not possible on the new Champion Bermuda greens in the Houston, Texas area.
When I travel to Houston, Texas to see my sister I always play at the Kingwood Country Club courses. Those that may not know, these are the courses in which Tin Cup was filmed. When playing the Island Course you will notice many of the holes that caused Roy McAvoy problems. If you happen to get out on this course, expect to play about five to 10 strokes worse than you would at your home course. It is long and the greens are extremely difficult.
In fact, when you travel to Houston expect to shoot some scores that will move your handicap up. Unless you are a scratch golfer that can truly spin the ball you are going to struggle with the greens. This will definitely be true if you travel to Houston with clubs that are not your own.
Every time I play the Kingwood courses I end up playing unfamiliar clubs. Having a putter that is new to me makes it miserable on the greens. When I have my White Hot Odyssey #9 mallet putter I am deadly on Bentgrass greens. Just last week I had a round in which I had 26 putts. When I use a bullseye putter on Champion Bermuda greens, you can expect one three putt after another.
When I take the clubs out in Houston, I expect to play poorly. In fact, I have never broken 80 in the state of Texas yet I break 80 over 50% of the time in my home state of North Carolina. I even break 80 when I play mountain courses that have Bentgrass greens.
If you go into Houston with the mindset that you aren’t going to shoot your normal rounds you will have a great time. Make a mental note that it gets extremely hot and humid in the summer months so you may want to avoid playing golf in June, July and August. Also remember that Houston tends to get a lot of rain during the summer months because of the humidity. You may have to get out early in the morning to have any chance to get 18 holes in.
My construction lawyer friend Robert Lovein has explained to me many times that different parts of Houston offer different “levels” of water during the summer but it seems every time I am in the area the courses seem to be wet. When you add a wet course to one that plays long and with difficult greens it is a recipe for disaster. This is something to think about when considering your options when trying to play golf in Houston.
You may also want to consider what time of year you plan to play. In North Carolina and Virginia we can play almost through December and into January. The months of February, March and even early April are just too cold to play. This is not true in the state of Texas. In Texas you can play year round and you really don’t have to worry about playing on hardpan fairways as the grass doesn’t die as quickly as in other states in the south.
Have you played golf in the City of Houston? Which courses do you suggest? Are there any courses that are not Champion Bermuda?
If you have played golf in Houston quite a bit, how have you adjusted to these style of greens? Have you learned to run it up even with front pin locations? Is going for every par 5 in two the smart thing to do since it is so difficult to spin wedges?
I would love to know your experiences when it comes to playing golf in the state of Texas. Any tips or strategies you have to make golf more enjoyable in the Lone Star State will be greatly appreciated. I know most people think of high school football and trucks when it comes to Texas, but I know there are plenty of great golf courses that I should play. Please feel free to leave some recommendations below.