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Choices make BlackHorse Golf Club one of Houston's Best
Golfers love to be tested, and when course designers offer a handful of choices for players to consider, that sense of challenge is always ratcheted up a few notches.
Aerial View of the Wetlands
& Forced Carries at BlackHorse
BlackHorse Golf Club is all about choice, thanks to a pair of demanding 18-hole courses routed over, across and through varying landscapes that make the player think before every shot.
Located in the north Houston suburb of Cypress and fashioned by the duo of Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy, BlackHorse's two courses - called North and South - opened for play in 2000. In 2002 and '03, the courses were rated as the No. 1 Daily Fee Facility in Houston by the Houston Sporting News and were ranked in the Top 10 of America's Best Courses at $100 or less by Travel & Leisure Golf Magazine.
BlackHorse is surrounded by housing developments, but the courses are traditional in style, thanks to a plethora of mature trees - majestic oaks, live oaks and pine - that lend the tracks an aged feel. The courses' rolling landscape is rarely found in the flatlands around the nation's fourth-largest city, which make them both testing and beautiful.
And thanks to teeing grounds that offers six locations to accommodate golfers of all levels, BlackHorse can be fun without being intimidating. "These courses offer every golfer the opportunity to play a challenging yet fair round of golf," Jacobsen said. "The details, layout and environmental use of the land make this a truly special place."
BlackHorse fairways are TifSport grass, while the greens feature smooth-running TifEagle. Around the layouts are wetlands, oxbows, palmetto and huge oaks that attract ducks, egrets and sand hill cranes.
"We designed these courses to use the natural terrain and features of the area," Hardy said. "The use of the creek, lakes and wetlands, as well as the sand quarry (on the South Course), and magnificent trees combine to render this course unique among daily-fee courses."
Jacobsen's and Hardy's "green" mantra spurred them to save integrity of the land and surrounding environment and that enhanced its natural beauty. The trees at BlackHorse were protected to minimize the affects on the land and to maximize environmental stewardship.
The designers designed BlackHorse with a goal that the courses' accessibility would attract loyal players and create interest among new golfers of all ages. They consider the "creative" tee distances another draw. "We designed the courses to offer challenging play without sacrificing enjoyment," Jacobsen said. "The layouts are superior and require all the clubs in your bag. You can swing away with the driver on most holes. You'll appreciate lots of changes throughout the course no matter your skill level."
Signature 6th Hole at BlackHorse North
North is Wider & Tougher
Carved into a lush landscape of lakes, wetlands and a meandering creek, the North Course is the tougher of the two tracks, but can also be more forgiving for long hitters who can also scramble.
North runs in and out of trees and wetlands and is a great example of classic golf as a core experience. Playing at a par of 72 and at 7,301 yards from its "Big Jake" tees, North offers ample places to bang the driver. From the tips North carries a rating of 75.0 and a slope of 130, but plays tougher than these numbers.
The 420-yard par-4 fourth is one of North's sternest tests, turning slightly left to right over a small hill. With water down the entire right side, huge bunkers, an elevated green and usually playing into the wind, the hole is a real doozy.
Reverse your direction on the 419-yard par-4 fifth, which - despite the near-exact yardage of its predecessor - is not quite its equal. Here, the water is again on the starboard side, but a drive played over the large bunker on the left side of the landing area will find a speed slot and additional length.
The 179-yard, par-3 sixth is North's signature hole. Playing as much as two clubs more if the wind in your face (it usually is), the tee shot must clear an old oxbow with native palmetto growing in the creek bottom. The green is fortified with railroad ties and three bunkers surround the left side of a severely sloping green that tips rightward toward the hazard. Being on the correct side of the slope is a key to avoiding difficult putts.
Beginning at the 425-yard par-4 ninth, North gets much tougher, mostly because of a series of taxing two-shotters. Every par-4 on the back-nine stretches at least 436 yards, and three of them - the 457-yard 10th, the 441-yard 12th and the difficult 462-yard 15th - will tax your long-iron game.
Those struggles are rewarded with a great closing hole. No. 18 is a real beauty, a par-5 playing at 546 yards that requires longer hitters to stay left of the fairway bunkers right of the landing area. The second shot can be a lay-up to the left side of the fairway or you can take a stab at the green, which is tucked behind a huge pond with a view of the new clubhouse.
Final Stretch Highlights Much Tighter South
Talking about choices - the South Course at BlackHorse requires you to make scads of decisions. Featuring varied environs, including a former sand-quarry-turned-wetlands, South boasts tight corridors lined by elm, ash and oak sculpted around large lakes to a fabulous finishing stretch. The final six holes play through an expansive sand quarry transformed into a colorful array of wetlands.
Jacobsen and Hardy love long and demanding par-4s and South delivers those nearly as well as its sister track. On the front nine alone three of the five two-shotters extend more than 444 yards and, because South requires more accuracy, these may be tougher than the holes of like distance on North.
But the South's front side also sports two par-5s, the 514-yard fifth and the 518-yard ninth, that can be attacked in two, making up for some of the struggle on its par-4s.
BlackHorse South's 17th Hole
Two more long par-4s (the 12th and 14th, playing at 476 and 461 yards, respectively) will determine your state of mind heading into the final stretch.
No. 15 is a 560-yard par-5 that can be reached in two, but dire consequences await any poorly struck shot. A creek runs across the fairway and wetlands protect the entire left side, while seven bunkers guard the green on the other side of the creek.
At 368 yards, the 16th is a drivable par-4 if played down the left side. The tee shot must carry the wetlands in front that skirt the left of the fairway, however, and there's a run-up area over the trouble in front of the green that allows you to land short of the putting surface.
No. 17 is perhaps the best par-3 on South. Playing at 199 yards and surrounded by wetlands, with a winding water-level bridge about 100 yards long up to the elevated green, this is one of BlackHorse's most scenic holes. But don't get too caught up in the view as precision counts here.
18th Green at BlackHorse's South
South concludes with a 515-yard par-5 that is, again, reachable in two. The approach must traverse a deep ditch, and the green runs away on the left and rear, so play wisely.
South is rated at 74.7 and sloped at 138, but your score will rise if you can't keep tee balls in the short grass. It's a fun track with a little bit of everything, including real birdie chances on its finishing holes.
The practice facility at BlackHorse Golf Club, located by the North Course, is state-of-the-art, with a dedicated teaching center and tees on both ends. The teaching center is an invaluable resource for touring pros, business people and golfers at every level of the game. Former PGA touring professional and NCAA champion Marty Fleckman serves as BlackHorse's director of instruction, offering a wide variety of developmental programs for all ages.
For additional information, visit www.blackhorsegolfclub.com.
Houstonian Offers Unparalleled Accommodations
BlackHorse Golf Club is owned and operated by Redstone Golf Management, the same folks that run the two courses at the Redstone Golf Club in Humble (the Tournament course there is home of the Shell Houston Open) and the Houstonian Golf and Country Club (site of the 2009 LPGA Tour Championship).
Redstone also has in its stable the spectacular Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa. When it comes to Houston hotels, there truly is nothing like The Houstonian. Long known as one of the finest hotels in the Bayou City, The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa is situated on an 18-acre wooded oasis right in the heart of the city. For more information, visit www.houstonian.com.
Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Texas CEO Magazine and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com), which features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another (www.checkinginandplayingthrough.blogspot.com) on his many travels, which took him across the nation and to 105 different golf course in 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.
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