Featured Golf News
La Torretta Rocks Lake Conroe Shoreline
About an hour north of downtown Houston and 40 miles from George Bush International Airport, the southern banks of sprawling Lake Conroe is a great place to get away from the big-city rat race and have some fun on and off the golf course.
The 15th Green at La Torretta
Assisting that worthy goal is La Torretta Resort & Spa, a fine, amenity-filled escape that will have visitors wanting to stay awhile and golfers seeking more opportunities to navigate its updated and playable track.
The resort, previously known as Del Lago, sits on the south side of an isthmus into Lake Conroe in the city of Montgomery, about 20 miles from Conroe and The Woodlands. La Torretta has been updated with an infusion of $130 million and is now run by Noble House Hotels & Resorts, one of the top boutique hotel firms in the country. It's also the home of a 6,921-yard, tree-lined course renovated in 2007 by golf architect Jeff Blume.
In the years leading up to the ownership change at La Torretta, the course and resort had aged poorly and fallen into the category of an also-ran whenever people came to relax on the big lake. That all changed with the resort's transformation and reopening in 2009.
"Today's La Torretta is not really a remodel or renovation of the previous resort because the property is almost unrecognizable compared to what it was prior to the work," said Al Luciano, the resort's director of sales and marketing. "Every area of the existing property was entirely rebuilt, from the primary guest tower, to the conference center and even a total rebuild of the golf course."
Blume's refashioned course sits off the lake but is still be buffeted by winds off the 21,000-acre water body. Though the track occupies the footprint of a course designed in the late 1970s by Dave Marr and Jay Riviere, Blume took the pine-lined routing and recreated a course that is challenging and fun. It will cede birdies to players who can execute shots, find the right spots via approaches to the massive greens, and roll their ball when they get there.
Among Blume's improvements were adding 150 yards to the course, reversing the nines to their original rotation, and repositioning a handful of greens. He also improved the visual aesthetics and maintainability, while changing the once-punitive par-4 ninth into a risk-reward par-5.
La Torretta's course now plays to a par 71, with three progressively tougher par-3s on the back-nine. Blume liked the layout's mature trees and well-defined corridors but sought to return shot values. He did so by positioning bunkers in the fairways to pinch the landing areas, while daring players to hit over them to optimize scoring chances. Pine straw in roughs adds borders to the course and provides a stark contrast to the lush fairways.
Take Chances if You Dare
La Torretta's course sports four sets of tees, the longest of which is rated at 73.3 and has a 132 Slope. Its fairways are tight and gently rolling with some contour and tilt, and there's enough water - though not Lake Conroe - to require focus. Doglegs move left and right as fairway mounds and grass hollows can bounce and grab drives and run-up approaches.
The opener is a seemingly benign 507-yard par-5, but it moves hard from right to left at the landing area; the turn is guarded by a huge pine. Taking a shot at the green in two is complicated by a two bunkers 40 yards short of the green and a string of sand along the right.
The 406-yard, par-4 third also turns right to left and has a fairway bunker on the port side of the optimal landing area. From the fairway the player is faced with a tight approach to a green protected by water left, trees at the back and a long sandy beach.
La Torretta's 9th Hole from the Tee
Hole Nos. 4 (456 yards) and 5 (448 yards) are meaty two-shotters that add spice and the need for distance off the starting blocks. Of the pair, the fifth is the most difficult (through the fourth is the No. 1 handicap hole) as it's narrower in the prime driving zone and has a smaller and better-protected green.
The aforementioned, 489-yard par-5 ninth is a sharp dogleg-right that involves a tricky approach on a narrow route bordered by water all the way to a putting surface pinched by water and two bunkers. The green slopes steeply from back to front and toward the left to the lake, making three-putts a real possibility.
The back nine at La Torretta is more scenic and not quite as tight. It has three fun but difficult par-3s as well as the fantastic 446-yard par-4 15th - the course's signature hole - thanks to its cascading waterfall. On this half of the course, players will be faced with more forced carries and several elevated greens and tees.
The 448-yard, dogleg-right, par-4 10th is one of the hardest holes here as it's long and well-guarded by bunkers along the fairway and around the green. The 425-yard, par-4 12th is also fronted 20 yards short of the green by two bunkers and another trap right of the putting surface. The elevated and bunker-squeezed green at the 204-yard, par-3 14th seems like it's a mile away and absolutely impossible to reach.
The 536-yard, par-5 18th is a memorable finisher - a downhill dogleg-right involving a risk-reward tee shot and a difficult approach to a raised green with a huge bunker and water along the right.
The golf course at La Torretta is like the resort itself: a fine place for adventure and to stay awhile.
The Main Tower at La Torretta Borders Lake Conroe
La Torretta Boasts a Little of Everything
Each of the La Torretta Resort's 445 guest suites offers water views, and the resort's recreational, meeting and dining facilities are a short walk from the hotel lobby and pitching-wedge distance from Lake Conroe.
The resort has a little bit for everyone, including its own sandy beach and activities such as beach volleyball, putt-putt golf, Jet Ski and houseboat rentals, three pools and a lazy river for the kids to float in.
For dining, La Torretta is the home of the lakefront Chez Roux restaurant, which offers an innovative take on modern French cuisine with an emphasis on locally harvested food and a great selection of wines. Other options include the lively Yoi Sushi Bar, right next to the lobby's piano bar; and Prime, a versatile eatery offering family, group or romantic options for guests.
The resort also offers a fitness center equipped with all the machines found at your local gym, tennis courts and a fabulous spa. If big get-togethers are what you have in mind, La Torretta's conference center was expanded into 73,000-square-foot of meeting space.
For more info, visit www.latorrettalakeresort.com.
Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's world correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports, covers the Longhorns for CBS Sports, is regional editor for Texas Golfer magazine and files stories for Golf Oklahoma magazine, Texas Links magazines and Golfers Guide. Habel's main blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com) features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another (www.checkinginandplayingthrough.blogspot.com)chronicles his many travels, on which he has played more than 350 golf courses since 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.