3 Minus 1 Equals Great Golf at Cypresswood

By: Steve Habel

There has been a recent trend of downsizing in the golf industry, whether forced by the current economic climate, the flattening of the game's growth curve, or through the general notion of survival of the fittest.

Cypresswoods Golf Club

Then there's Cypresswood Golf Club, one of the Houston area's most prominent daily-fee golf complexes. In 2010, Cypresswood, which is owned and managed by Foresight Golf of Boerne, Texas, decided to close one of the three courses to focus on the other two. The Creeks course was shuttered and is now a part of the area's Spring Creek Greenway Project.

The impetus for the move was not purely the economy; it was Foresight's idea that Cypresswood as a whole would be stronger and a better experience as a two-course option. "With the competition from a number of courses in the area, we get good play for two courses," said general manager Scott Cory. "We still have two championship-caliber tracks, and we only plan to make them better."

Cypresswood, located in the north Houston suburb of Spring near George Bush Intercontinental Airport, helped start the trend toward high-quality, daily-fee golf clubs in the area.

It sits on more than 800 acres of rolling, heavily wooded terrain alongside the confluence of Spring and Cypress creeks. With the original Cypress Course (designed by Rick Forester) and the much-ballyhooed Keith Foster-fashioned Tradition, Cypresswood boats two unique golf experiences and fine year-round playing conditions.

Cypresswood has hosted numerous amateur and professional events, including the first stage of PGA Tour School, the Southern Texas PGA Eastern Championship, the Shell Houston Open qualifier and several Futures Tour events. The facility was voted Best Airport Golf Courses in Houston by Links Magazine in 2010.

Cypresswood's Tradition Course

Tradition is the Bell Cow

Towering trees, no nearby homes and no out-of-bounds are just a few of the attributes of Tradition, Foster's tribute to Donald Ross. "I think of the course as a return to the game and its origin, pure and simple, and a place where you can have fun and get lost in the game," Foster said. He considers the land for Tradition some of the best he's seen in Texas.

The Tradition is 7,220 yards of lush, green fairways, enormous bunkers, ravines, creeks, ponds, tall pines, live oaks and magnolia trees. The big-shouldered, old-style layout challenges golfer to be accurate or suffer the consequences. On three holes players must negotiate pins tucked behind stacked stone walls and fronting ponds.

The Tradition opened in 1997 and carries a rating of 74.7 and a 135 Slope from its back set of five tees. Foster, who's known for his work at such luminous venues as Walking Stick, Bighorn, The Bandit and The Quarry, has designed a classic where what the player sees is right before him; there are no gimmicks or hidden obstacles, and there doesn't need to be.

The 448-yard, par-4 fourth is considered one of the toughest tests at Tradition. The tee shot must crest a hill to set up a downhill approach to a green framed by bunkers and water.

The Cypress Course

At 543 yards and moving slightly left to right, the par-5 12th is also one of the most challenging holes. A fairway bunker enters play off the tee and the landing area slopes downhill once beyond the bunker. A good drive over the bunker is ideal because of the extra roll, but be wary of a creek that skirts the rest of the hole.

Look for replicas of Carnoustie's "Spectacles" bunkers on the par-3 11th, a tough-as-nails 236-yard test. These "double-zero" traps are in the player's line of sight and will gobble up miss-hits and strain depth perceptions.

Golfers will do a double-take when reaching the "Double Gulch" at No. 15, a 394-yard par-4 with a tiny sliver of fairway between ravines that dares players to clear both hazards. No. 16 is a 472-yard par-4 followed by the 17th, the course's shortest two-shotter at 318 yards; it's imperiled by six bunkers and a pond on the right.

The 546-yard 18th is somewhat similar to the 12th as it's another long par-5 with fairway bunkers left and a creek that crosses the fairway on the approach. A lake along the left borders its length.

Tradition is long and old school, but there's room for the driver and there's the opportunity to utilize all your clubs. It's fun, fair and scenic. The course has been rated the top daily-fee venue in the Houston area by the Houston Chronicle four consecutive years.

Shot-makers Delight at Cypress

Opened in 1988 as Cypresswood's original course, Forester (son of Dick Forester, founder of the Houston Golf Association and a member of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame) is a track that caters to shot-makers. The routing possesses doglegs and rolling fairways among the tall pines and hardwoods lining the 6,906-yard, par-72 track.

Cypress forces players to work off uneven lies and avoid more water than the Tradition; in fact, water enters play on 16 holes. Adding to the difficulty quotient is a plethora of elevation changes and holes that end at raised greens ringed by swales and bunkers. Two of the highlights include the 427-yard, par-4 ninth - a left-to-right, downhill-then-uphill test to a narrow but deep green, and the 586-yard, par-5 15th, which features a creek that cuts across the fairway before the green.

The 413-yard 18th is a tough way to end a round. The hole can be stretched as long as 450 yards when the pin is set at the rear of its expansive putting surface.

Ball placement is crucial to success at Cypress as being on the wrong side of the tree- or water-lined fairways leaves obstructed shots to the greens. Inaccuracy will force low punch shots, fades or draws in the hopes of a miracle shot; some holes have towering trees in mid-fairway.

Cypress earned Golf Digest's ranking of the "Best New Courses" when it debuted. Avid Golfer magazine named it No. 3 on its list "Top-10 Mid-Priced Courses" in 2010.

For more information on Cypresswood, visit www.cypresswood.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.