HOUSTON -- Having lived in the Bayou City for most of the last 30 years, I get this question when I travel the country: "I know golf is year-round in Houston, but are there any resorts in the area?"
It's a good question, because when you think of Houston, you think of the energy industry, the port of Houston and maybe the Galleria -- not golf resorts. But yes, Virginia, there are golf resorts in the Houston area but not many. And while none of them are spectacular, there are actually some pretty good values.
Couple that with Houston's great early spring and late fall weather, and you've got the recipe for an affordable and enjoyable golf vacation.
Here's a quick look:
Moody Gardens Resort
When the Moody Foundation took over the municipal course in Galveston just south of Houston everything changed, especially the Moody Gardens golf course, which was redone by Peter Jacobson and Jim Hardy in 2008.
The new design raised the level of the original Carlton Gipson course three feet or more, exposing its many water hazards that once appeared hidden. Paspalum throughout also creates a stunning look and conditions are always top-notch.
On top of that, the course is located right next to the Galveston airport and across from Moody Gardens, a resort that also offers biospheres, a water park, beach area, spa, restaurants and children's activities.
The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center
Perhaps the Houston area's best known resort, the Woodlands Resort & Conference Center offers 36 holes of golf, a spa, restaurants and some pretty nice accommodations, much of which was recently renovated.
The resort used to be the home of the Houston Open, when the former TPC at The Woodlands (renamed the Tournament Course and part of the Woodlands Country Club, which is private) hosted the tournament and was a part of the resort.
La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa
Under new ownership a few years ago, the former Del Lago Resort was renamed La Torretta. Both the golf course and the large hotel on Lake Conroe north of Houston have been greatly upgraded. Local architect Jeff Blume redesigned the course, and it's been thriving as of late, especially with the influx of more population to the north of Houston. The resort, which is reasonably priced, has more than 400 modern, comfortable rooms in the tower, renovated bungalows, eight restaurants, a full service spa and plenty of meeting space.
Columbia Lakes Resort & Conference Center
Down in West Columbia -- southwest of Houston, just off the coast -- Columbia Lakes Resort, Conference Center and Country Club makes for nice retreat. Originally opened in 1973 by the Tenneco Co., Jack Miller was the original architect before Tom Fazio embarked on his first Texas project by redesigning the Columbia Lakes golf course. With plenty of lakes, mature live oaks and Spanish moss and interesting doglegs, it's a good test.