HOUSTON -- So maybe you've got a long weekend or three afternoons during the week in Houston and about $200 to spend on golf. Not a problem, because $200 goes a long way in the Bayou City, and best of all, there's more than 100 golf courses from which to choose. All but one of them can be played for less than $100.
The one that's north of $100 is the Tournament Course at the Golf Club of Houston (formerly Redstone), home of this week's Shell Houston Open. But at around $175 plus forecaddie tip, it'd be the only course you play for your two Benjamins.
So with that in mind, let's set our goals a little modestly, which basically brings everything else into play. Choosing just three courses isn't easy, but my picks don't take you too far out of town, fit well within budget and are courses that say Houston all over them.
Tour 18 Golf Club
Ironically, my first choice isn't in Houston proper but Humble. It's the original Tour 18 Golf Club, just 15 minutes or so from Bush Intercontinental Airport.
This 20-year-old venue is the original copycat course, challenged in court by two of the venues it sought to imitate -- Pebble Beach and Harbour Town -- only to remain one of, if not the, best course of this type in America.
It does more than a bang-up job of giving golfers the feel that they're playing Amen Corner, the island green at the TPC Sawgrass and Oakmont of Bay Hill. For the average golfer, it's a chance to experience the feel of a course they will probably never play. Cost? Around $75 during weekend peak times but much cheaper during the week, especially during twilight.
Wildcat Golf Club
My second choice is the 36-hole Wildcat Golf Club. On weekends, it can run $75, but during the week, $50 or less isn't uncommon.
What I like about Wildcat, besides the fact that the two courses are fun to play and in excellent shape, is the location. Just a couple of miles south of NRG (formerly Reliant) Stadium, it's only 15 minutes from downtown or the Galleria, and there are great views of the stadium and the impressive Medical Center-area skyline from several spots on the courses.
Memorial Park Golf Course
And, finally, though getting a tee time isn't always easy, Memorial Park, a 78-year-old John Bredemes design that played host to the Houston Open for decades, is a must-play.
Located inside of Loop 610, this 7,200-yard championship layout was restored magnificently in 1995 by architect Carlton Gipson and remains one of the best munis in the country.
And while you're at Memorial, be sure to check out the great burgers at Beck's Prime, the food and beverage provider at Memorial. I promise these grilled burgers are among the best in the United States.
Even then, you're still likely to have $40 or $50 left for some more food or entertainment, so here are a couple more suggestions: Grab some barbecue at Rudy's, Papas or Goode Company.
Check out an Astros game at Minute Maid Park if it's baseball season (you can get tickets for $7). Or head out I-10 West or 1-45 North to one of the TopGolf locations if you want to hit a few more golf shots, enjoy the games on TV and eat some top-notch bar food at a futuristic, triple-tiered sports complex that golfers and nongolfers will enjoy.