HOUSTON -- One of the great things about the host course for the PGA Tour's Shell Houston Open is that it's open to the public. And although the rack rate, which includes a forecaddie, is a little more than $150, Houston-area daily-fee golf might be among the most affordable in the country.
In fact, the Golf Club of Houston (formerly Redstone Golf Club) is the only daily-fee course in the area significantly over $100. Black Horse Golf Club and Wildcat Golf Club are right around $100 during peak times on weekends, but you can usually play them for less. Most quality courses in the Houston area are in the $40 to $60 range.
So if you're in town for the Shell Houston Open or in Houston on business or pleasure any other time of the year, here are my picks for the top 10 courses in the Houston area, regardless of price.
For the most part, I kept the courses within a half hour or so of downtown, with the exception of The Wilderness in Lake Jackson, southwest of Houston.
A few others that also might be worth the drive would include the very affordable municipals, Eagle Pointe Golf Club in Mont Belvieu to the east, and Moody Gardens Golf Course in Galveston, as well as 27-hole River Ridge Golf Club near Sealy, west of Houston.
Top 10 public courses in Houston
This former home of the Insperity Championship on the Champions Tour is owned by one of the previous owners of Tour 18. But instead of 18 replica holes, Augusta Pines is inspired by Augusta National and Pinehurst to create an enjoyable championship test.
Lake Jackson, Texas
For those not familiar with the area, this Jeff Brauer-designed Audubon Sanctuary course qualifies as a hidden gem. It's a solid championship golf course on a beautiful piece of land with imaginative holes, including a par 5 that ends with a green that's 180 feet long.
There are two 18-hole courses at Wildcat, both designed by Roy Case, both built on a landfill and old oil field, and both feature great views of the city and NRG Stadium. The Highlands is links style and perhaps the better of the two courses, while Wildcat's Lakes Course, as you might guess, has plenty of water and actually a little elevation change.
This is the original replica course. And while there are other courses that have tried to mimic Amen Corner at Augusta, Tour 18 Houston might have the best rendition. Plus, there's the island green from the PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, church pew bunkers of Oakmont, The Blue Monster and many other fun imitations.
One of Greg Norman's better designs, Meadowbrook Farms made quite a splash when it opened in 1999. The layout features some of the area's best risk-reward holes, especially when it comes to the par 5s.
This 1936 John Bredemus design in the middle of the city played host to the Houston Open from 1951 to 1963 and was wonderfully restored in 1995. Today, at more than 7,300 yards, this parkland layout is the home of the Greater Houston City Amateur.
Another terrific, 36-hole facility, the South Course is more memorable of the two Jim Hardy-Peter Jacobsen designs northwest of Houston, primarily because of the quarry holes on the back nine. Always meticulously maintained, the facility also has excellent practice facilities, dining and a golf shop.
Designed by local resident and former PGA Tour player Steve Elkington, Woodforest Golf Club, located just north of The Woodlands, just keeps getting better with time. The 27-hole facility has played host to numerous high-level amateur events and Champions Tour qualifying. It also just got a brand new clubhouse.
Down to 36 holes after one course closed a few years ago, the pine tree-lined Cypresswood Golf Club has two solid layouts in the Traditions Course and Cypress Course. Both have played host to Shell Houston Open qualifier, but the Tradition Course, which has been the site of PGA Tour Qualifying tournaments, is exceptional with its beautiful routing, no homes and excellent conditioning.
Although the course isn't very walkable, the host site for the Shell Houston Open has the best collection of holes of any daily fee in the area. It's also the best conditioned, especially in the spring right before and after the Masters, since it's heavily overseeded. Most importantly, architect Rees Jones created 18 memorable holes with plenty of water and a dynamite finishing stretch.
Video: Matt Ginella on the best courses to play in Houston