People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

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People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby thurman » Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:26 pm

Group 5 of the GKL People's Top 18 goes off today. Here's your chance to determine the best courses in the state! Next up...

Fore please, Houston Oaks Golf Club in Paris, KY.

If you've played it, you can rate it. Please use the following categories and rate on a scale of 1-5, as below (it's a tough scale, 3 is a pretty good score):

1 - Poor
2 - Okay
3 - Solid
4 - Very good
5 - Superb

Aesthetics – Is it scenic? Does the course “fit” its natural surroundings? Are the views unobstructed? Points off here for homes or buildings or power lines encroaching on the course, or other eyesores.

Ambience – Does the course feel “special”? Is it quiet? Is it a friendly, pleasant, or unique place to play in terms of atmosphere? Does it have intangibles that make you want to return? Points off here for loud highways, crappy customer service, pissy locals, and other things that negatively impact a course’s atmosphere.

Conditioning – Are the greens smooth? Do they run at the right speed? Are the fairways full? Does it play fast? Are the bunkers maintained? Points off here for slow or bumpy greens, dead spots in fairways, neglect, and unplayable bunkers.

Use of property – Does the course use its land well? Do natural slopes provide interest on shots? Are the course’s natural features used (water, trees, terrain, etc)? Does it drain well? Points off here for holes that ran out of room, constant drainage issues, unplayable slopes, wasted or misplaced features.

Risk/reward – Does the course give you opportunities to take a risk for some potential gain over the player who doesn’t take the same risk? Does the course extract a penalty if you fail? Does it make you want to hit dangerous shots? Points off here for forced conservative plays, cakewalk short par 4s and 5s with little danger.

Test of the full game – Can different types of players be successful? Does the course reward accuracy as much as it rewards distance? Is touch around greens as important as hitting strong full shots? Is putting as important as driving? Points off here for courses over-reliant on length, holes that don’t give short hitters a chance to put the ball in play, courses with interest tee to green but flat dull greens, etc.

Design variation – Is there a good mixture of short, medium, and long par 4s? Are the par 5s unique? Do you hit different clubs on the par 3s? Are there uphill and downhill holes? Are there doglegs left and right? Are different challenges present from one hole to the next? Points off here for repetitive shots, a ton of 380 yard par 4s, etc (note: It’s okay for a course to be cohesive. It’s ok if a course is “old school,” “wooded,” or “links style.” It just needs to present unique challenges throughout).

Memorability – Pretty simple: Do you remember it after you play it? Are there shots you replay in your head and think about before your next round? Do holes stand out for the right reasons? Points off here for forgettable holes or memorably bad holes.
"Focus on golf. Screw everything else." - Earl Woods
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby kygolf99 » Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:59 pm

Aesthetics-3
Ambience-1
Conditioning-3, based on this year, normally best greens in Central KY..lets hope they return
Use of Property-4
Risk/Reward-3
Full Game-3
Design-3
Memorability-2

Total=22
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby moe » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:57 pm

4, 3, 3, 4, 3, 3, 3, 3= 26

Usually good grass and greens, and I love those old Oaks.

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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby wilma » Wed Dec 21, 2011 8:16 pm

4,4,3,5[great land layout IMHO. Opposite of KDV, this course challenges well from the front]4,3,4,3 = 30 Solid Top 18 in my book.

Doug
125yd hole out for Eagle at #7, Stonelick Hills, with a 9-iron. 6/13/06. 115yd Hole out for Eagle on #9, Stonelick Hills. 10/22/08.
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby Docugs » Thu Dec 22, 2011 12:10 pm

54433323- 28 pretty good course probably one of the better ones, not very long only 6700 or so from the tips.
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby A-Dub » Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:47 pm

3 3 4 4 3 4 3 2
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby thurman » Fri Dec 23, 2011 8:47 am

Aesthetics - 3: Take away holes 11, 12, and 17 and it's probably a 5.

Ambience - 4: I've never had a problem with service there, though I know others have. For me, the drive in to Houston Oaks from Lexington is the best drive to any golf course, culminating with that tiny entrance road that runs alongside 14.

Conditioning - 4: I'm knocking off a point for their struggles late this year, but with the assumption that they'll get their greens back soon enough. Until this year they've consistently been as good in this category as any course in the state.

Use of property - 2: A lot of missed opportunities. 17 is an obvious "ran out of room" hole. 10 feels awkward and forced, and 18 isn't much better. I hate the placement of the water hazard on 4, as it could've provided much more interest as a risk/reward diagonal carry. Imagine if the 4th tee and 3rd green switched places, making 3 a dogleg with an uphill approach to a benched green and 4 a hole where you can carry the water off the tee, but the carry gets longer (and the angle better, in an ideal world) the farther right you go. Would've made a much more interesting two holes in my mind at least.

Risk/reward - 1: I see none on any of the par 5s unless there's a very stiff helping wind on 10 that makes cutting the dogleg a legitimate option (sure 17 has water in front, but good players probably aren't intimidated when hitting their 7-iron 2nd). The two short par 4s both have little risk on the tee shot and actually have more trouble in the layup area. I guess you could make the case that hugging the stream off the tee at 14 sets up a better approach angle, but I don't really see that. It seems like every shot on this course has a clear, straight-ahead target area with few decisions to be made and little risk to take on.

Test of the full game - 4: It's a course anyone can play, and I think it does a better job than most courses of rewarding players no matter their strength and penalizing players no matter their weakness.

Design variation - 3: The par 3s are all downhill aside from 12. Most of the holes move downhill. There's pretty good variation in length though.

Memorability - 2: Seems about right.

This is a decent course that probably gets too much credit. It's usually in good shape and it's mostly in a great setting. The golf itself, though, isn't very interesting. It's a challenging, visually appealing layout, but the design lacks "brains" and the opportunity for aggressive plays and heroic moments. To me, it's handicapped by a lack of truly interesting shots and holes.
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby moe » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:47 pm

I'd like to take this opportunity to disagree with most of what Thurman just said.
In fact I almost believe he is rating the wrong course.

#17 is a great risk/reward par 5. I rated it excellent and have never gone for it in 2.
I have seen Jason and Ron try it with varying degrees of sucess.
If he plays a 483 yard par five with driver, 7 iron, then why wouldn't he hit a draw around the corner on #10,
and go for that 559 yard par five with driver, 5 iron. :!:
Number 10 requires 2 solid, well placed shots to have a chance at par. It's a good par 5.
Number 11 is a dangerous 380 yard par 4 over water that I rate excellent.
Number 12 is 165 yard par 3 with trouble to the left and right of the tiny green.
I agree that it is squeezed in there, but it ain't easy.
2,7, and 15 are all similar looking par 3s, but of the kind that I like.
Number 18 is a 427 yard uphill, well bunkered, par 4.
I don't like the hidden bunkers on the corner of the dogleg, but it's a tough finishing hole.

The changes suggested for holes 3 and 4 would probably have worked,
and hole 3 is pretty boring as it is.

I'm using an old scorecard to aid my memory and may have just noticed another reason I like Houston Oaks.
On this card, in an unnamed year, Jimmy "the Gump" and I both shot 81! :roll: :shock:
Jim from the tips and me fron the whites at 6446 yards.
He birdied 7 and 14, while I birdied 5, and 12.
Ron had 82 with a hole-in-one at 2 and birdie at 8.
Jason shot 85 in a birdie free round.
No wonder I saved this card.
And I certainly hope I won some money! :!:

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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby LordofthePings » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:54 pm

I think I played this course once. :oops: Can't really remember, though. So I maybe I haven't played it?

Does remind me of a story, though. I was at work about 20 years or so ago, talking to a co-worker, and I noticed he had a hole-in-one ball on his desk, with plaque. We discussed, he's had a couple, I've had none. Then this other guy comes in and says "yeah, I got a hole-in-one once....or maybe I just got really close....I can't remember."

Anyway, I guess I'm DNP.
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby thurman » Fri Dec 23, 2011 1:31 pm

Moe, I've played Houston Oaks about a dozen times. It's a course that I enjoy, though I wouldn't make any trip out of my way to play it. I gave it an overall rating of 23 I think, which is about on par with a mid-tier course in this contest for me. I've given plenty of lower ratings overall and several higher. I think your main disagreement is on the risk/reward category though, so I'll address that one.

To me, risk/reward means I can choose to play a more dangerous shot for a chance at some gain on the course. I think most of us would agree with that definition, but the key word for me is "choose." It implies options. Risk/reward tends to be easiest to find on par 5s, but it's also there on good par 4s and even an occasional par 3. I'll give a few examples of why I think Houston Oaks fails on that category.

The par 5s are all pretty simple, at least from the tees I play. The first is a straightforward, 530-ish yard par 5 that plays downhill and always seemed shorter than that yardage to me. There's no choice to make on the drive or the second shot. They both just require a straight hit toward the target. Nothing to risk that I see.

5 is a sweeping dogleg right with bunkers on the inside, but from the tees I play they aren't really in play for even a decently struck shot. If the bunkers were a tougher carry but gave a chance at reaching in 2, while playing left of them was safe but meant you'd be stuck reaching in 3 at best, that would be risk/reward. But instead, the bunkers are short and, at least for me, I have no problem carrying them even with a mishit tee shot. Anyone who struggles to carry them probably can't reach in 2 anyways. Again, nothing to risk.

10 has so many trees on the left that block out cutting the dogleg, it almost isn't an option at all. It's pretty much a hole that forces a shot well right of the direct line to the green, and from there you either have the distance to reach or you don't. Again, there's no choice to make. I did once play it in a stiff helping wind, and there's a slot through the trees you can use to cut the dogleg. It's probably a 320 yard carry. I made it downwind that day and went driver-PW over the back of the green. But in normal conditions, for a player with my length, it's just not an option. Maybe Tour players can carry it 320 without help, but I can't. Again, nothing to choose, nothing to risk, just hit two good shots.

17 is a 480 yd "par 5" with water fronting the green. I don't really believe par makes a difference in the playing merits of a hole, so I'll simply ask this: If it were on the card as a par 4, would it still be a risk/reward hole? Or would it just be "hard?" You can probably guess my answer. Players with decent length aren't risking anything on the approach to that hole other than a mishit 3-7 iron, which they're probably just as likely to do with a SW. I just don't see the risk.

I talked about 14 as a blown opportunity for a risk/reward par 4 (I still think it's a very good hole, and my favorite on the course, but I don't see risk/reward on it), and 6 and 16 are both short 4s that take no risk to overpower. The 3rd, as you mentioned, is dull. It'd be a much better hole if hugging the hazard on the left (risk) gave a better angle of approach to the green (reward), but it doesn't. 4 is a dictated layup, which takes risk/reward out of the equation. I agree that 11 is a dangerous and good par 4, but again, it's not a risk/reward hole. You simply hit two straight shots and the second has to carry water, there's no strategy or choice involved. 12 is also a challenging hole, but it's simply a "hit it straight or you're screwed" hole with water left and bunkers right. 17 at Sawgrass is also a challenging hole but it's not a risk/reward hole either. It's sandwiched by two good R/R holes though, and you can't say the same for 12 at Houston Oaks.

Not every hole has to have risk/reward opportunities, obviously, but a course should have several. Great courses have lots. Houston Oaks doesn't. Mostly, it just requires straight, good shots. It's challenging, but there's not much risk/reward out there that I see.
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby JP » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:18 pm

Aesthetics - 3. Beautiful golf course setting on a old horse farm. Creeks, elevation changes and rolling terrain are the feature here for all but 1 or 2 holes. Houses are more present than they used to be but are far enough away not to be too detrimental. I do wish there weren't the power lines crossing #10 fairway. They can definitely be in play.

Ambience - 4. Count me among those that have also never had customer service issues here although I acknowledge others have as has been reported here in the past. As thurman notes the drive in is quite lovely especially the turn in from the 4 lane.

Conditioning - 4: I'm sorry to hear that this has been an issue this year. I last played here in the spring and it was it's usual great conditions. Locally, only Cherry Blossom surpasses it annually of the courses that I play. Greens typically run fast and smooth and fairways are lush and cut tight usually by the first week in March.

Use of property - 3. This layout is solid although if I compare it to others in it's class in the area (Cherry Blossom, Bull, Gibson Bay) I find it's just not as good to my mind. The best holes aren't as good as the others and it's weaker holes aren't either. I love this course but that's just how I see it having recently played the others to make a fair comparison.

Risk/reward - 2 I will split the difference between Moe and thurman here. I think 17 is a solid risk reward albeit one which I can almost never take the risk on. I simply don't place the ball in the correct location to take advantage of the risk. I'm usually over 200 out which means I have to lay up. On those rare occasions when my drive has caught the slope and rolled out to a distance where I can attempt the shot, I find that tiny green a real bear to hit and hold. I have only ever had 1 eagle attempt and only a couple of birdies for my efforts. I disagree with thurman about 16. I would think for long hitters that is tempting especially in the fall. I don't have the length to make it although I can get it to the base of the big tree, surely for the longer player that is a good risk/reward opportunity? Other than those 2 however I would grant you there's not much available especially for us shorter hitters.

Test of the full game - 3. Again solid but not overly demanding. 4 and 8 are the real bears for me. I have never parred 4 or hit that green in regulation and my results aren't much better on 8. The back nine I find to be much easier to score on except 18 which is a pretty beastly finishing hole at least for a player of my length.

Design variation - 3. The front nine par 3s are pretty similar in feel and length although the water on 7 is intimidating in the right wind. Overall though the holes are varied enough I guess if just a little bit pedestrian.

Memorability - 3. The drive to the course. 13 and 14 and probably 4 are what I find most memorable. Solid, but no wows.
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby thurman » Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:55 pm

JP, Re: 16, there's no doubt longer hitters can reach it or get close. When you and I played there together several years back I drove it onto the fringe at 16, and I don't think I'm especially long. I've just never thought there was much risk. There's a "native grass" area up the right side the first 220 yards or so on that hole, so really, the biggest risk is laying up. Hit it past that junk and it's all clear up around the green aside from the tree. I think it's a pretty clear green-light hole: all reward and not much risk.
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby JP » Fri Dec 23, 2011 10:06 pm

I see what your saying but my thinking is anywhere around that tree is death. The green is elevated relative to the rest of the hole and tough to keep the ball on if you attack it from the sides. At least that's my experiences. I've hit good drives only to get to close to that tree on the left and be left with a difficult punch shot to the green. Now I just try and lay it out to where the cart path turns toward seventeen and that leaves me a short, straight on wedge in to the green which is pretty easy to hit from that angle.

I guess being a shorter hitter makes me think it would be more appealing to the longer player but risky due to the presence of the tree and the shape of the green.
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby foreleft » Tue Dec 27, 2011 5:53 pm

I've only played it four times, but really like this course. I'm not sure about your points on the risk/reward. I remember the rough being pretty tough out there the times I have played it. I don't want to be anywhere off the fairway on 16. 17 is a tough tee shot in my opinion. At least to get close enough to go for it in two. Lots of nasty stuff around that green. Water, swampy areas, and uneven lies. Much easier to layup and have an easy wedge or half wedge from the fairway. I always have hit driver off that tee to try and get to sweet go for spot. #18 reminds me of 18 at big blue. Like they just got sick of designing the course and just finished the project. #10 is awesome. I agree with Thurman but I still always want to cut that corner because it looks so cool. I eagled #10 with a hole out from 100 yards in the middle of the fairway. #11 is another hole where my lack of brains shine. I always want to try and put it down by the water, so I make it risk/reward.

4,3,4,3,3,3,4,3 = 27

I need to get back there in 2012. Good place to get buckeyes in late summer. I've played Lexington CC down the street a few times and like HO more. Still give Kearney the nod as Lexington's finest public.
Not raking a bunker.
Littering is wrong too.
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Re: People's Top 18: Houston Oaks

Postby cesmal » Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:36 pm

4,4,4,3,3,3,4,4 -29

Nice course. Love the drive in and all of the old oaks.
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