By Art Stricklin
HOUSTON - When the sports world heads to this Southeast Texas mega city in February for Super Bowl 51, better known as Super Bowl LI in the National Football League lingo, they may or may not find themselves with great football or an interesting final NFL game, but they will arrive right in the middle of prime golf season in this Gulf Coast location.
From historic to high-tone and hidden gems, Houston and all of Southeast Texas has dozens of golf courses, with wintertime temperatures expected in the 70s, with low humidity, with plenty of green grass opportunity before the NFL's best teams meet on the local gridiron.
Probably Houston's most historic course is the public Memorial Park design just inside the Loop 610 highway. It was opened in 1936 in the height of the Great Depression and was designed by John Bredemus, known as the Father of Texas Golf, for the many famous courses he did in the Lone Star State.
Since opening, the course has hosted over five million golf rounds, been the site of a dozen PGA Tour Houston Opens and has been played by everyone from pro golf superstars to Hollywood War Bond heroes and thoroughly hooked Houston Hackers.
The course fell into disrepair in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was almost abandoned, but a local fundraising campaign and some brilliant restoration work by architects Jay Riviere and Dave Marr restored the course in 1995, and it's been going strong ever since.
The bargain public course prices and huge oak trees dripping with Spanish moss will be more than welcoming to Super Bowl guests and locals this fall.
Luckily, the course is less than a mile away, just across the highway, from the foremost Super Bowl lodging at which to see and be seen, the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa.
This hidden enclave of luxury will serve as the home for the visiting NFL owners and sponsors, and while rooms may be scarce, there will be plenty of places to meet, greet and see the beautiful people during football's biggest week.
The public can rub elbows with the sports elite in the historic Manor House for lunch or in the Bar at The Houstonian, where they will have Super Bowl themed cocktails and a high-end, and football fan atmosphere.
In the Olivette restaurant, there is the Barbara French Toast, named for former First Lady and Houston resident, Barbara Bush, who stayed here regularly with her husband George, when they were back home from the White House for a weekend.
Along with the 175,000 square foot adjacent Houstonian sports club and the 17,000 square foot luxury two-story Trellis the Spa, The Houstonian offers the most unique Texas Tycoon Weekend, perfect to complete a full Super Bowl weekend.
The Ultimate Texas Tycoon Weekend Includes:
* Three nights' accommodations in The Houstonian Hotel Capitol Suite
* Trellis Spa one Hair Style, one Classic Manicure, two Swedish Massages
* Custom Beaver Silver Belly Hat(s) from The Hat Store, $700 Gift Certificate
* Two pair of Custom Boots from Maida's Boot Company, $5,200 Gift Certificate
* One-hour, private Two-Step Lesson for Two at The Houstonian Club
* One-hour Helicopter Ride + Transfers to & from Airport Hangar
* In-Room Texas-tinis Cocktails & Cowboy Steak Dinner for Two with Sassacaia Super-Tuscan
* Classic Lunch at The Manor House Estate
* In-Room or Olivette Breakfast each morning
* Driver for Limo shopping and Honky-Tonk Night Out
* Shiner Beer, Chips & Salsa Welcome Amenity
If living like a Texas Tycoon fits into your schedule, then playing like a PGA Tour player should as well. The Golf Club of Houston is one of the few public access courses to host a PGA Tour event and the current site of the Shell Houston Open is open to all except for when the world's greatest players are here.
The chance to play where the Tour pros do is entirely possible in Houston as the Rees Jones designed tournament course is serving as the official NFL Super Bowl Committee layout during this year's big game.
It will be hosting the Fox Sports tournament on Saturday, February 4 and one of the NFL events on Friday, February 3. It will also host other sponsor organizations tournaments or outings during the week leading up to the big game. Players of all skills and abilities can try out their inner Jim Herman (2016 Champion) at this superb par 72 layout.
Perhaps the most unique course in the Houston area is the nearby Tour 18 layout, which was the first golf layout in America to serve up exact replicas of some of golf's most famous holes.
It came from a pair of Houston golfers lamenting that most players could never play golf's most iconic holes from Augusta National Golf Club, TPC-Sawgrass or Hilton Head, so they decided to make their own exacting copies in the suburb of Humble.
The course survived a legal challenge from layouts which didn't believe imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, and now thrives as one of the most popular and unique challenges in the area.
Tiger Wood recently opened his first public course anywhere in America in nearby Montgomery at Bluejack National, recently named the best new private course in America while golf legend Jack Burke, Jr., still oversees prestine Champions Country Club.
While the Super Bowl's final showdown may command the attention of the sports world for one day, the balmy Houston-area conditions will offer plenty of non-football diversions for a super-sized golf trip.