As golf season winds down in Buffalo-Niagara, our attention turns to domes, trips and television. You have domes and your remote control device within reach, so leave the rest to me. I’m going to give offer up a nine-part series (this is part nine) on eclectic eighteens across the USA. The only thread tying them together is my having played them. That, and the fact that all of the courses are worthwhile. You’ll never play them all in one sweep, as I once did, but when you find yourself in these regions, know that these courses are worth your money and your best game.
Houston is a hotbed of golf talent and golf courses. La Torretta is the product of a little-known local architect named Jeffrey Blume, but its pedigree suggests someone deserving of more opportunities. La Torretta is located within 5-iron distance of Lake Conroe, but the course never touches the shores of the water.
LT manages to achieve the elusive two elements that each resort course strives to consolidate: challenging shots and playable holes. There is no shortage of H2O on the golf course, yet it never presents an impenetrable obstacle en route to the green. Trees line many holes, but these arboreal soldiers never pinch the fairways in a frustrating manner. Bunkers are often used to frame landing areas and greens, but the added surprise are the mid-fairway bunkers often located 40 yards shy of the putting surface, deceivingly presenting themselves as green-side hazards.
We played LT (as you can see from the images) on an overcast day, immediately following an extended period of rain. Despite the inundation, the course was extremely playable, as any standing water was found only on concrete (which is usually pretty impermeable.) The putting surfaces ran very true and the angle of attack from the fairway was quite different from side to side. A controlled driver of the ball will be in his element at La Torretta.
Primm Valley’s Desert 18 complements the Lakes course quite well. Both courses benefit from enormous bodies of water, but one had to be called Desert (right?) given the location of the golf complex. The Desert course at Primm is a bit more generous in terms of fairway width than its sister course, and begins with two excellent holes that wrap around an enormous reservoir. The day that I played, the greens were not at lightning speed, but they were close. Any play from above the hole had to be assessed well, then gingerly coaxed down the slope.
Once the third hole arrives, the Desert course offers great vistas across fairways. One pauses often to admire the scrub brush, the arroyos and the sandy wastelands that form the perimeter of holes. There is little traditional rough here, so balls that miss the fairway are often playable off a sand base. The siting of bunkers is quite strategic, leading one to plan a proper route from tee to green. Despite the visual intimidation of many features, the course is quite playable.
I’m not certain if I enjoyed more the playing or the photographing of the course. For an eastern lad, the American desert is a foreign landscape. Knowing that desert would surround both of his Primm Valley courses, Tom Fazio was still able to represent that desert in an artistic and functional way on this course. If you go around this layout, I guarantee that you will recall a great majority of the holes in precise detail.