Houston Oaks Golf Course was built in 1996 on the former Bunker Hunt Horse Farm. And is appropriate that after driving past Lexington Country Club, you drive by numerous, expansive, and beautiful horse farms as you travel up US 27 towards Houston Oaks.
For a city of its size, Lexington, Kentucky is highly blessed with a number of great public golf courses and Houston Oaks is certainly towards the top of the list.
The first hole (par 5, 533 yards) at Houston Oaks is a downhill, reachable par 5. OB is left, but not really in play. Split the trees on the tee shot, and keep your approach shots towards the right.
It looks like they are going to build houses right up against the OB line, and that’s a shame because it is going to take from the hole. At the green, you’ll see the first of many greens that are narrow from left to right.
As you can see with the second hole (par 3, 205 yards), I wanted to rename this course “Football Upright Oaks”. This hole is a prime example of this. From an elevated tee, there are two oaks that you need to hit your tee shot over or through. A low/mid capper should have no problem lofting a mid or long iron over the trees, but I could see where this hole could give high cappers and ladies fits.
The third hole is a shorter par 4, normally playing 394 yards, but the tees were up when I played. This wasn’t the first hole where this happened. I took this picture from the normal back tee, but you can see the tips (blues) are where the whites usually are, and the whites are up with the yellows. I hope the course was doing this for reasons other than “it’s a weekend, so let’s put tees up to make the course easier”.
Hole 4 (425 yards) in my view is the toughest hole on the course despite its ranking as 3 handicap. An accurate tee shot is a must as the second shot must carry a creek and be split between trees. I did like the mix of force carry and being able to play ground shots at Houston Oaks, though one will see more of the former in the back 9.
At number 5 (par 5, 530 yards), wind and tee position will dictate whether the golf chooses to carry the bunkers on the right. Despite a wind in my face, the tees were up so much that I had no problem carry the bunkers, leaving me just over 200 for my second shot.
Those going for the green in two will meet bunkers 30-40 yards short of the green as well as green side bunkers. My second shot found one of those bunkers and I was unable to get up and down for birdie. Conditions of the bunkers were varied. These didn’t have much sand in them, where as ones later (#15) were a bit softer. Also notice more “uprights”.
After the short par 4 6th comes the par 3 7th (par 3, 178 yards). Overall, I felt the three pars at Houston Oaks were pretty decent and this one I would rank right behind #15. The green calls for a draw. With the hole being downhill and downwind when I played, my 7 iron went to the back of the green.
The final two holes on the back 9 are long, uphill par 4s. Notice the pattern on hole 8 with the upright targets behind the green. If hole 9 plays the back tee, I could see it being the number 1 handicap hole. On the day I played, it was NOT the hardest hole in the course in the least.
The back 9 at Houston Oaks is much different than the front. Much more water in play, and (unfortunately) more houses in play. 10 is a reachable par 5 (559 yards) depending on how much of the sharp dogleg left the player chooses to carry. One must content with bunkers left and water right for their second/third shots.
11 (par 4, 380 yards) is the first of many forced carries on the back 9. The tee shot can be played safely with a long iron or fairway wood, but the bunker will gobble any stray shots to the right. Driver brings the water into play. The green slopes back to front and is probably the most severely sloped green on the course. If the pin is in the back, as it was when I played, be sure to make it up to the top tier.
Number 12 is easily the most scary par 3 on the course. Measuring 173 from the tips, the green is narrow and undulating, protected by bunkers right and left. Wind coming off the lake will most likely affect tee shots as well. Get your par and move on.
Had the tees have been in the position they normally are on 14 (par 4, 439 yards), this hole would be a brute. Long par 4 with a forced carry on the second shot to a long, but narrow green. However, when I played, the tees were about 100 yards up, making this a 3 wood, short iron hole, which while nicer to the score card, didn’t make the hole as challenging as I think the course designer, Jack Ridge, had in mind.
15 is a drop shot par 3 (173 yards) to the smallest green on the course. Is is my favorite hole on the course due to the precision necessary to navigate it, and the undulations in the green. If you’re lucky enough to hit the green, a two putt par is not guaranteed.
16 is probably the best opportunity for birdie on a non par 5 hole. At 333 yards and no bunkers, if you can hit a long draw, you’ll sit pretty. The green is elevated, so missing the green with your first or second shot could lead to a tricky up and down.
After going through the barn for the second time, golfers will find the last forced carry is on hole 17 (par 5, 483). Certainly reachable, but one must contend with OB right and water left. The green is not that big, so a precise second shot. The home hole (par 4, 427) is uphill and doglegs right. One can cut the corner of the dogleg, but must contend with OB right.
At the front left of the green is a very deep pot bunker. I’m not sure how long this thing is going to last, because it looks like erosion is winning the battle. No other bunker like it on the course.
I would have thought that finding this place would be relatively easy being right off US-27. I am not convinced I entered through the proper entrance, as I drove right by holes 13 and 14 on a one lane road. Eventually I did find the larger road to take me to the clubhouse. When I got to the clubhouse, I had a hard time finding the pro-shop. The larger entrance took me to a room with two doors and stairs leading to a banquet room. After taking the left door to the cart barn, I decided I’d go around back, where I eventually found the pro shop and grill. Coming out of the place, there was no clear direction how to get back to 27. I got lost a bit in the sub-division, but eventually found may way out.
One thing I wish I had known, and probably should have called ahead to ask, is that Houston Oaks does not allow walking until after 3 P.M. At first I was taken back by the pro’s comment, since my tee-time was after 12 P.M. and from what I saw, the course looked pretty walkable. The green to tee distance on some holes was longer than I had anticipated. The front 9 wasn’t too bad with this distance, but there were a couple treks on the back 9, notably 14 green to 15 tee and especially 16 green to 17 tee where I could see where they wouldn’t want walkers early in the day.
Despite that set back, I found Houston Oaks to be a fine golf course. There’s a good mix of holes and the place is immaculately kept. I paid $48 on a Saturday for 18 holes and a cart. You won’t find many courses in the condition that Houston Oaks is for the price. The Uplink GPS is a nice touch as well.
OINK Rating – 7