What’s in a name, anyway? Not much sometimes. If you’re a longtime PGA Tour fan, you’re probably scratching your head at the Shell Houston Open venue this week, the Golf Club of Houston. No, it’s not a Golden Age classic spruced up for modern times, nor is it a brand new layout. Rather, it’s the old Redstone Golf Club’s Tournament course, with a new name, courtesy of new owners Escalante Golf. We’ll see if the identity change adds any character to the quintessential bomb-and-gouge track on Tour.
Host venue to the Shell Houston Open since 2006, the newly branded (as of December 2013) Golf Club of Houston is a mostly wide-open, long-bashers paradise at 7,422 yards, albeit one with water, water everywhere. Rees Jones did the design, with David Toms consulting. It’s eminently fair, a tough, honest test of golf, but is short on individually memorable holes. On the one hand, the list of recent champions is impressive, with Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Hunter Mahan among those who have won here. On the other hand, while Jones’ design is hardly offensive, its strongest attraction for the pros is that organizers mimic the firm, fast, shaved-down conditions players will face at Augusta National next week. That’s not exactly shouting from the rooftops for the merits of the design.
Perhaps the new name will alter the meh rep of the course formerly known as Redstone. It wouldn’t be the first Tour layout to undergo a name change. Pebble Beach in its earliest days was merely the second course at Del Monte Golf & Country Club. Riviera was known by its architect, George Thomas Jr. as the Los Angeles Athletic Club. East Lake was actually the Atlanta Athletic Club from the course’s inception in 1908 until 1968, when a new AAC was formulated in the northern suburbs. The 1963 Dick Wilson design in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida where Jack Nicklaus won the 1971 PGA Championship, changed from PGA National (East) to J.D.M. Country Club (East) to BallenIsles (East).
Will the Golf Club of Houston resonate more strongly than Redstone? Doubtful. But if it’s Mickleson and McIlroy battling head-to-head on Sunday, we won’t care what the course is called.
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