The Takeaway: Grade B+
Designer: Jack Nicklaus in 1980.
Phone Number: (281) 821-0220
Directions: Get here! - 2000 Farrell Road, Houston, Texas 77073
Accolades: Ranked 29th in Texas on Golf Digest's 2011-12 Best in State list. Ranked 20th in Texas on the Dallas Morning News' 2012 list.
What to Expect: Lochinvar is a very exclusive, male-only private golf club hidden just west of George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. While I've never been to Augusta National, I've seen it plenty on TV. Lochinvar reminded me a lot of what I see on TV at Augusta National; towering pines, beautiful water features, colorful flowers, and immaculate conditioning. In fact, the only major feature difference between Lochinvar and Augusta is the lack of rolling terrain and elevation changes at Lochinvar; anyone who has been to Houston knows that it is VERY flat. All in all, Lochinvar is a beautiful club with a caddy program where the roots of the game are revered.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 9th Hole – 547 Yard Par 5 – Recognized as one of the "1001 Golf Holes You Must Play Before You Die" in Jeff Barr's book, the former finishing hole at Lochinvar is both beautiful and challenging. Pine trees line both side of the hole and thus pine needles piles do as well. A long bunker is found on the left side of the fairway about 250 yards from the tee and acts as a net to catch balls heading to the wide water hazard that runs the left side of the hole. At the green there are three bunkers that protect the green; a lengthy bunker that runs the entire left side of the green and a pair of bunkers right of the green. Missing right of the green creates a very difficult shot from a tight lie over a steep ridge to a green that runs back toward the water. Not only is the hole the signature of Lochinvar, it is signature of Nicklaus' early work featuring difficult holes.
Best Par 3: Both par 3s on the front nine share the common theme of a large water hazard left of the green, but the bunkering and pin placement options of the 5th makes it the stronger hole. Along with the water hazard, there is a smaller bunker fronting the left half of the green and a large bunker engulfing the back side of the green which calls for a shot that flys right to left. A pin placement in the back left portion of the green becomes very demanding as the water comes more into play and lays fear into the golfer that over draws his tee shot in an effort to card a birdie.
Best Par 4: Some golfers will argue that the 396 yard 3rd hole is Lochinvar's signature hole, and it is certainly worthy of that distinction. A dogleg left hole that is just under 400 yards, the 3rd hole located at the far east end of the property features a trio of bunkers in the landing area right of the fairway and a creek and thick group of trees that run along the left side of the hole. The creek widens and crosses the hole right in front of the slightly raised green that is supported by a rock retaining wall. The wide bunker across the back of this shallow green offers little room for error on the approach shot of this challenging, well-designed hole.
Best Par 5: There are some fantastic par 5s at Lochinvar and it is difficult to argue with the greatness of the 9th and 18th hole, but I'm going to go with the strategic 6th as Nicklaus' most unique design on the course. Like many of the great holes at Lochinvar, the 6th features a water hazard running the length of the hole and in this case it protects the right side. The dense trees on both sides of the hole narrow the landing area, particularly near the landing area and can cause the golfer to make an unconfident swing. The unique aspect of this hole comes around the green where the creek leaves the right side of the hole and crosses the fairway and runs the left side of the green which effectively splits the fairway and creates options. Staying left of the hazard brings into play three bunkers on the left side of the fairway and requires an approach shot over the creek to the shallowest depth on the green. Crossing the water early over to the right side of the water features an extremely small landing area between the water and trees yet offers an excellent angle to the green. It is a strategic hole and one of the great par 5s at Lochinvar.
Birdie Time: The 13th is a very reachable par five with much more manageable hazards to deal in comparison to the other par 5s at Lochinvar and thus the best chance to land a birdie. Water runs up the left side of the fairway but ends well before the green which creates an excellent opportunity to go for the green in two with little fear of the consequences. From the fairway four bunkers can be viewed by the green, but upon closer inspection only two of them are at green depth. Visually the hole looks intimidating, but the golfer quickly learns that the generous fairway and placement of hazards set up perfectly for scoring under par on this hole.
Bogey Beware: Featured as the longest par four on the back nine, the 12th hole has ruined many a golfer's scorecard. The shaping of the dogleg left hole and the size of the trees require the golfer to play a right to left tee shot. The longest of players must be weary of over-doing their drive and bringing into play the large pond left of the hole that blind to the player on the tee box. The opening is tiny to this round green that is pinned between the pond and a pair of bunkers where a high soft shot is the only answer to taming this approach. With a demanding tee shot and even more difficult approach shot with hazards abounding, Lochinvar's 12th hole is its most demanding and thus "Bogey Beware!"