The Takeaway: A classic country club in a high end neighborhood, Royal Oaks delivers top notch conditioning at a course lined with homes and trees on every hole. Many holes lack memorability, but the final four holes deliver. Grade C+
Designer: Fred Couples and Brian Curley in 2000
Phone Number: (281) 899-3200
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Royal Oaks Country Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 2910 Royal Oaks Club Dr, Houston, Texas 77082 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: Located 15 miles west of downtown Houston, Royal Oaks is located inside an upscale community and delivers a classic country club experience. The Couples and Curley design is routed through a housing development with trees and homes lining every hole and players are required to cross residential roads on ground level or by bridge a few times during the round. There are a handful of water hazards on the course, most of which come into play on the final four holes of the day which help make them the best and most memorable offerings at Royal Oaks. Besides the water, there aren’t a lot of places to lose your golf ball during the round as the course is covered in manicured grass everywhere and features very few forced carries. In typical country club fashion, it is the type of course a family can go play on and have a good time but has the capability of testing strong players from the back tees. Everything is pretty much in front of you and is the type of course the PGA Tour would favor with straight forward holes designs and little mystery to uncover which leads to producing a solid test. Due to Houston’s notorious heat and humidity combined with a routing that crosses the road a few times, you will find most players in carts though walking would be an option. Ultimately, Royal Oaks is a good course to enjoy on a daily basis and the access to downtown is great but there is little here that sets it apart as one of Texas’ best courses or design features that would have architectural nerds geeking out.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 16th Hole – 158 Yard Par 3 – Simply a beautiful hole, the signature 16th is framed by a series of waterfalls on the right side while a pair of bunkers on the left deliver a contrast to the deep green grass leading to the putting surface. The hole isn’t very long so there is no intimidation there, but positioning your tee shot appropriately for the day’s pin placement can make or break your success. The green slopes to the front and to the back with the high spot being in the center and towards the back. From this center position there shouldn't be much intimidation in two-putting to any pin location, but if in the front or back third trying to cross the entire putting surface can create a much more difficult challenge.
Best Par 3: 6th Hole – 180 Yards – A virtual island green setup with more forgiveness behind the putting surface than most island green style holes would have, the 6th is a heroic offering not for the faint of heart. A single bunker fronts the putting surface that is much wider than it is deep, so distance control is paramount on the tee shot.
Best Par 4: 18th Hole – 427 Yards – The closing hole is a solid two-shotter that features bunkers up the left side and water on the right which demand players to be exacting with their drive to finish. The approach shot plays to a green that is flanked on the right by water with the putting surface supported by a rock wall that ties into a waterfall for some extra aesthetics. Short and left of the green provides an area to bail out to while the back right side of the green is a classic sucker's pin. Like many of the great courses, Royal Oaks expects players to be at their best for the final hole.
Best Par 5: 9th Hole – 491 Yards – Similar to the famous closing hole at TPC Sawgrass, the front nine finisher at Royal Oaks is a longer hole that bends slightly left around the water hazard that flanks that side of the fairway. Bailing out to the right brings the tree line into play and the driving range next to it, so there is no hiding from the fact that a well struck drive is required here. The approach shot is demanding with three raised bunkers that protect the entire right side of the green while the left side rests next to the water, so there is nothing that the hole will accept other than a stellar shot into the green to find success. All of that being said, being under 500 yards this par five can yield plenty of birdies.
Birdie Time: 3rd Hole – 364 Yard Par 4 – Royal Oaks follows up its most difficult hole with its easiest, this short par four with a generous fairway. Players can grip it and rip it with the driver with little consequence to worry about and if they can keep it up the right side they will be rewarded with a shorter approach into the green. The front to back sloping putting surface will require players to hit their wedge shot short of the flag and let their ball feed towards the hole while trying to still get below the hole. How well you hit your second shot will be the largest factor in your success here.
Bogey Beware: 2nd Hole – 470 Yard Par 4 – Royal Oaks wastes no time asking players to present their 'A' game with this demanding two-shotter. The hole plays just 21 yards shorter than the par five 9th hole but gives players one less stroke to seal par with. The tee shot features a swell in the rough on the left side and a bunker on the right, but with an additional bunker on the right side of the green the ideal angle is from the left side of the fairway. With a long iron in your hand, coming in from the left side can present some trouble as a hill rests in front of the green there and catching the backside of it can kick balls beyond the putting surface. It is a long and challenging hole that can punch you in the mouth early in the round, so give your best counterpunch and move onto the next hole.