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Houston: 72 holes in 72 hours

By Mike McAllister

Tour 18 Houston allows golfers to play re-creations of some of the country's most famous holes.

• High Meadow Ranch: Yardage/Par: 7,370/72. Greens fees: $30-$69, cart included. (281) 356-7700.

Meadowbrook Farms: Yardage/Par: 7,100/72. Greens fees: $62-$85, cart included. (281) 693-4653.

River Ridge: Yardage/Par: 6,925-7,201/71-72 (depending on courses selected). Greens fees: $60-$75, cart included. (979) 885-3333.

Tour 18: Yardage/Par: 6,782/72. Greens fees: $45-$95, cart included. (281) 540-1818.

Alternative Courses: Memorial Park, Blackhorse, Fish Creek, Cypresswood, Evergreen, The Fallas, Houston National.

Next week, we'll travel to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area.
Houston (Texas)

(CNN) -- What does it mean to be the largest of the 48 contiguous states? Plenty of space to play golf, of course.

The state of Texas does not lack for choices when it's time to tee it up, and the state's biggest city, Houston, is home to more than 200 courses within an easy drive from downtown -- easy, that is, if you don't get caught in the sometime maddening traffic jams on the loop around Houston..

All those state courses have helped produce some of golf's biggest names, native Texans such as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, LPGA founding member Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Houston-bred Jimmy Demaret, who once said, "Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at." Jimmy, you might have heard, was a guy who liked to have fun.

Because there are so many courses, you shouldn't have a problem arranging tee times. Yet, when planning a golf outing to Houston, you must consider the weather.

The summer's scorching heat and high humidity can wilt even the sturdiest of players (and grass, too). Your best bet is to plan a trip between the late fall and early spring.

In addition, be aware that you might have to battle the wind. It can blow something fierce on any given day, which could be a good thing if you're up for the challenge, but a bad thing if you're easily frustrated or just wanting to enjoy a low-key round of golf. Either way, be prepared to adjust your club selection accordingly.

After flying into George Bush Intercontinental Airportexternal link on Friday morning, here's how we'd play it the rest of the weekend.

Friday afternoon

High Meadow Ranch: The course, 40 miles outside Houston, has received excellent reviews since it opened in 1999. Architects Tim Nugent and David Ogrin basically separated the 18 holes into three loops. The first six (Forest Loop) are surrounded by large oaks and pine trees; the second six (Pine Barrens Loop) offer larger landing areas and sweeping greens, giving you an open feeling; the final six (Signature Loop) have dramatic elevation changes and deep woods.

Saturday morning

Meadowbrook Farms: Designed by Greg Norman, Meadowbrook Farms provides some of the elements of St. Andrews (sod-wall pot bunkers) with the typical Texas look (creeks, native wildflowers, large greens). It also features turf designed by Norman's company. Called GN-1, the hybrid Bermuda grass can be found on the tees, fairways and rough. "A quality turfgrass should be the tuxedo of a golf course," Norman states on the course Web site. But please, no sneaking any of the turf home for further examination. After all, it's not a rented tux!

Saturday afternoon

River Ridge: Pecan trees, oak trees -- natural elements of almost every Texas course. River Ridge, 35 miles outside of Houston in Sealy, has both in abundance. The course also runs along the Brazos River, and the views are tremendous from almost every hole. There are three nine-hour courses, with architect Jay Riviere combining the Texas landscape with his designs inspired by classic courses such as Winged Foot, Oak Hill and Turnberry. Also take note of the nine fieldstone bridges. And at the end of the day, you can partake of some good ol' Texas barbecue.

Sunday morning

Tour 18: Now that you've experienced what it's like to golf in Texas, here's your chance -- in just 18 holes -- to play re-creations of some of the most famous holes in the rest of the country. Among the selections: Augusta's Amen Corner, the 17th at Sawgrass (the island green), the 18th at Doral, the 3rd at Oakmont, the 8th at Shinnecock Hills ... well, you get the picture. Will you take it seriously? Probably not. Will you have fun? You probably will.

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