Ask Travelin' Joe: Top picks for Houston and New Orleans, plus a $175,000 golf package
If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The $175,000 Golf Trip
Before we get to this week's questions, I've got to tell you about this $175,000 golf package. If you've got six-figures to burn on a one-of-a-kind golf experience, then do I have the "deal" for you.
Mayakoba, a 128-room, all-suite luxury hotel on Mexico's Riviera Maya near Cancun, is introducing The Ultimate Golf Package, for the 401(K)-wrecking price of $175,000.
Available from Nov. 12-19, 2013, the package runs in conjunction with the PGA Tour's OHL Classic at Mayakoba, which moved this year from its customary February date.
Designed for you and two guests, the package includes a private lesson with Hall of Fame teacher Jim McLean, a round of golf with Hall of Fame golfer Greg Norman at nearby Playa Mujeres (complete with a chopper ride to and from), plus three spots in the Mayakoba Pro-Am.
But wait ... there's more! You'll stay seven nights in the 6,272-square-foot Presidential Lagoon Suite, sit at the VIP table at the pairings party, enjoy inside-the-ropes honorary observer positions during the tournament and a meet-and-greet with the tournament winner -- and plenty of other perks.
Call me old-fashioned -- or spoiled from my years at Golf Magazine -- but does that price tag sound, well, high? Hey, don't get me wrong. I'd love the chance to tee it up with the Shark. Certainly, the pro-am sounds like fun, though the typical going rate to play a PGA Tour event pro-am is around $10,000.
The Rosewood Mayakoba? Awesome hotel. I can reserve a Lagoon Studio Suite with a King bed the week before the tournament for $575 per night. Over seven nights, that's $4,025, rack rate. It's not the Presidential Suite, but it's pretty nice.
Oh, on the final day, they throw you and your pals a private BBQ and tequila tasting on the beach. But 175K? For that sum, I'd need to go home with a solid gold golf bag and a fistful of diamond ball markers.
What's your take on Redstone, this week's PGA Tour stop at the Shell Houston Open? Any other Houston courses you recommend?
Howard Irwin -- Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
I haven't yet played Redstone's Tournament course ($125-$175; 281-459-7800, redstonegolfclub.com), the Shell Houston Open venue since 2006, but it's a head-scratcher to me.
David Toms consulted on this Rees Jones design, and while Toms is hardly a bomber, Redstone, at 7,422 yards, is mostly a wide-open, mashers' paradise, albeit one with water all over.
On the one hand, the list of recent champions is impressive: Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Anthony Kim. On the other hand, while Jones's design is eminently fair, it doesn't speak well of the layout itself when the strongest attraction for the pros is that organizers mimic the firm, fast, shaved-down conditions players will face at Augusta National in two weeks.
I won't reserve final judgment until I play it, but from what I see on TV, it's a tough, honest test, but short on memorability.
The precursor to Redstone is Memorial Park Golf Course ($39-$49; 713-559-2000, memorialparkgolf.com), a muni that dates to the 1920s. Situated near downtown Houston, the 7,305-yard layout has long claimed status as one of the longest municipal courses in the U.S., and is a healthy stroll at sea level, even as the terrain is mostly flat.
Wide and wooded, it was designed by legendary Texas architect John Bredemus, who also shaped Colonial in Fort Worth. Its tournament history includes 14 Houston Opens between 1947 and '63, when winners included Hall of Famers Arnold Palmer, Jackie Burke Jr., Cary Middlecoff and Bobby Locke. You'll hardly be wowed by the design itself, but its woody setting, proximity to the city, and affordability are compelling draws.
You also won't find much innovative design at Augusta Pines Golf Club ($62.50-$79.25; 281-290-1910, tour18.com), but you won't mind a bit. This replica-style course with many Augusta National overtures and back-to-back island greens to close the round is great fun, and it clearly appealed to Bernhard Langer, who ripped the course for rounds of 62-65-64 to win a Champions Tour event by eight in 2007. I guarantee you won't score that well, but you'll enjoy it just as much.
My husband and I will be in New Orleans for a wine-tasting event this spring. We'll have a free half-day before the event starts and would like to play golf. Do you have a favorite course for $100 or less?
Jo Ortega -- Highland Heights, Ohio
Since you're not only on a budget, but also appear to be somewhat pressed for time, Audubon Park ($35-$45; 504-212-5290, auduboninstitute.org) is the place to play. Condensed in 2001 from a regulation course to a 4,200-yard, par-62 layout by architect Denis Griffiths, this lagoon-filled, oak-dotted, well-bunkered track offers nice variety -- and you can finish in three hours. Edging a popular city park, with holes that abut Tulane and Loyola universities, Audubon Park might be my favorite executive course in the country.
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(Photo: Courtesy of Redstone Golf Club)