Champions Golf Club, a staple of American dreams made real by founders and Texas Golf Hall of Famers Jackie Burke Jr. and Jimmy Demaret (1910-1983). A year after his 1956 Masters victory in Augusta, Georgia, Burke opened Champions with Demaret, himself a three-time Masters champion (1940, 1947, 1950), in their hometown of Houston, Texas. They enlisted fellow Houstonian Ralph Plummer to be the architect of the esteemed Cypress Creek course, which opened in 1959. Five years later, the Jackrabbit course, designed by George Fazio, was constructed adjacent to the Cypress Creek course. In 2002, George’s nephew, Tom Fazio, helped update his uncle’s course design.
Over the years, Champions has achieved a well-earned reputation for hosting high-profile events:
- 1967 Ryder Cup
- 1969 U.S. Open
- 1993 U.S. Amateur
- 1998, 2017 Women’s Mid-Amateur
- 1990, 1997, 1999, 2001, & 2003 The TOUR Championships
- 2020 U.S. Women's Open
Ready for Liftoff
Texas Golf Hall of Famer Jackie Burke Jr. had quite a year in 1956. First, he won the Masters and the PGA Championship. Then, he and lifetime friend Jimmy Demaret purchased 500 acres of densely forested land 20 miles north of downtown Houston. Their dream of building a high-profile golf course that would lure the best players and events to the Bayou City was about to be realized. Local architect Ralph Plummer went to work designing the Cypress Creek course, which opened for play in 1959. Five years later, the other 18 holes of the 36-hole layout, the George Fazio-constructed Jackrabbit Course, opened for business.
The Secret was in the Dirt
Jackie and Jimmy’s attention to detail was one- (or in this case, two-) of-a-kind. Before the course was even grassed, the two Texans, who combined to win 47 PGA Tour events and five majors (including four Masters), played shots in the dirt from every potential tee box in every kind of wind in order to fully assess the course’s playing value. Golf legend Ben Hogan and noted author Dan Jenkins were early proponents of the course and club. Coincidentally, Hogan’s final Ryder Cup appearance (as a captain in 1967) and final PGA Tour event (1971 Houston Champions International) both came at Champions.
We Have the Champions
Directly off the first tee, Champions was a smashing success. In its first decade, the course staged two of golf’s premier events, the 1967 Ryder Cup and 1969 U.S. Open, and also became the home of Houston’s PGA Tour stop in 1966. Since then, Champions has also served as the site of the 1993 U.S. Amateur and 2020 U.S. Women’s Open, and also hosted the Tour Championship five times (1990, 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2003). It is one of only two courses in the country, alongside Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 course, to have hosted both a men’s and women’s U.S. Open, a Ryder Cup, and a Tour Championship.
No Love for Tennis
Champions Golf Club. It says it right in the name. It’s a Golf Club. By design, there are no tennis courts. It’s golf first and golf only, and prospective members must have handicaps of 15 or better. In addition to drawing world-class events, the club adheres to its original premise of having a membership comprised of golf lovers. Jackie, who took over sole ownership of the club after Jimmy’s passing in 1983, was involved at the club every day for more than half a century. Jackie and his wife sold the club to son, Mike, in October of 2021, keeping the distinguished property in the Burke family.
One Giant Swing for Mankind
Champions Golf Club, located in the heart of Space City, is truly in rarefied air as three of its members have walked on the moon. An autographed photo of Alan Shepard thanking Jackie for his “lunar swing” adorns Jackie’s museum-like office at Champions. The images of Shepard’s memorable one-handed swings with his modified 6-iron on the 1971 Apollo 14 mission live on today. After Shepard shanked his first shot into a crater, he announced that he hit his second one “miles and miles and miles.” However, it was found nearly a half-century later (just slightly longer than rules allow for finding a lost ball) and is estimated to have traveled 40 yards.
Champions Golf Club sign, 2023
Ben Hogan hoisting the Ryder Cup trophy, Champions Golf Club 1967
Champions Golf Club in 2023
Original Champions G.C. locker room
Jack Burke Jr. and Jimmy Demaret break ground on Champions Golf Club
Jack Burke Jr. and Jimmy Demaret scout the land for Champions G.C.
Arnie strolling the greens of Champions
Early aerial view of Champions Golf Club
Jack Burke Jr. and Jimmy Demaret imagine what will become Champions Golf Club
The 1967 Ryder Cup was held at Champions Golf Club