Culture / Sporting Life

Inside Houston’s Most Storied Shooting Club — the Real Story of Greater Houston Sports Club

This Hidden Houston Gem Makes Sporting Clays a True Family Escape

BY // 04.14.21

Although mainly constructed from concrete and glass, Houston has some surprising, spectacular moments of greenery. Between forests and amongst fields stands one of them — the Greater Houston Sports Club. This is a members-only shooting club that isn’t strictly members-only or just a shooting club.

“What we’re really big on is family. Those fishing areas? There’s no shooting going on around there,” says Harry Mach, who is the current co-owner of the club with Cliff Moeller.

Greater Houston Sports Club also hosts fundraisers for organizations such as the Alley Theatre. In 2019, the club helped raise $6 million for area charities. With Greater Houston Sports Club part of the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) and the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA), it also hosts highly competitive skeet and sporting clay events open to every qualified shooter, such as the Buckle Race Series.

At this event, competitors have the chance to win $10,000 off a Ford F-150.

Sporting Clays 101

With four sporting clay courses that vary in difficulty at Greater Houston Sports Club, this is place where you can be challenged yet comfortable with every shot. World title holder Bobby Fowler, who is the shooting coach at the club, considers it an ideal setup.

“It’s for any level of shooter,” Fowler says.”If you’re a beginner, we’ve got shooting for that. If you started five years ago, or if you’re a veteran shooter of 25 years, you still got something hard to shoot at.”

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Target launcher #3
A Greater Houston Sports Club target launcher waits for shooters to shout, “Pull!” and send shooting clays into the air.

Target presentations also rotate every two weeks to provide variety. Greater Houston Sports Club even has its own cleaning room where you can clean your guns right after shooting. That’s unusual. Most shooting ranges do not provide cleaning supplies.

“It’s a great place for families to come out to because it’s not real fast-paced,” Fowler says.

Greater Houston Sports Club’s History

Founded in 1958 by directors and officers James C. Roberts (president, 1958), John R. Downes (chairman of the board, 1958), Gordon Nees, H.J. Yoakum, L. E. Minor, Edmund L. Buckley (president, 1960), Titus Harris Jr. (president, 1961) and Ralph W. McNeir, the club still had a ways to go when it first opened. The clubhouse was not yet finished, but GHSC had two skeet and two trap fields to keep its members entertained.

Texas oil pioneers Henry and Roy Cullen held stocks in the club and proudly wore its membership lapel pins. This was a major new player on the Houston scene. Five thousand spectators attended Greater Houston Sports Club’s opening weekend, which featured exhibitions from Winchester “Showman Shooter” Herb Parsons. That caught the eye (or, rather, the pen) of Houston Post reporter Harv Boughton and the Houston Chronicle’s Bob Brister. From there, the club grew quickly in skeet, trap and members.

By 1959, GHSC’s clubhouse opened up for members-only. Back then both non-members and members could shoot at the club at anytime. One only needed to pay for their skeet tokens and shells at the clubhouse window.

The Shamrock Hotel (with an opening of its own that was beyond massive and a tad more raucous) served as an early landmark for Greater Houston Sports Club. Early advertisements for the club touted that it was only “11 miles south of the Shamrock Hotel.” The Shamrock even catered some club events.

Once several decades passed, Greater Houston Sports Club’s business stared to dip and its facilities needed a revamp. Enter current GHSC co-owners Harry Mach and Cliff Moeller, who came on the scene in 1997.

“When Harry and Cliff took over, they rewrote the business plan, rewrote the membership structure,” club manager Kevin Dougherty tells PaperCity. “We’ve been working off of that structure since. It’s membership first and everything else second.”

Greater Houston Sports Club also wants to grow the sport of sporting clays. It hosts events such as Greater Ladies and Clays for Ladies that are put together by women for women. These women-only, member-only events encourage the club’s female members to come together and cultivate their shooting passion and skills.

“We will entertain everyone, however we do have rules and regulations for safety purposes,” Mach says.

At GHSC, safety is paramount. Decorated with three lakes, kids can fish while parents shoot, with both unwinding in the club’s natural scenery.

On many Wednesday or Thursday nights, the savory smell of smoke and steak lingers in the air, welcoming shooters to stay for Steak Night. The only requirement to participate in Steak Night is to bring your own steaks. After an afternoon of nailing birds, families can kick back in the rustic clubhouse while waiting for their steaks to sear and enjoy some old fashioned quality time together.

Steak Nights at Greater Houston Sports Club have always been rooted in family. Mach remembers one Wednesday evening at the clubhouse (when Steak Nights were just starting up) when he and his wife struck up a conversation with a lady who had two kids in tow. The woman mentioned she was waiting for her husband’s return from his afternoon of shooting so that they could all sit down and eat a steak-centered dinner together

She treasured these meals and came in every week just for Steak Night. This experience reinforced Mach’s commitment to these events.

“We do not set up a temporary thing,” he says. “We set everything up on a permanent basis.”

Membership

There are three different types of membership at Greater Houston Sports Club — resident, non-resident and junior. Residents pay a one-time charge of $5,000 and then $120 in monthly dues. Non-residents (those outside of a 75-mile radius of Downtown Houston) pay a one-time charge of $2,500 and then $720 in annual fees. Juniors (those who are between the ages of 18 and 25) pay a one-time charge of $2,500 and then $60 in monthly dues.

(If you’re looking to become a member of Greater Houston Sports Club, click here to get started on filling out the application. Once completed, you can email the form to either Nettie@GreaterHoustonSportsClub.com or Kevin@GreaterHoustonSportsClub.com.)

New members undergo both new member and safety orientations. “We want to protect every member there,” Dougherty says. “We want a safe atmosphere.”

They do things a little differently at Greater Houston Sports Club. Have for decades. By design.

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