With the planned conversion of century-old Glen Garden Country Club and golf course to a whiskey distillery, here’s a toast to the ghosts of some Fort Worth golf courses that are no more.
In the beginning golf in America was a game for the well-to-do, played at country clubs. Fort Worth was no exception. Golf here began in 1902 with the founding of Fort Worth Country Club near the site of Arlington Heights developer H. B. Chamberlin’s Ye Arlington Inn (burned 1894) at today’s intersection of Merrick and Crestline streets. Members of the new club laid out a nine-hole course. The Telegram said of the sport of golf: “It takes an extraordinary hold of everyone who essays it and never lets go until the player passes to that land where the bunker is known not.” (1895 map detail from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM”; clips from the July 18 and November 16, 1902 Telegram.)
Not surprisingly, Fort Worth’s first golf course has long since gone the way of knickers and niblicks. In 1910 members of Fort Worth Country Club who wanted a full eighteen-hole course formed a new country club: River Crest. FWCC was absorbed by River Crest. Built in 1911, the River Crest course lives on into its second century. Clip is from the October 24, 1910 Star-Telegram.
Not until 1917 did the city begin to think about building a municipal course. Clip is from the February 4 Star-Telegram.
The city did not act rashly. Five years passed before the city bought ninety-six acres for Worth Hills municipal course near TCU. Worth Hills, nicknamed “Goat Hills,” opened in 1923. Clip is from the December 17, 1922 Star-Telegram.
Fast forward down the fairway to 1961. City voters approved sale of the city’s first municipal golf course to TCU for campus expansion. Four years later Worth Hills would be posthumously immortalized in 1965 by Dan Jenkins in a Sports Illustrated article entitled “The Glory Game at Goat Hills.” Clip is from the September 14 Dallas Morning News.
Katy Lake public golf course opened in 1926, built around a former railroad storage lake. Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan played there as youngsters. The Katy course was said to feature sand greens, but Dan Jenkins told Golf Digest: “The greens weren’t really sand, I found out. They were dark brown cottonseed hull. Oiled so they wouldn’t blow away. There was an iron rake on every green—you raked your line from the ball to the cup before you putted.” According to Jenkins, the Katy course closed in 1943. Clips are from the August 31, 1928 and December 23, 1929 Dallas Morning News.
The city got its second municipal course after Benbrook landowner Z. Boaz in 1928 donated land. His namesake course opened in 1930. Clip is from the September 4 Dallas Morning News.
Z. Boaz died in 1935. In 2012 the city closed his namesake course. (What does the “Z.” stand for? Beats me. Boaz was listed as “Z.” in news stories, censuses, city directories, and on his death certificate.) Clip is from the December 2, 1935 Dallas Morning News.
Glen Garden Country Club was organized in 1913 by, among others, produce distributor Ben E. Keith and H. H. Cobb of the nearby Cobb brick plant and O. K. Cattle Company. The “inexpensive playground” was built on O. K. Cattle Company ranchland and reachable by the Cleburne interurban line. Young Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson caddied at Glen Garden. Clips are from the April 17, 1913 and November 27, 1914 Star-Telegram.
In 1939, twelve years after winning his first amateur tournament at the Katy Lake course, Byron Nelson won the U.S. Open. Clip is from the June 18 Reading Eagle of Pennsylvania.
These were the Fort Worth courses in 1940, as listed in Texas, a Guide to the Lone Star State.
Another defunct country club is Oakhurst. Three former employees of Glen Garden Country Club—Ted Longworth, Harry Lee Whitaker, and Norman Voss—started Oakhurst in 1930. Longworth, former GGCC pro, and Whitaker leased fifty-four acres west of the Oakhurst neighborhood. Whitaker was the manager, Longworth was the pro. Voss built the two-story frame clubhouse building and operated it. Longworth laid out a nine-hole course. To the east was the Oakhurst neighborhood. To the west the Trinity River was a water trap. To the north, Mount Olivet Cemetery was, well, a death trap.
Oakhurst opened on June 28, 1930. The green fee was twenty-five cents for nine holes and fifty cents for all day.
Historian Harry Max Hill writes: “On September 7th  two Dallas men were robbed at the golf course. The robbers hid in the dense Oakhurst woods and approached R. L. Johnson and R. B. Greenlee on the 5th hole of the golf course. Johnson lost $111 and Greenlee $300 in the daring hold-up. Ben Hogan was playing at the course during the robbery. He wanted to chase the robbers using the rifle he kept in his automobile. His playing partners dissuaded him from pursuing the robbers.”
In 1937 Ben Hogan, who had played the course when it was new, became Oakhurst’s manager-pro. But the country club closed the next year. (Map detail from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM”; clip from the September 9, 1930 Dallas Morning News.)
The campus of Calvary Cathedral International covers much of the Oakhurst course now, but this building, Max Hill says, was the pro shop.
In the early fifties, as African Americans continued their crusade for equality, they were not allowed access to the city’s municipal courses. Under pressure by the Fort Worth Negro Golf Association and other groups, the city built nine-hole Harmon Field for African Americans. The course, located south of Greenway Park, opened June 13, 1954. The pond seen in the aerial photo north of the soccer fields was created as a water hazard by diverting water from a storm-drain channel.
Note the byline in this clip from the June 4, 1954 Fort Worth Press. But Harmon Field golf course was short-lived. When U.S. Highway 287 was built it squeezed out Harmon Field. The course closed on April 1, 1958 and, like the other courses surveyed here, passed “to that land where the bunker is known not.”
(Thanks and a tip of the flagstick to historian Harry Max Hill.)