Monday, January 29, 2007

Around the State

Time for another roundup:

The Tyler newspaper reports on the Texas Legends Junior Four Ball tournament played at Horseshoe Bay Resort's Slick Rock course. Stetson McMillan of Hideaway and Travis Klutts of Lake Kiowa teamed for the victory in the Boys 15-18 division. In Boys 12-14, the winning team was Connor Ligon of Richardson and Cade Storey of Dallas. In the girls division, Nivriti Chowdhry of Houston and Gabriella Dominguez of Chilton was the winning team.

The "Medalist North" tournaments are a new series of amateur tournaments in North Texas, a series formed through a partnership between the Texas Golf Association and the Medalist Golf Association of Houston (why is a Houston association involved in a North Texas series? beats me). The locales: March 17-18, Tierra Verde GC, Arlington; June 16-17, The Tribute GC, The Colony; July 7-8, The Links at Water Chase, Fort Worth; Sept. 22-23, Twin Creeks GC, Allen. Visit the TGA Web site for more.

In a comment to a prior post, Greg of New2Golf reported that Houston's Glenbrook Park Golf Course is currently undergoing some work to add yards to the course's layout. "I played there a few weeks ago," Greg wrote, "and was suprised by how much extra lenght they are squeezing out of the already tight track."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

La Vernia Course Apparently Closed

The course in question is Quail Run Golf Club, and I say "apparently" because there is some uncertainty over what exactly has happened. Everyone in La Vernia has heard that the course is closed, but nobody seems to know the full story, and according to some rumors it's possible - but unlikely - that Quail Run could reopen at some undetermined point in the future. But more possible that the closing is permanent.

Follow all that?

Here's the story as I know it: About 10 days ago, a Texas Golf reader contacted me to let me know that Quail Run had closed. I began trying to contact course and city officials, while the reader talked to friends who live around the course.

I've had no luck contacting course officials. La Vernia city officials have tried their best to be helpful, but their answers are all the same: "Yes, we heard the course closed, but we don't know any more about it."

Meanwhile, my intrepid reader visited the course and reported back: "All the tee boxes and flags are gone ... a sign at the entrance to the clubhouse said 'We regret the closing of Quail Run' and any members would be receiving a refund check soon. That was it ... no more indication of what was going to happen. The real sad part is that there is a new house going up on the 13th green ... I hope the owners did not expect to live on a golf course."

Yep, sound like a closing to me. The only reason for the caveats about whether this is complete and final is that I've heard one rumor about the shutdown being temporary to allow for reorganization and, hopefully, and eventual reopening. But that certainly doesn't sound too likely at this point.

What will happen to the Quail Run golf course? Will it simply be abandoned to be reclaimed by nature? Might it be sold off?

No way to tell, because so far the owners aren't talking.

So this looks like the sad end to what has been a sad story. Those of you who know Quail Run might have thought "but how could you tell?" after reading the line above - "abandoned to be reclaimed by nature."

Quail Run opened in La Vernia, maybe 10 years ago, as the centerpiece of a neighborhood development in the country outside of town. It was originally called Las Palomas Country Club. Then the named changed to The Lynx at Las Palomas, then finally to Quail Run.

The course was as close to a true links-style layout as you can get away from a coastline. It was built on very sandy soil, playing areas lined by tall, reedy grasses blowing in the breeze; lots of sand traps, some of them deep; nearly treeless and buffeted by winds. The course also had small, interesting greens that I always liked.

But I never saw it in anything other than terrible condition. Cart paths were worn ruts; fairways were hardpan mixed with thin, patchy grass; hazards were constantly deteriorating and some never reclaimed.

Quail Run will, for me, always stand as a sad example of what happens when a potentially excellent golf course is - for whatever reason - given up on by the people who should be taking care of it. The current owners purchased it about 3-4 years ago with plans to reverse the trend. And they succeeded in drabs, marginally improving course conditions and luring some golfers back. But now, that appears over, too.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

BraeBurn Renovation and More Notes

We haven't done a notebook in the while, so here's a roundup of some of the golf stories popping up around the state:

  • The Houston Chronicle's golf notebook includes the news that BraeBurn Country Club will close on June 1 for a renovation. Originally designed by John Bredemus and redone by Carlton Gipson in the '90s, there will be no changes to the layout. But the general manager said, "We're resurfacing the tees and fairways with 419 Tifway, and we're putting Mini Verde on the greens. We want to have state-of-the-art playing conditions for our members, and we're looking to have a grand reopening around Oct. 2."
  • Mike Vardeman is the new Director of Instruction at The Academy at La Cantera, part of the Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio. Vardeman replaces Michael Lamanna, who left for a similar position at The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz.

    Vardeman has been at The Academy at La Cantera for 10 years, working previously under Bryan Gathright. Here's a Q&A with Vardeman from the San Antonio Express-News.

  • Trip Kuehne (of the Texas golfing Kuehnes, natch) paired with Danny Green of Tennessee to win a prestigious amateur tournament, the 73rd Southern International Four-Ball mid-amateur. The tournament was played at The Fox Club in Palm City, Fla. earlier this month. Trip is the brother of Hank and Kelli, and was one of Tiger Woods' championship-match victims in Woods' streak of three-straight U.S. Amateur titles.

  • Plano-based Adams Golf has new drivers and fairway woods out: the Insight BUL models for mid- and high-handicappers; the Insight BTY models for better players; and the Insight Belle models for women.

  • An update on the situation in Corpus Christi, where city officials are considering giving Oso Beach Municipal Golf Course over to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi University, and replacing Oso with a newly built course or by buying an existing course. Earlier reports indicated the city was considering the purchase of one of two private courses, Kings Crossing Country Club or Pharaohs Golf Club. A newer story indicates that only Pharaohs is under consideration for purchase by the city.

    Friday, January 19, 2007

    ConCan Country Club Opens Nine

    concan country club
    ConCan Country Club, being built in the popular Hill Country vacation spot of Concan in Frio County, is a little behind schedule. But as of today, it does have nine holes open for play - nine holes that the course owner brags combine for the longest 9-hole course in Texas. That won't last for long, however, as the other nine holes are expected to be open by the coming summer.

    Concan Country Club plans to open nine holes of its new 18-hole golf course officially on Friday. Five holes have already been available to golfers.

    In a rolling valley-like setting against the backdrop of hills, the course will open the remaining nine holes by early summer, according to the current timetable.

    The part of the course opening this week includes three par-five holes, five par-four holes and one par-three hole.

    This temporary 9-hole layout plays to a championship-tee length of 4,507 yards. The forward tees are 2,990 yards.
    Workers for country club developers Kenneth and Barbara Arthur have been busy over recent months shaping the landscape of the course and planting grasses.

    “We're disappointed on the one hand that we're not playing 18 holes, but we're very, very pleased with the quality of the course,” Kenneth Arthur said.

    The Uvalde newspaper's article, excerpted above, provides more info about the course. Or visit the ConCan Country Club Web site for updates, plus info about the on-site spa.
    CORRECTION: As pointed out in comment, the nine that is opening now for play is actually 4,057 yards, not the 4,507 noted above, and is a par of 43.

    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    Galveston Muny Closer to Renovation

    Galveston Island Municipal Golf Course looks ready to take a year off for a major facelift:

    GALVESTON — The worn city golf course here will be scraped to bare dirt and entirely rebuilt into one of the best municipal courses in Texas, according to a $14.1 million proposal favorably received Thursday by the City Council.

    The management proposal by the Moody Foundation, operator of the Moody Gardens tourist attraction, satisfies the longing by Galveston hotel owners for a well-groomed course that will appeal to tourists.

    The foundation's proposal promises to maintain the Galveston municipal layout on par with the best city golf courses in Texas, including Memorial Park in Houston, Tenison Highlands in Dallas and Cottonwood Creek in Waco.


    The only quibble from council members was on the changing of the course name from the Galveston Island Municipal Golf Course to "Moody Gardens Golf Course on Galveston Island, a Premier Public Golf Course." But council members quickly dropped their objections when Moody officials said they felt strongly about the name.

    "Not a single dollar of the $14.1 million, which is a gift to the city, will ever be paid back by the city and there will be no management fee," Moody Foundation attorney Buddy Herz told the council.

    I should think the city would drop its objections. If a company or other private entity is willing to spend $14 million to renovate your city golf course, then manage it for free, they should be allowed to call it anything they want.

    The article in the Houston Chronicle says that the Galveston muny was not exactly considered a dog track by locals. Rather, the impetus for the renovation seems to have come entirely from the local hospitality industry, which feels tourists need a truly special place to play golf on the island.

    The plan isn't without opposition, however, as greens fees at the course will go up quite a bit. For example, the current weekend greens fee of $32 is expected to rise, post-renovation, to somewhere between $50 and $100.

    (Hat tip to Greg at New 2 Golf)

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    Maverick Golf Club Opens in Floresville

    I can recall reading about a soon-to-open golf course in Floresville, southeast of San Antonio, as far back as 2003. The course was part of a neighborhood development by the same developer who was behind the popular River Crossing Golf Club in Spring Branch, north of San Antonio.

    But the course never seemed to get finished. That's changed, however. Finally, three years after reading in the local paper that the course would be open "in about six months," the new track is ready.

    Maverick Golf Club opened in December 2006 in the Avalon subdivision off Highway 181 Business in Floresville, about 30 minutes southeast of Downtown San Antonio.

    "Golf - Texas Style" is the club's marketing slogan.

    In the heart of Avalon is the 18-hole Maverick Golf Club, a public facility with the soul of a lush private course.

    Maverick Golf Club is not only the golf center of Avalon, it is a social center as well, providing both a wonderful dining experience at the Green Pepper Restaurant, and an event area at the Pavilion.

    The course is 7,030 yards from the tips and a par 72. Other tees play to 6,583 yards, 6,264, 5,868 and 5,247. The club's Web site description of the course states:

    The beautiful oak trees and meandering streams that give the golf course its character are joined with elevation changes, multi-tiered greens and challenging areas of forced carry—including water features—and areas of forced lay-up in a links-style course.

    Added to the magnificent topography and course design is the blowing wind (and in Texas, the wind really blows) and The Maverick Golf Club can be a formidable challenge for even scratch golfers.

    The description goes on to call Maverick "one of the only true links courses in South Texas." Now, if you're like me, you read the description above and you look at the top photo and you think to yourself, "These people don't know what a links course is. Because based on this evidence, Maverick ain't no links course."

    But whether they know how to accurately describe their own course or not, it does look and sound like a promising place to play. I hope to get over there soon.

    The bottom photo shows Maverick Golf Club's "aqua range," a driving range where water surrounds many of the target greens.

    See more at the Maverick Golf Club Web site.

    Saturday, January 13, 2007

    Byron Nelson Classic Plans Ahead Minus Namesake

    Last year, following the death of Byron Nelson, I wrote a post in which I predicted that the Byron Nelson Classic would begin a slow decline of field strength and prestige without its namesake around to add cachet. I certainly hope that turns out to be wrong.

    The folks who stage the Nelson Classic are working to keep the tournament in the forefront of PGA Tour events. The "kickoff luncheon" for this year's Nelson was held a few days ago at the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, whose charities the tournament supports (the Nelson is annually among the biggest money raisers on the Tour).

    Reports the AP:

    "In some ways, it's a new beginning for us," said golf commentator and Dallas-area resident David Feherty, the keynote speaker. "Byron would consider this just to be another Byron Nelson (tournament). And we will go ahead exactly as if he were here with us. Because he is, and he always will be."

    Tournament chairman Brooks Cullum said plans are being made for a "specific event to commemorate Byron" during the week of the April 26-29 tournament. He said there would also be reminders of Nelson on the TPC Four Seasons and Cottonwood Valley courses.

    The mention of the tournament's host courses reminds me of something I was thinking about recently: this tournament - if it wants to avoid the fate of Colonial following the death of Ben Hogan - might want to consider moving to a new golf course. The PGA Tour players aren't crazy about either of the courses on which the Nelson is played, particularly the TPC course. A move to one of the new courses in the DFW area - one of the courses with some buzz about it, such as The Vaquero or Dallas National - would certainly stoke interest in the event.

    The AP article goes on to talk about the appearance of Peggy Nelson, Byron's widow, at the luncheon.

    And to mention that John Daly will be playing via a sponsor's exemption.

    Update on Corpus Christi's Oso Muni

    As we wrote a few days back, the City of Corpus Christi is considering giving Oso Beach Municipal Golf Course and about 121 additional surrounding acres to the University of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The school would then redevelop the land to expand its facilities.

    There's an update in the Corpus Christi newspaper today in which Mayor Henry Garrett says for this deal to go through, two things have to happen:

    1. The city must give - as opposed to sell - the land to the school.
    2. The city must be able to replace Oso either by buying an existing course or by building a new one.

    Garrett says he wants to put the matter to a vote. A ballot initiative on funding the replacement of Oso would focus on a bond issue worth to the tune of $7 million.

    Will Corpus Christi voters approve a $7 million bond to fund a replacement public golf course? I grew up in Corpus Christi, and my initial reaction was "heck no." But I changed my opinion a little after reading something the article. Turns out that just two years ago, voters approved a $1.2 million bond for improvements to Oso.

    That money has yet to be spent. So the vote would include two parts: approval of transferring that previously voted-on $1.2 million to a new course; and an additional $5.8 million bond.

    Some excerpts:

    With no money coming into city accounts if the land is deeded to the university, Corpus Christi would have to take on new debt to pay for another municipal golf course, Garrett said. A new or purchased course is expected to cost about $7 million, of which about $1.2 million could be paid for by allocating money earmarked for improvements to the Oso beach course approved in the 2004 bond election, Garrett said.


    Voters would have the final say in the land deal because of the city's need to take on new debt, Garrett said. Their approval is necessary to reallocate the $1.2 million to a new city golf course and approve the roughly $5.8 million in new bonds, he said. A bond election could be tacked onto the April city elections, but would likely be held later, possibly in the fall.


    When it comes to finding a replacement municipal course, the city's options are more open-ended, Garrett said. The city could buy an existing private course and transform it into a public course, or build a completely new course.

    Garrett said he favors buying Pharaohs Golf Club, a semi-private course near the Oso course. It has been on the market for about a year. But other private courses haven't been ruled out for purchase, he said.

    Building a new course hasn't been ruled out, Garrett said.

    City Manager Skip Noe said a decision to transfer the land to the university would come before the city makes a decision on finding a replacement course. Garrett said without seeing numbers and talking with golf course consultants, buying a private course should be considered first.

    "It would make more sense to upgrade a course already in place," he said.

    Rick Robbins, president of the North Carolina-based Robbins & Associates International golf course development company, said one choice isn't necessarily cheaper between buying an existing course and building a new course.

    "There are a lot of factors that enter into the making of a public golf course," Robbins said. "It's like buying a new car - you have to check all the oil leaks, maintenance records and upkeep history."

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    NTPGA Chapter Junior Players of the Year

    The Northern Texas PGA Junior Golf Foundation has announced the 2006 Chapter Player of the Year Award winners for both the boys and girls divisions in the East, Metro and West Chapters of the junior tour. The players were able to earn points during the year placing in the top 10 of a tournament in the boys division and top 7 of a tournament in the girls division.

    The following individuals were named as the NTPGA Chapter Player of the Year in their division:

    East Texas Chapter Female Player of the Year
    Ages 15-18: Allison Rogers of Bullard
    Ages 12-14: Taylor Newlin of Frisco
    Ages 10-11: Ellen Dixon of Tyler

    East Texas Chapter Male Player of the Year
    Ages 16-18: Daniel Gibbins of LaRue
    Ages 14-15: Logan Russell of Jacksonville
    Ages 12-13: Sam Fidone of Lufkin
    Ages 10-11: Colin Frizzell of Nacogdoches
    Coed 7-9: Chase Allison of Palestine

    Metro Chapter Female Player of the Year
    Ages 15-18: Carol Blanton of Garland
    Ages 12-14: Victoria Newbury of Flower Mound
    Ages 10-11: Kirsten Pike of Ovilla

    Metro Chapter Male Player of the Year
    Ages 16-18: Aaron Galbraith of Cleburne
    Ages 14-15: Boom Sritart of Keller
    Ages 12-13: Scott Scheffler of Dallas
    Ages 10-11: Kevin Childs of Mansfield
    Coed 7-9: Austin Connelly of Irving

    West Texas Chapter Female Player of the Year
    Ages 15-18: Rachael Dansby of Lubbock
    Ages 12-14: Kyla Jo Williams of Amarillo
    Ages 10-11: Sarah Black of Big Spring

    West Texas Chapter Male Player of the Year
    Ages 16-18: Tyler Paige of Borger
    Ages 14-15: Blake Fulton of Amarillo
    Ages 12-13: William Paulsell of Borger
    Ages 10-11: Hunter Montgomery of Andrews
    Coed 7-9: Tanner Montgomery of Andrews

    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    Top 100 Ranges

    Each year, Golf Range Magazine compiles a list of the Top 100 Ranges in America. The rankings for the past year are now out. Here are the Texas ranges that made the Top 100:

    • D.A.'s Spring Creek Golf, Plano
    • Games People Play, Beaumont
    • Golfsmith Golf Center & Harvey Penick Academy, Austin
    • Hank Haney Golf Ranch at Vista Ridge, Lewisville
    • Jim McLean Golf Center at Waterchase, Fort Worth
    • Leonard Golf Links, Fort Worth

    About the new McLean facility at Waterchase, Golf Range writes:

    48-acre golf training center includes a fully lighted practice range, with seven target greens, an 11,000 sq. ft. short game area including a bent grass putting green and three-tier practice bunker. 8,000 sq. ft. clubhouse incorporates golf fitness center, restaurant, 4 indoor, “Superstation” instruction bays, Full Swing Simulator, putting studio and clubfitting and testing center.

    About Hank Haney's Lewisville facility, Golf Range says:

    There have been a few changes at Hank Haney Golf. The original Golf Ranch is in the process of being redeveloped and the Citipoint facility will soon become a new TopGolf location. The “new” Ranch is the Vista Ridge facility. Upholding the high standards of the other Haney locations inlcuing Hank Haney at Westridge; Texarkana Golf Ranch and Cityplace Golf Center, Vista Ridge features a well
    designed, range and learning center and a 9-hole executive length course designed by Haney and Jimmy Fazio. An 8,000 sq. ft. main building supports a 3,000 sq. ft. full-service pro shop.

    Rodriguez Likes PTGL Model

    anthony rodriguez - ptglWe wrote not too long about about how San Antonian Anthony Rodriguez was named MVP of the first competition from the Professional Team Golf League (PTGL). The PTGL is a league bringing the team concept to golf, with eight "games" for each "team" during the 2007 "season."

    The San Antonio Express-News' weekly golf page today features an article on Rodriguez and his PTGL experience last month, and he sounds hopeful about the venture's prospects for success:

    Now, what exactly is the PTGL?

    Rodriguez, for one, thinks it's a valid question. He even asked the same thing when he was approached by the league last year.

    "You hear of new golf tours popping up all the time," Rodriguez said. "But when I saw the money and backing behind this, I knew it was a sure thing."


    Rodriguez said he normally can spend up to tens of thousands of dollars each year in out-of-pocket travel expenses. Playing with the PTGL doesn't give any player a direct boost in earning a tour card, but the benefits are seen elsewhere.

    "It gives you an opportunity to go play," said Rodriguez, who was named rookie of the year on the Canadian Tour in 2006 after not missing a cut in 10 starts. "You can stay competitive and ease off the expenses a little bit. It also gives you a certain exposure."

    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    Can You Say "Eminent Domain"?

    The City of Corpus Christi can, and it might have to if it really wants to give or sell Oso Beach Municipal Golf Course to the Texas A&M University System for an expansion of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

    As we posted below, that's what the city is considering doing with the venerable old course, which is both much-maligned and much-beloved in Corpus Christi.

    But Oso Beach Municipal, when it was built in the 1930s, was a privately owned country club. It was sometime around or just after World War II that the owners of the country club gave the course to the city - but apparently, they included a deed restriction: the course would always have to remain public.

    That deed restriction could prevent the city from turning the course over to A&M-CC. However, the city could get around the deed restriction by invoking eminent domain.

    Eminent domain law requires that the government acquiring land via this method pay fair market value for it. So if you are a descendant of the owners of Oso back when it was a private club, now would be a good time to put together documents prooving that.

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    Say It Ain't Oso!

    Oso Beach Municipal Golf Course in Corpus Christi might be about to go the way of the dodo bird.


    An article in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times this morning reveals that the city is considering selling or giving Oso and surrounding land to the Texas A&M University System for an expansion of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The university has outgrown the narrow strip of land formerly known as Ward Island on which is sits, near the Naval Air Station, and Oso - across the Cayo del Oso from the school - is the closest piece of land the city could make available.

    The Caller-Times reports that deal would be contingent on the city's ability (or willingness) to provide citizens with another course to replace Oso:

    City and university officials have been talking about the proposed deal involving about 200 acres since June, and they hope to have a decision within 10 days, City Manager Skip Noe said.

    Noe and Hill said they didn't recall where the idea originated, but Noe said the city is willing to let go of the land because the university's success is critical for the region's economic success and long-term growth. However, the deal is dependent on the city finding an alternate municipal golf course by either buying an existing course or building a new one, he said.

    Oso Beach Municipal is the golf course of my youth. I've played that wind-blown course with short holes and tiny greens probably thousands of times, although not in about 10 years. If this deal is finalized, I see a road trip in my future for a final, farewell round of golf.

    ... the city still is considering whether to buy an existing private golf course or build a new municipal course.

    A second municipal course to complement the city's Gabe Lozano Sr. Golf Center is necessary because there's a demand for the public courses and most years they are financially self-sufficient, Noe said.

    My bet is the city will buy an existing course. There is one semi-private course in Corpus Christi for sale, and and another private one that is bleeding money and headed for the market. The private one is Kings Crossing Country Club on the far southside near Oso Creek. The semi-private one is Pharaohs Golf Club on the southside, very close to Oso golf course.

    Kings Crossing in an excellent layout, one of Bill Coore's (of Crenshaw & Coore fame) early designs. But you have to wonder whether the city could maintain a level of conditioning that would keep Kings Crossing among the top courses in town.

    Consider Pharaohs the leader in the clubhouse to be purchased by the city and become Corpus Christi's new municipal golf course. I've never considered Pharaohs much better than a typical municipal anyway (in fact, Oso is a much more interesting course). But it did regularly host an LPGA tournament in the early '70s.


    Wednesday, January 03, 2007

    Don Massengale Passes Away at 69

    Sad news tonight: Don Massengale Sr., a Texas golf fixture, has passed away at the age of 69 after suffering a heart attack in Conroe. Massengale was the director of the Massengale Golf Academy at Augusta Pines Golf Club in Spring. Services are scheduled for Saturday, 11 a.m., at Faith Bible Church in The Woodlands.

    Massengale was born in Jacksboro in 1937. He played the PGA Tour extensively from 1960-70, and sporadically thereafter, competing as late as 1985. (His brother Rik and son Donnie Jr. also played on the PGA Tour.)

    In 1966, Don won twice on the PGA Tour, at the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am and the Canadian Open. He was runner-up at the 1967 PGA Championship to Don January, another Texan.

    From 1987 to 1996, Massengale played the Champions Tour full-time, winning twice. After that, he turned to teaching, a subject he was well-grounded in from his own work under the tutelage of Harvey Penick.

    Don Massengale Sr. is survived by his wife Judy and sons Don Jr. and Mark.