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Z Boaz Was One of “America’s Worst”

In my last post I promised that “tomorrow” I’d reprint a report on 11,237th-ranked Z Boaz Golf Course from my almost-best-seller of 1994, America’s Worst Golf Courses. By “tomorrow,” of course, I meant “next week.” I’ve spent much of that week searching Catch Basin for my file of Z Boaz photographs. When I find them — and after they’ve been digitally enhanced from the drab colors of the last century to glorious black-and-white — I’ll present them in gallery format. Meanwhile, here’s what America’s Worst Golf Courses had to say about Z Boaz:

“Riding on its reputation.”

 

That’s what you hear whenever Z Boaz shows up on the latest list of America’s worst courses. And it’s true — this vintage layout has suffered numerous improvements since its debut as a WPA project in 1937. The spindly trees have grown into impressive oaks; ponds and creeks have filled with water; once-faceless sand bunkers now yawn impressively. It’s a far cry from the hardpan heaven that earned Z Boaz the nickname “Goat Hills New.”

 

Richard Teague, the muni’s current assistant pro, looks out the clubhouse window and shakes his head over the changes. “When I played here, there wasn’t no trees,” he says. “Wasn’t no grass, either, for that matter.”

What Z Boaz has going for it is its legacy. In a memorable article in Sports Illustrated called “The Glory Game at Goat Hills,” writer Dan Jenkins recalled his student days at nearby Texas Christian University, where he and his band of rowdy, bet-happy ne’er-do-wells wasted their afternoons on the parched fairways of the old Worth Hills Golf Course.

 

Overtaken by development — not to mention good taste — Worth Hills went under the bulldozers some years ago, causing SI  to remark that “it was nice to learn that something could take a divot out of those hard fairways.” Z Boaz carries on the tradition as best it can. Every summer, Jenkins invites a touring pro and a bunch of lesser lights to Z Boaz for a one-day tournament, the Dan Jenkins Partnership & Goat Hills Glory Game Reprise. Although not as bleak as Worth Hills in its prime, Z Boaz still offers a pungent contrast to Fort Worth’s elegant Colonial Country Club, some miles away. No clipped hedges and high-dollar homes here — just a stark rectangle of Texas Hill country bounded by a railroad line and three busy streets.

 

The din of traffic, in fact, is an inescapable feature of golf at Z Boaz. The neighborhood is rich with furniture showcases and warehouses, most of which provide a pleasing backdrop to the golfer about to play a shot. Batting cages, miniature golf, and a life-size statue of a giraffe enhance the northern boundary, while empty storefronts and a karate school line the seventh fairway on the east side. And where, save for the finishing holes at Cypress Point, will the golfer find two more natural greensites than Z Boaz’s sixteenth (at the foot of the neon “Checks Cashed” sign) and seventeenth (hard against Long John Silver’s Seafood Shop)?

 

Surely, this is what Robert Louis Stevenson meant when he described Z Boaz as “the most beautiful meeting of land and transmission shops that nature has produced.”

Can such a course really be at death’s door? Will golfers no longer gather on the banks of the Firth of Camp Bowie to ponder its murky depths and weigh the risks of reaching for a muddy ball. Will dog owners and skate boarders defoliate the sacred sward?

Stay tuned for further updates.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but THE PLAYERS Championship has begun on Pete and Alice Dye’s 51st-ranked TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra, Fla.   Described on a PGA Tour web site as “perhaps the world’s most famous golf course,” it is not. 

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Spanish Layout Is for Real

“How do your course raters document their findings?” asks a reader from Lower Venice, Italy. “Is it merely checked boxes on pages? Do you obtain sworn affidavits? How do we know that your raters have even visited the courses on the list — or, more importantly, the courses not on your list?”

Good question, Vinny. I can answer it by reminding you that our course raters have photographed every hole on every golf course in the world, from top-ranked Askernish Old right down to our perennial bottom-ranked layout, the Ft. Meade City Mobile Home Park Golf Course of Ft. Meade, Fla. Furthermore, Top 50 raters are bonded and they have to produce a signed chit from the superintendent or head pro of each club before they can collect their honoraria.*

*We typically pay our raters in carnival script to minimize the possibility that they will be caught short by international currency devaluations.

By the way, the image bank at Catch Basin is not limited to golf course photos. We ask our globetrotting nitpickers to document every aspect of a facility, from the front gate to the darkest corner of the superintendent’s shed. Just this morning, for instance, we downloaded hundreds of photos from Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola Club de Campo in San Sebastian de los Reyes, Spain, site of this week’s Madrid Masters. The RSHECC has two championship golf courses with mountain views, a splendid ivy-covered clubhouse, a sprawling parking garage, and a terraced practice range that offers three levels of grass tees plus a mats-only range with both covered and rooftop tee lines.

South Course Starter's Shed

Sketches of Spain: The starter's shed at RSHECC South. (John Garrity)

“I was particularly taken with the starter’s shed on the first tee of the South Course,” our rater told me by satellite phone. “It made me feel nostalgic in some hard-to-describe way, so I gave the facility a few hundred discretionary points.”

The beauty of the Cal Sci algorithm is that we can adjust for this bonehead’s misapplication of the ratings formula, leaving RSHECC with a more appropriate bonus of 25. We’ll post the club’s new ranking when we get fresh numbers back from Pasadena, probably on the Memorial Day weekend. (No, the Top 50 does not “holiday.” The full-capacity golf weekends are when we are needed most.)

By the way, Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola Club de Campo translates as “The Royal Spanish Horse Society Country Club.” I asked our rater to send me a hat, but he claimed their hats don’t make it through the embroidery process.

Top 50 on TV: The PGA Tour finishes off its Texas Swing at Colonial Country Club, No. 24. I planned to post a course photo, but I got distracted scrolling through our gallery of “Colonial C.C. Bark Beetles,” which takes up about 5 gigs of storage space. If you’re desperate to see what Colonial looks like these days, check back here later. Otherwise, you can tune in to the Nick Faldo Networks (Golf Channel and CBS), which will cover all four rounds of the $6.2 million Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

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