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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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Texas Course Threatened by Progress

“John, I’ve got some bad news.”

Dan Jenkins, waiting for his ride outside the Savannah Rapids Pavilion, couldn’t have looked more troubled. Which was surprising, since he had just been honored for being honored at the Golf Writers Association of America’s annual dinner.

The world’s greatest golf writer cut to the chase: “They’re closing Z Boaz.”

Witnesses say that I made some gaspy, guttural sounds and began swaying like a pine in a stout breeze. My Top 50 aide-de-camp clutched my elbow and offered to send someone for a ginger ale.

“No,” I said, regaining my composure. “But I’d like some grapes.”

My flunky hustled inside, leaving me to get the whole story from Dan. The Fort Worth City Council, he told me, had voted by a margin of 6-to-1 to close the scenic and 11,237th-ranked Z Boaz Golf Course in September and replace it with a 138-acre community park. “I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings,” Dan said, “but I know how you feel about Z Boaz.”

A month has passed, and I’m still reeling from the news. Z Boaz featured prominently in my 1994 almost-best-seller, America’s Worst Golf Courses: A Collection of Courses Not Up to Par. While not the worst course I’ve ever seen — that distinction still belongs to Florida’s Ft. Meade City Mobile Home Park Golf Course — Z Boaz is undoubtedly the worst course I’ve played multiple times to increasing levels of satisfaction and fondness. Z Boaz was the venue for the annual Dan Jenkins Partnership & Goat Hills Glory Game Reprise, a two-man scramble tournament for sandbaggers, golf writers, aging celebrities and down-on-their-luck PGA Tour pros from across the country.

“It’s all about the money,” Dan told me at the Masters. “Z Boaz is supposed to generate enough revenue to pay for itself, but usage has decreased from 46,873 golfers in 2000 to 21,844 in 2010. They say Z Boaz lost $234,000 last year.”*

*This may not be an actual quote by Dan, unless he was reading to me from an April 3 article by Bill Hanna in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

I’ve done a little research of my own since then, and I’ve found evidence that Z Boaz’s demise is being promoted by well-funded lobbyists for the dog-park and mountain-bike-trail movements. (See the Star-Telegram’s coverage of a public hearing, which states, “Other speakers advocated for a dog park at Z Boaz and the possible addition of mountain bike trails.”) Some park proponents have poisoned the debate by characterizing Z Boaz golfers as “profanity-spouting layabouts with coarse habits, showing minimal regard for taxpayer dollars” — as if that justifies shuttering an operation that has served its community for more than 80 years.

Am I going to take this lying down? Probably. I’ve reached the age where a thrice-daily nap is critical if I’m to operate at peak efficiency.

But I will not take this standing up! I hereby announce that John Garrity’s Top 50 Blog will join Hall of Fame golfer Kathy Whitworth and the ghosts of Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan in pleading for Z Boaz’s life. It’s not too late, Fort Worth City Council! It’s not too late!

(Tomorrow, I’ll reprint the Z Boaz chapter from America’s Worst Golf Courses. In the meantime, I invite my billionaire readers to consider a generous donation to the Save Z Boaz Foundation, if there is such a thing.)

Top 50 on TV: The PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship is being played at 32nd-ranked Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C. The practice range at Quail Hollow ranks in every pro’s Top 5, as you’ll discover when you read my SI Golf Plus article from 2006, “7 Days on the Range.”

 

 

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