The historic property in Fort Worth, Texas, where Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson learned the game, is under contract to be sold to a craft whiskey producer that says it needs to expand operations and create a meeting center. The golf course, or part of it, could be preserved as part of a tourist attraction.
If local businessmen who are seeking to buy the property have their way, the historic Glen Garden Country Club could trade birdies and bogeys for barrels of whiskey, the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported.
The country club in Fort Worth where golf legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson once learned the game is under contract to be sold to Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., also of Fort Worth, the Star-Telegram reported, and owners Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson say they need to expand the craft whiskey producer’s operations from its current location in the city.
Firestone and Robertson have a new vision for the 106-acre Glen Garden CC property, which opened in southeast Fort Worth in 1912, the Star-Telegram reported. They would transform it into a distillery and meeting center, but insist they will keep much of the open land, similar to what is seen along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail or at popular California vineyards.
Firestone & Robertson’s TX Whiskey was named “Best American Craft Whiskey” in 2013, the Star-Telegram reported and at the company’s current location, more than 10,000 people have toured the facility along with numerous private parties, including those held as political fundraisers.
“In our business having land is very important,” Firestone said. “We need space, but want to have that farm-like experience.”
The business has grown to 15 employees and would eventually hire another 20 employees if Glen Garden is purchased, the Star-Telegram reported. The distillery would expect to have hourly tours with operating hours for visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the owners predict the storied golf course would become a statewide tourist attraction.
“There will be no other facility like this that has been built in the state,” Robertson said.
But Firestone and Robertson won’t close on the deal unless they get approval to rezone the property from the Fort Worth Zoning Commission and Fort Worth City Council, the Star-Telegram noted. Currently, the potential new owners are scheduled to appear before the zoning commission on June 11 and the council on July 15.
Getting support for the plan from surrounding neighborhoods could also prove to be challenging, the Star-Telegram reported.
“I think it’s getting mixed reviews,” said Fort Worth City Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray, whose district includes the country club. She hasn’t taken a position on the distillery’s plans.
The whiskey makers hosted a small group of residents in early May and were also planning to meet with a neighborhood Civic League on May 17th in a community center in a park near the golf course.
“Let’s put it out there and let the community decide,” Gray told the Star-Telegram.
Some residents were swayed when they visited the company’s warehouse, but not everybody was convinced, she noted.
“Everyone who came to the original meeting said ‘No,’” Gray said. “They didn’t know what the distillery was. As the tour went on, I think some were like ‘This is probably a good idea. This is something unique.’ ”
Marie Love, president of the neighborhood Civic League, attended the meeting and said there are still concerns about losing the golf course.
“Most of the neighborhood is not wanting this,” Love said. “There’s a lot of land in Fort Worth. A lot of people are asking, ‘Why Glen Garden Country Club?”
Howard Ratliff, who lives across the street from the club, told the Star-Telegram that he remains skeptical about the project, and said most of his neighbors are also uncomfortable with the idea.
“From talking to residents along my street, they’re concerned about having a quasi-industrial distillery and warehouse in our neighborhood,” Ratliff said. “This is a residential neighborhood with a lot of churches. This is really out of character with the neighborhood as it currently exists.”
The distillery owners are planning a visitor’s center and production facility. They would keep the country club’s lake and build metal storage building to age whiskey, the Star-Telegram reported.
With the sold-out tours at their current facility, they plan on keeping the clubhouse and displaying memorabilia from the golf course’s history in the visitor’s center, it was noted.
And while no firm plans have been made, Firestone said the company may try to keep several holes from the golf course intact, the Star-Telegram reported.
Glen Garden CC opened in 1912 when H.H. Cobb of the OK Cattle Co. decided to build his own course after he was denied entry into exclusive River Crest Country Club. If it closes, a lot of Fort Worth golf history would be lost, said Fort Worth journalist and author Dan Jenkins, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012 and whose family once had a membership at Glen Garden CC.
“If you’re an old guy like me, the fact that [Hogan and Nelson] caddied there is big deal,” Jenkins told the Star-Telegram. “They hosted one of the greatest invitational golf tournaments in the state in the ‘20s and ‘30s. There’s so much golf history there, but things change and neighborhoods change.”
When Jenkins’ novel, Dead Solid Perfect, became an HBO movie in 1988, the Star-Telegram reported, Jenkins spent about a week at Glen Garden CC while scenes were being shot.
“That’s another reason I’m sensitive about seeing anything happen to it,” Jenkins said. “I haven’t played it in a long time, but I used to play it as part of the [Texas Christian University] golf team. It seems like all of these old courses are going away. The least they could do is keep nine holes of it.”
But if the neighborhood successfully fights the zoning change, it is uncertain what would happen to the country club. It has been on the market for about two years, and Love said residents don’t really want to see it becoming anything else.
“What would they support besides a golf course?” Love said. “I don’t know.”