Big change coming to Texas' oldest golf course?

The historic course east of downtown could soon be going through a change
October 18, 2013 5:11:36 PM PDT
A non-profit group wants to make half of the Gus Wortham course in east Houston a botanical garden. But that isn't sitting too well with golfers who frequently play the course.

For more than a century, the sound of golfers on a quest for a perfect game has echoed across the 150-plus acres there. Some are more successful than others, but generations of golfers have played at Gus Wortham golf course, the oldest and the first 18-hole golf course in Texas.

"It's a great course for a golfer. There's nothing here I'm not capable of doing," said golfer Ellen Hines. "Yet the better golfers, it challenges them, too."

It began as the Houston Country Club in 1908. Howard Hughes played there. Bobby Jones did exhibitions. In the 70's, it was purchased by civic leader Gus Wortham, who later sold it to the city.

A few years ago, the Dynamo suggested building a stadium there. Golfers and the surrounding neighborhoods rebelled. And now, a non-profit group is suggesting to the city that it convert half the course into a botanical garden, leaving golfers with half a course on which to play.

"Well, nobody would play nine holes of golf and it would fail and it would have to have the whole piece of property," said golfer Diane McDonald.

In response to the suggestion of a botanical garden project, the Houston Parks Department issued this statement:

"Gus Wortham Park Golf Course is managed and maintained by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. HPARD plans to continue operating an 18-hole golf course at Gus Wortham Park and has taken no action to change that position."

That's echoed by district Councilman James Rodriguez.

"The botanical garden would have to have hundreds of millions of dollars so I don't see this happening in the very near future," said Rodriguez.

People there will tell you they're continuing a golf tradition that dates back to the turn of the last century, a course designed for the city's elite that's now affordable and accessible for everyone. A botanical garden, they say, would be fine in a place that's undeveloped. Gus Wortham already has deep roots.

"We come out here and want to be Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods and all those folks, so you got to play the whole course," said golfer Norris Stanciell.

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