Future decided for hotly debated Houston golf courses

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The city has been losing money on the Glenbrook and Wortham golf courses for years

Every Wednesday, Victor Estrada and his friends play a round of golf at Gus Wortham Golf Course.

"Our fathers, our friends our family members have been playing here for years," says Estrada. "We want it to stay a golf course."

Estrada and his friends got what they wanted. After a unanimous vote by city council, Gus Wortham will now be managed by a non-profit organization. The city has entered into a 30 year lease with the Houston Golf Association. HGA intends to raise millions of dollars to pump money into the course. The goal is to turn it into a destination course, while still being affordable.

"I don't mind if they come up on the greens fee or up it a little bit, it doesn't matter," said golfer Gilbert Hernandez, "as long as they keep it up."

But a win for golfers at Gus Wortham means a different future for Glenbrook Golf Course. It's another money-losing, city owned, facility whose future has been in limbo. Wednesday, City Council entered into a separate lease with the Houston Botanic Garden, a different non-profit. The organization will also raise money, but it will turn Glenbrook into a botanical garden, and it will no longer be a golf course.

"Who does this serve?" asked Chelsea Sallans, a young woman who grew up along the Glenbrook Golf Course. She was among several concerned citizens who voiced their displeasure with City Council. "It's not the citizens of this community. Putting something in pretty doesn't mean it's valuable."

Jeff Ross, the president of the Houston Botanic Garden, promises to reach out to community members and hear their concerns. He points out the organization plans pump up to $20 million into the grounds when the gardens are completed. In addition, the city still owns the land.

"It's a lease, all the improvements we made to the land if we ever are no longer on the land, become the city's so in exchange for the lease, we are actually creating the improvements," said Ross.
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