Council votes 6-1 to close Z Boaz Golf Course

FORT WORTH -- The City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to close the Z Boaz Golf Course and convert the 138-acre property into a community park, but golf course supporters were left with a glimmer of hope that it can be saved.

With Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks casting the lone no vote, the council agreed to close the park by Sept. 30.

But before the vote, Mayor Pro Tem W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman amended the motion to allow the closure to be revisited if Z Boaz backers can demonstrate that the course can support itself before the closure date.

Zimmerman also instructed the city manager to create a master plan for the park so amenities can be accounted for during the city budget process.

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. Parks and Community Services Director Richard Zavala said Z Boaz lost $234,000 last year. As a park, it would cost about $150,000 annually to maintain.

But many longtime golfers questioned those figures and stressed what could be lost if the course is closed.

Invoking the names of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Dan Jenkins, several golfers said the course, which opened in 1930, had brought recognition to the city and deserves another chance to prove that it can be self-sufficient.

One resident read a letter from golfing legend Kathy Whitworth, who voiced support for keeping the course open.

Another speaker, Blair Kline, who manages the Harbor Lakes Golf Club in Granbury, said the course is worth saving and volunteered his services to study Z Boaz and recommend improvements.

Other speakers advocated for a dog park at Z Boaz and the possible addition of mountain bike trails.

Budget process

Councilmen Dennis Shingleton and Jungus Jordan asked how plans for Z Boaz tied into the overall budget process. Jordan initially said he would vote against closure but changed his mind when Zimmerman's amendment included linking the master plan to the city's budgeting process.

Shingleton said that the financial trends at the course aren't sustainable but that he is hopeful Z Boaz supporters can show enough progress in the next several months to prevent its closure.

Several council members complained about the sometimes bitter tone of the debate.

Last week, one Z Boaz supporter incorrectly accused Zimmerman of having a conflict of interest in the matter. And Hicks confronted one speaker, Wendy Helm, about an e-mail asserting that Hicks' vote was for sale.

Helm replied that she thought Hicks had already voted to keep the Sycamore Creek Golf Course open and to close Z Boaz, which was incorrect.

Councilman Danny Scarth told Z Boaz supporters that they didn't help themselves with their tactics.

Golf forecast

In making the argument for converting the course to a city park, Zavala said that last year's forecast by the National Golf Foundation predicted that 500 to 1,000 golf courses nationwide would close by 2015 because of the declining number of golfers and the rising number of courses.

In 1979, there were eight courses within 15 miles of Z Boaz, he said, but by 2009, there were 19.

Zavala said converting Z Boaz to a park would cost $6 million to $7 million, to be phased in over several years.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna