The last rounds at Sycamore Creek Golf Course may be played this summer.
Not that many golfers have been teeing off there in recent years anyway. Golf in Fort Worth and across the country has slumped over the past decade. But with a major water line project that could close the course for as long as two years, the city’s park department has recommended the nine-hole course off Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway transition to a park like the one across East Vickery Boulevard. The Fort Worth City Council will consider the proposal June 11.
“We hate to lose the golf course,” said Naymond James, a longtime golfer. “It’s inevitable, though, some changes have to be made.”
James has been an advocate for Fort Worth golf, especially in the city’s south and east side. Sycamore Creek was the first course he played, he said, and he has remained a regular there since the early 1970s. He also sat on a committee that heard public comment on the course’s future.
He’s among the few golfers who regularly play the small course. Sycamore Creek hasn’t turned a profit since 1993, said Nancy Bunton, interim assistant parks director for golf and athletics. The course averages 12,500 rounds of golf per year, but needs closer to 24,000 rounds to be sustainable.
In 2017 taxpayers footed the bill for a little more than $200,000 at the course and nearly $230,000 last year. Since 1994, the course has cost more than $300,000 a year, or just under $4 million, between the revenue deficit and maintenance costs.
In the fall the city water department will replace a line that runs through the course, ripping up parts of the No. 8, No. 9, No. 1 and No. 2 holes. That project will cost $6.5 million, but an additional $600,000 to $700,000 would be needed to rehab the course — replacing irrigation, rebuilding greens and bunkers and planting grass. On top of that, the clubhouse needs more than $500,000 in work.
The parks department hosted a town hall on the mater in April followed by neighborhood meetings with Historic Southside, Glenwood Triangle, Polytenchic Heights and the Near East Side. Those neighborhoods voted in favor of a park, as did the city’s park board, Bunton said.
The course spans 66 acres and includes two ponds along with parts of Sycamore Creek. The cost to convert the space into a park may be significantly less, depending on what the community wants there, Bunton said, and it can be open immediately after the water project ends. More community meetings will be held to discuss park amenities.
“We’d love to see development of something that increases outside activity and promotes socialization given that loneliness and sedentary lifestyles can be detrimental to physical and mental health,” Southside president Brian Dixon wrote in an email, adding that a water park could be one suggestion. “We endorse any idea that improves health and wellness.”
But the neighborhood that surrounds the course, small Parker Essex Boaz, wasn’t a part of those discussions, said neighborhood president Shirley Bryant. A call from the Star-Telagram was the first she had heard of plans to permanently close the golf course, she said.
Her husband, Vandell Bryant, golfs at the course regularly and said he was disappointed in the recommendation.
“The city could have done more to encourage golf — lessons, tournaments, something to get people interested,” Vandell said.
Turning the course into a park was not arrived at lightly, said Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray, who represents the area. Though golf was down across the city, a commitment had been made to keep municipal courses open, she said, but the cost at Sycamore has grown. She urged the parks department to invest in Meadowbrook Golf Course, about five miles away, if Sycamore Creek closes.
“We’re not going to do anything that first of all isn’t in the communities best interest and secondly doesn’t include their voice,” she said.