When Glen Garden Country Club closed its doors less than three years ago and sold the property to Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., the belief became that Fort Worth lost one of its most treasured golf courses to a whiskey distillery.
This is a course built in 1912 and steeped in golf history with Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan serving as caddies and learning the game there. LPGA great Sandra Palmer also started there.
Don’t fret, though, Fort Worth golf fans. The course is alive and well, albeit a little different and arguably better.
The co-founders of TX Whiskey, Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson, are golfers and understood the importance of preserving the course. Hey, like the old myth says, the reason a round of golf is 18 holes is because that's how many shots are in a whiskey bottle.
So the course has been preserved for the most part on the 112-acre property that is now home to the largest whiskey distillery west of the Mississippi River.
It’s still an 18-hole trek. It’s dropped from a par-71 to a par-68 course that stretches 5,269 yards and features seven par-3s, eight par-4s and three par-5s.
“We just thought, and it is, extraordinary golf history,” co-founder Leonard Firestone said during a recent unveiling event.
“It’s an asset to Fort Worth and we felt that was something we couldn’t destroy. We couldn’t lose that.”
The course will not be open for daily public play as the company is not looking to get into the golf business – after all, they’re known for their popular TX Whiskey – and do not intend to maintain it for everyday play.
But it’ll be open for special events and charitable endeavors. The maintenance crew needs about two weeks to get the course ready for playing conditions after an extended layoff.
Even though it won’t be easily accessible for public play, one could argue that it’s a better way to honor the history of Nelson and Hogan than what had become of Glen Garden.
In its final years, most golfers wouldn’t argue a “goat track” label on Glen Garden. Sure, the history spoke for itself, but the course had fallen far behind others in the area.
The whiskey distillery put money into getting the course into impressive shape. A few holes were re-routed and a couple were built from scratch, but the foundation of the old course remains in tact.
The updated course features three new greens and nine new tee boxes.
The signature hole might be the 150-yard, par-3 sixth that Firestone thought of in the middle of the night. Golfers are tested with tall grass surrounding the hole and a tight green that has a steep runoff behind it.
“This was built in 1912, so it’s old school by definition,” Firestone said. “Glen Garden was known for having very small, sand pushup greens. We kept with that.”
Firestone then smiled and said: “Maybe a little too small.”
The golf connection only adds to what is expected to become a signature tourism stop for Fort Worth.
TX Whiskey will begin offering tours of the distillery on Nov. 10 from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Daily tours will begin in January 2018.
Part of the complex includes a tavern that features Nelson and Hogan memorabilia, and there are plenty of patio views of the golf course and downtown Fort Worth.
Again, the golf connection was simply too strong to ignore.
“It’s very important,” Firestone said. “I can’t tell you how many calls we’ve gotten from folks who are just writing stories on Ben Hogan and Glen Garden is a part of the history and just want to come by and walk around and see the environment.
“It’s important for how we could publicize the facility and to reach that audience. Clearly golfers and whiskey have a unique bond. Certainly there’s an affinity that one has for the other, so we felt like that worked well.
“This is a place that you cannot find anywhere else in the world with a history you cannot find anywhere else in the world.”