By: Malcolm Mayhew
Live oaks dating back hundreds of years stretch their long and arthritic branches back around to their roots, reaching the ground and creating little cavernous outdoor rooms that entertain the golfer’s eye at Rockwood Park Golf Course. A gang of big black figures moves around in the distance. “Look at those turkeys!” owner of Colligan Golf Designs, John Colligan, says. The awkward birds lurch across patches of tall native grasses and wildflowers, which were purposefully seeded by the course designers at the newly renovated course.
These scenes take you back to Fort Worth’s blank-slate prairie days, which elegantly juxtapose new purposeful “window frames” of the modern city — now the 16th largest in the country. The organic scenery was intentional for the course-designer-duo Colligan and his colleague, Trey Kemp, because it “acts like a wildlife habitat and adds character.” It also cuts back on irrigation and maintenance costs, adding to one of the many thoughtful changes that restore this course aesthetically, while also making it more efficient and ecologically sensitive.
“Fort Worth is known as a great golfing town, and we wanted to have a golf facility that was on the same level as the private clubs and enjoy some of the history. It is going to be every bit as beautiful as private clubs,” Colligan said.
Fort Worth commissioned Colligan and Kemp in 2008, when Parks and Recreation got a $2 million check from mineral leases to remodel the nearly 80-year-old, 175-acre Rockwood Golf Course. They changed almost everything, from rearranging all of the greens to the logo, restoring it to its original 1930s charm. The course scheduled a June 30 opening as of press time, a slight delay because of excessive spring rains.
Details like hard geometric lines on the greens echo back to what Texas golf legend John Bredemus created when he originally designed the course in 1938. Kemp pulled up aerial views of the course taken in 1941 during his research to recreate the retro look.
“The course was designed to have a ‘classic’ appearance and resemble what courses back in the 1930s looked and played like, while having all of the modern advantages, such as new turf varieties, a state-of-the-art irrigation system and subsurface drainage, to name a few,” Kemp said.
Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers, also known as Texas’ bird of paradise, continue to fly overhead and dart in across the cart lanes on an unseasonably cool and breezy late spring day. The balance of rustic native Texas landscapes, retro-style greens, polished landscaping, modern technology and delicate use of the sophisticated topography lends to what Colligan poetically compared to a sheet of music.
“A golf course is like a sheet of music. You want it to ebb and flow [in level of difficulty],” Colligan said. “And then there is the crescendo.”
Hole 18 sits atop a hill looking back over the rolling verdant hills of the course the visiting golfer just completed. And then, crescendo. Peeking over the complex topography, manicured retro greens, and Texas wildflowers is a perfect view of Fort Worth’s many layers, starting with the Trinity River, then the top of the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum Pioneer Tower, the courthouse and then downtown Fort Worth as a backdrop.
Also on the horizon is the project’s phase two, which would be the construction of a new clubhouse to complement the new course.
“The clubhouse is currently proposed as part of the 2018 Bond Program, which still is to be vetted by the City Manager’s office, the City Council and ultimately approved by the citizens of Fort Worth,” assistant director of golf and athletics for park and recreation Nancy Bunton said.
It would include a snack bar to seat 32 people and banquet hall to seat 120. Bunton would like to see these potential projects accommodate a host of golf tournaments.
By: Malcolm Mayhew