Fort Worth’s municipal golf courses are on the upswing.
The city of Fort Worth shut down two of its municipal golf courses in 2011 and 2019. But the 2017 renovation of Rockwood Park and a spike in players during the pandemic have given the courses new life. Now, the city is trying to replicate the success of Rockwood’s renovation, turning its attention to the nearly 100-year-old Meadowbrook course in east Fort Worth. Residents of the area hope the renovations will aid in attracting more business to their side of town.
Renovating Meadowbrook Golf Course will take just over $13 million with voters approving $7 million in the 2022 bond election. Construction is estimated to start by the end of the year, and is expected to finish by summer 2025.
Dave Lewis, the deputy director of Fort Worth’s parks and recreation department, said the renovation will improve the infrastructure of the course such as the irrigation system and ponds. It will also replace the putting greens to meet U.S. Golf Association standards, which makes them easier to care for and more playable, Lewis said.
The courses are sustained by a revenue fund specifically for municipal golf courses. Money also comes from golfers’ snack purchases, green fees, cart rentals, annual passes and merchandise sales. Renovating courses improves the ability of a course to pay for itself. That’s what city officials such as Lewis saw with Rockwood when it was renovated in 2017.
“When they first opened, it was about a $500,000 turnaround from losing a couple hundred thousand a year to then turning a profit of about $300,000, just on that location alone,” Lewis said. “So when you do make those investments, you really have the opportunity to have a better guest experience. And it lends to more financial success and sustainability.”
Lewis also points to a surge in the golf industry during the pandemic. Meadowbrook, for example, saw a more than 50% increase in paid rounds in 2020 compared to the previous year.
Golf architects John Colligan and Trey Kemp, who were selected for renovating Rockwood, were also selected for the Meadowbrook course project. By the time construction is done, golfers will see a new course.
Holes will get rerouted in different directions, and fairways will be contoured differently. The goal is to take advantage of Meadowbrook’s unique landscape, Kemp said. Meadowbrook stands out as a North Texas course due to its rolling hills and vistas that aren’t common across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
“It should be more player-friendly and hopefully a little bit more strategic,” Kemp said. “Where the golfer can go out there and kind of has to think their way around the golf course a little bit more.”
Kemp and Colligan have worked together on 20 municipal golf courses. The goal of each project, Kemp said, is revitalization. Rockwood is a good model to replicate, he said: From losing money, to making money.
“It’s not just the city of Fort Worth, (Rockwood is) drawing people from all over,” Kemp said. “So hopefully, hopefully, Meadowbrook will be the same thing.”
Longtime residents previously told the Fort Worth Report that the east side lacks resources as the area has struggled with the decline of the East Lancaster business corridor.
Rick Hostler, secretary of the Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association and a longtime resident, said the renovation of the golf course is a symbol of the city recommitting to an asset of the area.
Hostler has been advocating for the Meadowbrook course for years, and said it has a cult following. For a while, he worried about losing it as the city shut down two other courses. The golf course could be one way to attract new investments into the area. Recently, east side neighborhood associations advocated to put the area on Visit Fort Worth’s tourism map.
“We need a catalyst for positive change, and that generally is something that’s going to come from the private sector,” Hostler said. “And if we don’t have something here that interests the private sector in terms of risking their investment dollars, then the hope of revitalization is questionable.”
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter @sbodine120. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.