What a difference a decade makes.
Ten years ago, the city of Cleveland lost its only golf course with the closure of Kirbywood. However, by this time next summer, the city will have three separate 9-hole courses in the Grand Oaks Subdivision that promise to be challenging for seasoned players, yet with enough options so that novices will not become discouraged while they learn the game of golf.
Mike Nuzzo with Houston-based Nuzzo Course Design says he created the layouts for the courses under the general rule of the developer, McKinley Development, “to put in as much good golf on the land as possible” and make it affordable for the public.
“At one point some options had the courses more spread out. Our developer went through a few permutations of which land to use,” he said. “At one point, we had more land, and at one point, we had less.”
Using natural features of the land, such as Tarkington Bayou and the large trees that line the property, Nuzzo designed three courses to give golfers options based on the amount of time they can spend pursuing their hobby. The Grand Putter can be played with the least amount of time and equipment – using only a putter and ball. The courses will have different tee boxes that provide options for playing a round of golf with a child or a novice.
“Not only is this a half-hour course, it’s ideal for people who have never played golf before. You just come out here and we give you a putter and a ball,” Nuzzo said. “If you have never stepped foot on a golf course, this is probably where you want to play.”
The Par 3 course, referred to as 3-Grand, is suitable for players with a little more time and a higher skill set. Nuzzo said the Par 3 course will take golfers about one hour, on average, to make their way from start to finish.
The 9-Grand course, a nine-hole championship regulation golf course, is the most complicated of the three to play, therefore requiring more time to complete all nine holes. The sixth and fourth holes are being built next to a large man-made lake inside the development. Waterfront lots will also have easy access to the golf course because of proximity. A trail suitable for foot or cart traffic will tie all three courses together.
A clubhouse with a restaurant, pro shop, snack bar and community center will offer golfers a respite after their games.
Nuzzo believes he has created something special, not only for Cleveland, but for the Houston area. He predicts that golfers from the region will make their way to Cleveland once the golf courses open to the public next year.
“In order to get a putting course like this, you would have to go to Pinehurst, N.C., Bandon Dunes, Ore., or Scotland. There aren’t many like this,” he said. “You see people putting in golf courses like this, but they are more like miniature golf. There are a couple in Texas, but they aren’t quite like this to where they are big and bold and rolling.”
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Because the courses will have different tee boxes, people from different age groups and skill sets will be able to play the same course together.
Dr. Tommy Ham, pastor of First Baptist Church of Cleveland, is looking forward to playing golf with his two young grandsons.
“When I was a child, I started caddying for my dad. When I got old enough to play, I started playing with him. I played golf with my own son and now have two grandsons. I would love to take them out there to the starter course and play a game with them. It will be perfect,” he said.
Ham was among a small group of golf enthusiasts from the Cleveland area, including former Mayor Niki Coats and wife, Teresa, who got a sneak preview last week. All said they were impressed by what they saw and are looking forward to a time when they no longer drive 30-40 minutes to golf courses in the neighboring areas of Atascocita, Conroe and Huffman.
The contingency who toured the golf courses – the Coats, their son-in-law, Seth Walters, Calvary Baptist Church Pastor Carl Williamson, Ham and Joe Bazar – say they were pleased to see that Nuzzo gave the courses a unique layout.
Walters, who played golf while a student at Tarkington High School, and later at Ranger Junior College and LeTourneau, asked Nuzzo about the possibility that high school students could use the courses.
“I would hope more than anything that the schools use the courses,” Nuzzo said.
Over the years, Walters has seen a lot of par 3 golf courses and regular-sized nine-hole courses, and says he is happy to see accommodations for all skill levels incorporated into every hole, not just the shorter ones.
“People can have fun on their first couple of outings and not get discouraged,” he said.
The Coats, who own a couple of local businesses in Cleveland, see the economic advantages of sales taxes paid by the courses.
“Look at all the money that has gone out of Cleveland for the last 10 years from having to travel to golf courses in other areas. All that money has gone to other communities. With this opening up, all that money will remain in the community,” Teresa Coats said.
The Coats are confident the golf courses will also draw traffic and additional revenue from tournaments and fundraisers.
“I am so happy that we are bringing golf back to Cleveland next year,” Niki said. “It’s been a long time coming.”