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California Bentgrass Golf Greens in Texas Resulted From a Medical Doctor's Prescription

Jun 29, 2008
The Colonial Country Club has been repeatedly ranked in the top 100 of the world's greatest golf courses again and again. What makes this golf course so special and what is its unique history.

The Colonial Country Club of Fort Worth Texas was the brainchild of Marvin Leonard, the pioneering founder of the Leonard Brothers discount store that opened in downtown Fort Worth way back in 1918.

With the help of his brother, Obie Leonard, the pair worked long hours to make the enterprise a success. The two brothers working as a pair succeeded phenomenally, and their enterprise soon became the pride of Fort Worth, and would eventually extend into the oil, gas, ranching, baking and real estate businesses.

In 1923, brother Marvin was invited to join the Glen Eden Golf Club, and he accepted the invitation but found that he little time for golf and quit playing. His hard work had started to wear him down, however and in 1927 his doctor actually ordered him to find time for recreation in his life.

Marvin took up the golf clubs again, and this time his interest became intense. Playing at Glen Garden, and also at Rivercrest Country Club, he developed his own game to the point that he regularly shot in the low 80's, and often shot in the 70's when he was really on his putting game.

He studied all aspects of the sport including the makeup of golf courses. While on family vacations in California, he had the chance to play on bentgrass greens. Unlike the uneven texture of the Bermuda grass greens that predominated Texas, bentgrass greens are smooth. Additionally with Bermuda grass, you are more or less at the mercy of the idiosyncrasies of the putting surface, while with bentgrass, if you strike a putt true you are likely to overcome the wiles of the green.

Leonard dedicated himself to bring bentgrass greens to Texas. He was told by one and all that bentgrass would wilt in the hot Texas Sun, while Bermuda grass thrives in the hot heat. Marvin was not dissuaded and went as far as to tell the Rivercrest governing board that if they would let him convert two to three greens to bentgrass, that he would foot the bill. Further if things did not work out he personally would pay for the change back to Bermuda grass leaving the greens intact as if the whole episode had not happened.

Finally the president of Rivercrest could take no more of Marvin Leonard's constant badgering and refrain. The president of Rivercrest's lack of patience and anger led him so far that he suggested that perhaps Leonard should build his own course. Indeed Leonard decreed that after the whole sordid exercise of the whole episode and its resulting interactions that perhaps this was the best idea of all - to build his own golf course.

Plans were put into action in late 1934. 175 acres of land in the Southwest Fort Worth area were acquired near the Texas Christian University campus. A pair of noted golf course architects were not asked to design the course - rather they were asked initially for 5 separate designs, then five additional separate designs for the new first Fort Worth bentgrass golf course. By early 1935, Marvin Leonard's golf course had begun to take shape. The challenge of nurturing the bentgrass greens was solved though a unique soil culture planting seaside bentgrass in a specially developed and tested combination of sand and Texas ranch cow manure. As result the bentgrass greens could be kept intact from the fierce Texas heat - that is as long as the golf greens were watered frequently.

Thus it can be said that a medical doctor's prescription was the very prescription and order that resulted in bentgrass golf courses being introduced into the Texas golfing scene.
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