Play Ball!

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A revamped Texas facility partners with a Major League Baseball team to bring baseball themes to the course. Plus, turf maintenance and management tips from those responsible for making ballparks sparkle.

July 3, 2019

The City of Arlington-owned Texas Rangers Golf Club reopened earlier this year following a major renovation.

Brick Scott showed up in Texas a dozen weeks to the day after the Rangers played their first game. The team had arrived in the Lone Star State by way of Washington, D.C., where their fans still clamored to keep them even after the thud of 11 unaccomplished seasons as the second edition of the Senators.

Scott arrived more traditionally, by way of birth.

They remained entwined, team and tyke, for years to come. The Rangers climbed the division ladder throughout the 1970s and early ’80s, knocking on the proverbial postseason door but never quite stepping in. Scott, meanwhile, climbed his own growth chart during his childhood over in Sidney, an unincorporated community deep in the heart of Texas — “outside Comanche between Brownwood and Stephenville,” he says. “Population about 300.” For years, he cheered for Jim Sundberg, the star catcher and six-time Gold Glove winner, wearing out a Sundberg No. 10 jersey after receiving it as a gift. The day Iván Rodríguez, another star catcher and a 2017 Baseball Hall of Famer, first crouched behind the plate, he was listening on a radio from the top of a tractor in a hayfield on the family farm.

“I’m a big Rangers fan,” Scott says, “and I’ve watched these guys for years.”

Which is why this year especially is so much fun. Sure, the Rangers are winning again, and sure, their new Globe Life Field — which will finally offer a roof to protect fans from the oppressive Texas summer sun — is under construction and will open next March. But what really cracks Scott’s smile is the logo on his work cap: After decades on golf courses and decades more as a fan, he now wears the familiar shaded T of his favorite baseball team to the office every day.

Because his job is superintendent of Texas Rangers Golf Club.

Until earlier this year, right around the start of another spring training out in Arizona, there was no Texas Rangers Golf Club. The municipal course itself was still under construction — and the clubhouse, scheduled to open in early 2020, still is — its small mountains of earth moved a little more every day throughout the winter. “They brought a (Caterpillar) D10 out here,” Scott says, “and it looked like they were going to change the Earth’s axis, it was so huge.”

Holes are named using baseball terms.
© colligan golf design/trey kemp

Part of a quartet of courses owned by the city of Arlington and operated by Arlington Golf, it had been called Chester W. Ditto Golf Course from the time it opened in 1982 until it shuttered for renovations in late 2016, not long after Arlington voters approved $24 million for the course. An opportunity to partner with the Rangers through 2054 — reportedly for 150 rounds per year in exchange for an equal value of game tickets and the rights to a brand name worth plenty in Texas — followed.

And now, as the Rangers push through the summer for their first playoff berth since 2016, “it’s been difficult getting stuff done on the golf course,” Scott says, “because there’s been so much play.”

Scott has plenty of reference and plenty of stories. He worked at Ditto for about a decade and a half and he remained on site throughout construction, working for almost two years out of a Home Depot shed dropped in the parking lot. He knows the course well enough that storing a fleet of 34 pieces of equipment — some of which are more than a quarter of a century old — and relocating his crew provided more of a challenge than a roadblock.

“I can’t say enough about how Brick and his crew persevered through all the adversity,” Greg Durante, golf services manager for Arlington Golf Division, says from inside the temporary pro shop that is only slightly larger than that old pop-up shed. “Getting this golf course grown in without a maintenance facility, working out of a parking lot, mechanics outside —”

“Outside with a light plugged in,” Scott chimes in from across the table. “Extension cords with a little shop light. It got a little crowded with eight guys.”

Bunkers were revamped as part of the project.
© colligan golf design/trey kemp

“It was amazing what they were able to do with what they had to work with,” Durante says.

The fall overseeding, for example. Scott worked with Turf and Soil Management — a small Texas company, of course — to handle an October overseed of a 70-30 blend of ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass: “They typically do ball fields,” Scott says, “so this was the first time they had something of this magnitude. They had to have a no-till seed they seed with, and of course, they hadn’t done it and I’m new at it, so after a couple holes, it was like, ‘OK, we need to regroup here.’ And so we outlined it with the seeder because it was taking so long, and then we came back with the broadcast spreader and did the middle. It worked out good.”

And regular maintenance and care for almost three dozen pieces of ever-aging equipment: “One of the things that’s definitely important for me is to have two greens mowers and two tees mowers,” Scott says. “We obviously don’t walk mow, but we have two of the new Triplex from Toro for our greens, we have a couple of fairway units — and I actually kept one of my older fairway units. We mow at fairway height. When we’re mowing three times a week, we’ll mow 46 acres at tee height.”

And, now that the course is filling up with golfers again, there are differences in working around folks who are paying far more for a round than they once did on the same property: “That has also been one of the dynamics we’ve had to change with the crew, just the mindset that we’re asking these people to pay a lot of money. You need to kill your equipment. I’ll pay you to wait. A lot of guys aren’t used to that mindset. So much of the work we do is predicated on us getting out early and beating the golfers. Before golfers tee off, I really want the majority of my guys to be on their second job.”

The on-deck circle adjacent to the first tee.
© colligan golf design/trey kemp

Scott’s full-time crew has bumped up from seven during the last year at Ditto to 10 today, along with some regular part-timers. That includes a couple veterans who have worked at the club even longer than he has — one just celebrated 20 years, another 22 — “but the majority of my crew are all new, so there have been some growing pains. But they’re good guys,” Scott says. “The resources are there for me. Obviously, my budget went up. The city has given us everything we need to make this a good course for a long time.”

The budget and the crew size are both subject to change, of course, especially if the course attracts more players and schedules more rounds than Ditto did during its last years.

“We base everything on demand,” Durante says. “At this facility, at some point you wouldn’t want to increase your rounds to 60,000 a year, because then it’s so hard to maintain it at that level, and it becomes counterproductive to run that many players through.”

The symbiotic branding between club and team has provided a p.r. bonanza, but newspaper, magazine and television stories about the club would not be as numerous as they are without a quality redesign and an impressive public course. Texas Rangers Golf Club has both thanks to Scott and Arlington native John Colligan.

Colligan and his Colligan Golf Design associate, Trey Kemp, overhauled an older course that, to hear him tell it, never maximized its sheer area or capitalized on its potential elevation change. Colligan and Kemp shuffled 18 new holes — each of which carries a baseball-inspired name, like Lead Off, Line Drive, Double Play, Triple Play, Around the Horn and, of course, Texas Leaguer — around the property’s 164 acres, incorporating 55 feet of elevation change and opening up enough land for a 23-acre practice area that includes a double-ended range. They also planted native grasses and buffalograss faces on the bunkers that just sort of look like Texas.

Colligan is a Dallas native, but he packed up and moved to Arlington back in 1974 — the year both Scott and the Rangers turned 2. Among all the courses he has designed during a decorated career, this one is probably the most personal, he says, and maybe even his best.

“I told Trey when we went in for the interview, ‘We’re pulling out all the stops. Don’t leave anything to chance and hopefully we’ll be selected,’” Colligan says. “I figure I’m here for the long haul till they stick me in the ground. I went to college here, and Trey went to UT-A as well, got his Master’s there, and I jokingly tell everybody that I have 70 or 80 guys I could call on any given night to bail me out of jail.”

Colligan lives about four miles from the course, and his office is even closer, only about two miles away, so he and Kemp visited 200 or so times during construction. The passion and pride they have for the project, Durante says, are obvious.

“There’s nobody in this room, nobody in this town, nobody in this state, nobody in this world that wants this project to be better than I do. Last thing I want is to go down the street and have people go, ‘There’s the guy who screwed up Texas Rangers Golf Club.’” — John Colligan

“To be able to do this project,” Colligan says, “there’s nobody in this room, nobody in this town, nobody in this state, nobody in this world that wants this project to be better than I do.

“Last thing I want is to go down the street and have people go, ‘There’s the guy who screwed up Texas Rangers Golf Club.’”

The Rangers are not the first professional sports team to lend their name to a golf club — nor are they even the first in the Metroplex, thanks to the Cowboys opening their namesake Golf Club in Grapevine back in 2001 and the Stars slapping their name on what is now called Stonebridge Ranch Country Club in McKinney in 2003. They are, however, the first Major League Baseball team to partner with a golf club and stretch their brand from lineups to links.

John Colligan, Brick Scott and city employee Phillip Rogers.

Not the New York Yankees, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, or the Chicago Cubs, or any of the teams you might expect. The Texas Rangers. A team with more losing seasons than not in its sweltering history. A team that played its first couple decades in a converted minor league stadium. A team without a championship or even a single 100-win season.

And, to be fair, a team so beloved that more than 2 million fans have showed up and cheered them on during on every full season save one since 1989.

This new venture aims to build on that beloved brand. Watch parties for opening day and big games — maybe even playoff games — in the clubhouse when it opens next year right around the same time the new ballpark will open. Golf club merchandise on sale all over the ballpark, too. Maybe even some players dropping in for a round during mornings or off days.

“Baseball players tend to play a lot of golf,” Colligan says. “I think that’s going to be a big draw, coming out here and not knowing who you’re going to run into.”

Iván Rodríguez has already tested the course, playing the first round back in February. Anybody know what Jim Sundberg is up to these days?