Since it opened in 1985, Oakwood Golf Club has on multiple occasions stared down an almost certain demise.
But each time, the 9-hole venue just east of Houston has survived thanks to the efforts (and financial sacrifice) of people who loved it. This time, the knights in shining armor who rescued Oakwood include new owners Doug and Michelle Moseley, of Houston, and Doug’s sister, Dr. Lori McPherson of Mountain Grove (who collectively bought the course from owner eight-year owner Bud Evans), along with new managers Doug and Tina Sutton, also of Houston.
Together, the group popped up in late 2017 (very late) to turn what looked like Oakwood’s final days into its latest new beginning.
At the course’s annual meeting last Sunday, the Suttons more or less introduced themselves to a big gathering of interested golfers, pointing out several times how nervous they both were. As the meeting progressed, several ideas were floated (by both the Suttons and attendees) with regard to ways the course could become a more viable and sustainable business, while leaving intact its charm and local flavor.
Some of the ideas weren’t of the practical or relevant variety, and some of the discussion wasn’t leading in a meaningful direction. But a lot of it was, and in the end, the meeting was at least productive and at best even encouraging.
But meetings, discussions and ideas aside, here’s the deal: A lot of people don’t golf and aren’t interested in golfing, so realistically, Oakwood Golf Club’s future doesn’t lie in everyone’s hands. It lies in the hands of golfers.
As any experienced player who has teed up at Oakwood knows, the course offers plenty to be pleased with. There are several elevation changes, a number of raised greens, cleverly positioned areas of rough surrounded by a whole lot of Ozarks beauty.
And speaking of greens, I’ll put the nine at Oakwood up against those at pretty much any course anywhere. Head groundskeeper Edgar Scantlin does more than just a good job of caring for them; they’re usually in top-notch condition without any thin spots, bare areas or “broccoli” interrupting a good line to the cup.
So straight from a golfing standpoint, Oakwood’s existence is a good thing.
But as has been said many a time by people in public office, Oakwood owners and employees and even this small-time journalist, the course offers a lot to the surrounding community that’s not measurable in yards and strokes. The fact is, every warm body attracted to its fairways has a wallet with them (or at least should), and some money is liable to exit that receptacle prior that warm body’s exit from the area (above and beyond greens fees and bottled water at the course itself).
In other words, Oakwood is of financial benefit to Houston and Texas County, and is therefore of financial benefit to everyone who lives in said zone.
But regardless of all the indirect positive influences Oakwood Golf Club might have, the bottom line is, any success it’s going to experience is directly related to how many people knock balls around on it. Simply put, there has to be more people directly linked to its links.
How that comes to fruition and what making it happen looks like, I don’t know. But I do know it will have to involve more than charity tournaments, school teams and free clinics, and is going to require more “grass roots” activity.
And I also know the Suttons are “all in” in their attempt to pursue such success, and without 100-percent knowing why, I feel good about the prospects. To paraphrase what someone at the meeting said, right now is the time for “baby steps” in the Suttons’ walk as Oakwood’s new leaders.
Here’s to hoping they get more than enough guidance and support in taking those steps.
Anyway, I don’t know what God’s plan has in store for Oakwood Golf Club, but I’m pretty sure the plan doesn’t include the course’s existence not that many years from now if the status quo remains unchanged.
Basically, folks, it’s time to play golf near Houston. Otherwise, you’re going to have to travel a bit farther to reach the first tee.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.