RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links


Glen Garden of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson youth lives on, with a new distillery as its centerpiece

November 10, 2017

Historical significance is not necessarily indemnity against the bulldozer, even with Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson as posthumous advocates, and even in the city of Fort Worth. They were weaned on golf at Glen Garden, as was U.S. Women’s Open champion Sandra Palmer, yet the three of them combined lacked enough clout to prevent its demise.

Or so it seemed.

A local concern, Firestone & Robertson Distilling Company, bought it in 2014, intending to expand its business by building a distillery there—to the protests of those despairing of the potential for history to be buried. The distillery was built, and on Friday, its Whiskey Ranch will enjoy its grand opening.

“Eighty-thousand square feet of fine western craftsmanship, set on 18 holes of golf history—all in the name of great Texas whiskey,” its Facebook page said.

Handwringing aside, it turns out that whiskey and golf do mix, as the Scots know better than anyone. The golf course, in a slightly altered state, lives on.

“Leonard [Firestone] and I are both big fans of the game,” Troy Robertson said. “We’re definitely paying homage to it, and it’s something we want to perpetuate.”

The founders maintained the course in the years between its purchase and the grand opening of Whiskey Ranch. They hired its greenkeepers and even expanded the staff.

“We knew it would be beneficial to bring on people familiar with the course,” Robertson said. “We always intended to keep it up. We weren’t maintaining it for play. We were cleaning up areas of the golf course, cleaning up the fence line. We have around 2 1/2 miles of fence line. Two creeks that go through the property were overgrown. We cleaned that up. We spent a lot of that time maintaining and repairing greens and cleaning out peripheral rough areas.”

The course is not identical to that on which Hogan and Nelson caddied as kids, earning 65 cents a loop, but it’s close enough.

“We were careful to try to preserve as much of the course as we could,” Robertson said. “Happily to say, we were able to keep most of it the way it was. We had to reconfigure a couple of holes because of the way we arranged our distillery campus. It’s right in the center of the property and lies on old five and seven fairways. We shortened No. 7 to a par 3 and a couple of other holes we ended up reconfiguring. We could have kept two more holes, but for safety reasons, and not seeing golf balls hitting off our building we actually created a couple of new holes.”


When they bought the property, its memorabilia and photos were included. The sign that says, “Glen Garden Honors Its Former Members Ben Hogan Byron Nelson and Sandra Palmer,” is still up and “we’re going to keep it up,” Robertson said.

“There were a number of really neat pieces of memorabilia that we showcase in what we call the tavern,” he said. “We have shadow boxes and display cases with old trophies from club history.”

The upshot is that they inherited with their purchase a working relic that they largely have kept intact, defying the consensus that it would be lost to history.

The course, incidentally, won’t be open to the public, but will be used for corporate events and charity outings, at least in the near term. “We don’t want to get ahead of our skis and dive into the golf business,” Roberson said.

It is, first and foremost, a whiskey business, the first craft bourbon and whiskey distillery in North Texas, it boasts. Maybe so, but on a golf course that was built in 1912, eight years before prohibition, well, we’ll give Sandra Palmer the last word.

“I would imagine it’s already been a distillery at some point of its history,” she said a few years ago.