, Port Arthur, Texas


January 29, 2013

West golf column: Belle Oaks attracting golfers in big numbers

PORT ARTHUR — If you are planning on a weekend round of golf at Belle Oaks, it might be wise to call for a tee time. Pretty much on life support late in 2012, with co-owner Jerry Braxton tired of losing money and searching for potential buyers, the former Port Arthur Country Club is completing one of its busiest-ever Januarys.

And that’s despite a miserable, rainy stretch of weather in the middle of the month.

Head pro/general manager Bryan Jackson gleefully reports that he did over 620 rounds during a recent eight-day stretch. More often than not these days, when Braxton pulls into the parking lot, he sees the number of cars and trucks normally present only when tournaments are being held.

“Jerry’s been grinning ear to ear,” said Jackson. “I’m really happy for him and (co-owner) Brian Phelps. “They spent over $375,000 to get the doors open after Hurricane Ike and they weren’t seeing much in return. We were making money maybe four months out of the year and taking a pretty serious hit the rest of the time. They deserve it to be like this. Hopefully, it will stay this way.”

So what’s turned things around for a course which has always been limited by location? Basically, there have been two catalysts. Jackson has the golf course, especially the greens, in terrific shape. But that’s not unusual. Bryan, who is fighting a second bout with cancer, has long been acknowledged as the best greens superintendent in Southeast Texas.

The real key has been a steady influx of players who decided to make Belle Oaks their second golfing home after the Dec. 30 closing of The Patch. Regular games that were played on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday have been relocated to the layout in Taylor Landing.

“I hate what happened to The Patch, because I know what it meant to the guys who played there, but it’s been a blessing for us,” Jackson said. “Before it closed, they had a traveling Friday game they would bring out here on occasion. Based on what they’ve been telling me, they are really impressed with the greens in particular and the overall golf course.”

Although the action from The Patch is known as “The Walsh Game”, in deference to Dennis Walsh, the namesake says Roddy Weatherly has more to do with creating the special games than he does. The Walsh Game, or whatever you want to call it, has a core of roughly 30 players, with anywhere from 15 to 35 turning out on a given day.

“What they do is a lot of fun and it’s open to anybody,” says Jackson. “Everybody puts in $25, their name goes up on a scoreboard, captains pick teams and they compete in a two-ball format without handicaps. They have five different bets going.”

“Bryan deserves a lot of credit for the way he’s bent over backward to make people feel welcome,” Walsh said. “He even fixed up a room next to the golf shop where we can settle up the bets, have a beer and relax. People like going there. The only downside is the driving time. But our group is going to keep going there because of the golf course and Bryan’s hospitality.”

While the regulars from The Patch have helped Belle Oaks business boom, the overall numbers suggest they aren’t the only ones finding their way out Hwy. 73 or down LaBelle Rd. Indeed, Jackson had so many players on Saturday that he ran out of carts by 10 a.m. and had to turn people away.

“That was a sick feeling,” he said. “But the increased revenue has enabled me to buy new batteries for some of our carts that were down and needed some work. There wasn’t an urgency to do that before, because running out of carts wasn’t a problem. I’ll have more carts up this weekend and more the following weekend.”

Because of demand, Jackson is imposing a requirement that golfers double up on carts. In the past, you might see a foursome going out in four different carts. No more. At least not as long as golfers continue to pay the very reasonable fees of $22 during the week and $27 on weekend for 18 holes and a cart. For seniors, the rates are $18 and $23.

Also under consideration is having a course marshall or marshals on the weekends to speed up play, and hiring what is known in the business as “cart girls” to sell beer and soft drinks on the course. Savvy cart girls with big personalities can do wonders for business and earn some serious tip money.

On a regular basis, Jackson is also now offering links and sandwiches in the golf shop.

“This is how I’ve always hoped it could be out here,” he said of the steady flow of golfers. “I know we’re a little bit out of the way, so I want to make it the kind of experience that leads people to say it was worth the trip. I want them to go back and tell their friends about the greens, the golf course and what a good time they had.”

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at

Text Only
  • Bassmaster Elites are coming back

    The Bassmaster Elite Series returns to Southeast Texas in March 2015 to fish out of Orange.
    The announcement was made last week, ahead of Bassmaster’s official tournament schedule announcement and the buzz is already strong in Southeast Texas and beyond.
    I was in Orlando, Fla. attending the ICAST (fishing trade) show and talked with a number of top anglers including Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli and Shaw Grigsby who said it was no surprise they would return considering the massive turnout for the weigh-ins and that the area welcomed them in a very special way.
    It’s far too early to speculate anything like who the top contenders will be or how the fishing will be but there are some things to keep in mind and to look for over the next few months and into the event itself.
    • Prefishing-There is a pre-fishing cutoff that usually extends to right before the Bassmaster Classic and I fully expect most of the anglers in the Elites to come back and prefish.
    Last go-round probably 2/3 of the field fished the area but this time I expect that to be just about everyone. Many of the anglers that did not pre-fish told me they expected to have a lot of water to fish but the sheer volume and diversity was almost overwhelming.
    Beginning probably in the early fall we will see many anglers fishing local waters to get a better idea on how to approach the area.
    • East to West Runs-The Elite anglers fished far and wide but I expect even more running next go-round. After launching from the Simmons Drive Boat Ramp in Orange angler Bill Lowen ran down the Intracoastal, across Galveston Bay and fished in the Clear Lake area and placed in the top 12. The more adventurous anglers will try super long runs, in my opinion, even longer than last time to try and score on big fish. The Intracoastal Canal system makes that possible.
    • Sabine River -Very few of the anglers actually fished in the Sabine River despite the event being called the “Sabine River Challenge”. I think that will change with more anglers running as far north as they can to find pockets of fish that receive little pressure and perhaps a four or five-pounder to push them over the top.
    • Bigger Turnout-Last year some 34,000 people attended the event which set a Bassmaster record for an Elite event.
     It was broken a couple of weeks later in New York but I fully expect the 2015 tournament to draw 40,000 plus. The reason they are coming back is not for the stellar fishing because while we have lots of bass, everyone knows our fishery cannot compare to Toledo Bend for example.
    The support from the public however was amazing and that is what is bringing the top anglers on the planet to fish our area.
    We will have the very best coverage of the event beginning now and leading up to it with exclusive interviews with all of the top pros with not only their thoughts on the big event but with unique tips on how you can catch more fish.
    It’s an exciting time and I look forward to bringing you special coverage on a special event.
    (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at or watch him on “God’ Outdoors with Chester Moore” Saturdays at 10 a.m. on

    July 23, 2014

  • Mid County knocked out of tournament

    The Mid County 16-18 Babe Ruth squad’s run to the World Series is over.

    July 22, 2014

  • West golf notepad: West duo claims title in Texas Father-Son

    July 22, 2014

  • Mid County sets up championship series with Tri County

    The Southwest Regional Babe Ruth championship series is set and yes the hometown Mid County squad will be there to play.

    July 21, 2014

  • MC Babe Ruth goes 2-0

    First things first, give Clint Landry and the rest of the officials credit for making the Southwest Regional Babe Ruth tournament possible this weekend at Nederland High School.

    July 19, 2014

  • Up the odds for solid bank fishing

    There are certain limitations to fishing without a boat.

    July 19, 2014

  • Derek Williams, Summer Money League light up the lanes at Max Bowl

    Thursday nights Summer Money League produced some very impressive scores.

    July 19, 2014

  • West column: Pacers hiring Pat Knight didn't help Lamar

    July 19, 2014

  • Babe Ruth.jpg Mid County Babe Ruth set to host Southwest Regional

    The Mid County Babe Ruth 18U team is once again knocking on the World Series door. Mid County will host the Southwest Regional at Nederland High School starting today. Mid County’s first game of the tournament is slated for 7 p.m. Friday against Pine Bluff, Ark. Thursday was a special day for Mid County Babe Ruth as two locals, Jimmy Collins (shown speaking) and Skip Hopkins (back left) were inducated intot he Southwest Regional Babe Ruth Hall of Fame. Both Hopkins and Collins have been involved in Babe Ruth for over 40 consecutive years either as player, coach or board member. There are nine teams in the tournament with the winner headed to Washington state for the World Series.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • West golf notepad: Eleven-year-old Henry scores ace in YMBL tourney

    July 15, 2014

From the Fieldhouse blog