, Port Arthur, Texas

May 7, 2013

Palms driving range to open May 24

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Wild hogs continue to be a serious problem and heavy rain Saturday before last led to a costly setback involving imported heavy equipment, but progress is being made toward a late 2013 re-opening of The Palms at Pleasure Island Golf Course.

For the skeptics out there, and you know who you are, the first concrete sign of a Palms revival should come with the opening of the driving range. The target date for that, according to Kevin Johnson of the Port Arthur Renaissance Group which is bankrolling the Palms project, is Friday, May 24.

A ribbon-cutting tied into the formal re-opening of the clubhouse is expected the following week.

“We’ve had some setbacks, but we’re plugging along,” Johnson said. “Honestly, the golf course is not in as bad a shape as people think. No question, we still have a long way to go. And the hogs and weather have us behind where we hoped to be. But we’re getting there. A stretch of good, dry weather would really help.”

Of immediate concern is how to counter the wild hogs that have been digging up areas of the golf course for years. To the hogs, fresh ground with seed is apparently like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

“We knew there were hogs out here but we didn’t realize they are as bad as they are until we started doing ground work,” said Johnson. “We have counted close to 40 of them. There were 18 in once place and about 20 farther down. Everywhere we go they are right behind us tearing things up.

“We are going to meet with the Pleasure Island commission to see what else can be done. We know they’ve had two or three different groups out here with dogs. But the hogs just keep coming. We can’t afford to start on the greens until something is done. The hogs could do $5,000 damage to a green in a hurry.”

As for getting the driving range open, Johnson said all that remains is for the Bermuda grass in the hitting area to be ready.

“Once we get a good, thick growth, we’ll call Entergy about the lighting,” he said. “They told us they would only need 24 hours. The land on the range has been cleared and mowed three times. It looks good, except for where the hogs have been. But you could hit balls now, if the teeing area was ready. We’re anxious to get the range open, so folks can see what’s going on out here.”

Most of the work on the course itself has been limited to the front nine. Recent heavy rains, however, led to bushhogs getting bogged down and slowed progress considerably.

“Even with the setbacks, it’s starting to look more like a golf course than a weed factory,” Johnson said. “We’ve cranked up the pump house on the irrigation system. We’ve done a lot of weeding and clearing of dead trees from the ponds. And, yes, we’ve encountered a few alligators.”

Too bad they can’t figure a way to entice the wild hogs into the ponds as alligator bait.