Given the devastation that Hurricane Ike’s ferocious winds and surging floodwaters wrought on the city of Galveston, it seemed unlikely that the Texas barrier island’s newly rebuilt public golf course would emerge unscathed. But that’s essentially what happened. Just three months removed from an $18 million overhaul by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy when the storm struck ashore, the Moody Gardens Golf Course suffered only minor damage, mainly felled tree limbs and washed-out bunkers. “We were able to get everything covered up and bolted down, and we came through it okay,” said Bill Pushak, the links-style course’s general manager, only a few days later.
Moody Gardens planned to reopen in October, and if you happen to be in Houston, a city with limited public-golf options given its size, the course is worth the hour-long drive. Jacobsen and Hardy redesigned what had been the bedraggled Galveston Municipal, its fairways prone to flooding and saltwater damage. The architects elevated the course two to five feet in places to improve its ability to slough off water and replaced its Bermuda fairways with seaside paspalum, the salt-and drought-tolerant grass now widely used in the tropics. The new turf withstood Ike’s five-to ten-foot floodwaters just fine.
The redevelopment of the golf course was conceived as a way to attract tourism to Galveston. Once the largest and most prosperous city in Texas, it was decimated in 1900 by a hurricane that killed at least six thousand people—the worst natural disaster in the nation’s history—and in some ways it has struggled ever since.
Jacobsen and Hardy did more than just bolster Moody Gardens’ storm defenses; they created an appealingly low-slung windswept layout. The fairways curl around inlets and lakes edged with wispy grasses. One of the course’s finest holes is the par-three ninth, which demands an all-carry mid-iron shot—naturally, over water.
Moody Gardens Golf Course
1700 Sydnor Lane, Galveston, Texas.
Carlton Gipson, 1991; Jacobsen Hardy Golf Design, 2008.