Culture / Sporting Life

Memorial Park’s $34 Million Golf and Tennis Project Quietly Nears Completion Just in Time for Houston Open

Striking New Clubhouse and Education Center Transforms the City's Golf Jewel

BY // 10.09.20

With surprisingly little fanfare, the striking new golf clubhouse/education center at Memorial Park is all but completed with landscaping and parking resurfacing to be finished in two weeks, providing time to spare before the PGA Tour players arrive for the Houston Open. Plans were in the works last March for an official groundbreaking on the 17,000 square foot facility owned by the city and funded by the Astros Golf Foundation and generous donors. But COVID-19 intervened.

Organizers punted to July, which proved to be no better. Now the building is all but complete and the climate is still not right to celebrate this stunning addition to the park landscape. The quiet opening will therefore be just before the pros begin teeing off on November 2 when the structure will serve for a week as tournament headquarters.

“We just kept running into COVID issues and we couldn’t really publicize anything. It’s been awkward,” says Giles Kibbe, Astros Golf Foundation president. “It’s a phenomenal facility that not many people know about yet. They see it going up when they’re walking around the park or playing golf here.

“But no one else knows about it. But it’s a huge project. It’s an important project for the City of Houston and for the kids in the area.”

Designed by Kirksey Architecture, the two story building echoes the design of the neighboring original clubhouse and is gently tucked in between the massive oak trees that have long shaded what once was an unused area of the park next to the original clubhouse.

Astros Golf Foundation Memorial Park
The pre-function area of the new structure in Memorial Park where PGA Tour stars will gather during the Houston Open.

The Astros Golf Foundation’s Memorial Park project, costing $34 million in total, includes the new building; the redesign of the golf course by acclaimed designer Tom Doak; moving 10 tennis courts to make way for a PGA specified driving range; a new maintenance facility; a new storm water irrigation system; a practice facility with a two-level, 84-bay hitting structure; a First Tee complex with a four-hole course; and additional parking.

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Add to that resurfacing with porcelain tiles on the terrace surrounding Beck’s Prime and the addition of a fire pit.

“We wanted to have something that represented the Houston Open and all of the past champions,” Kibbe explains. “So this fire pit is designed after a golf trophy, the base has all the winners of the past Houston Opens around it like you would see on a normal trophy for the Houston Open or any other major tournament and then the fire pit on top.”

The original pro shop, dating from 1936, has been beautifully refurbished and could be used for meeting purposes. The adjacent new building, which is owned by the City of Houston, houses four classrooms, which at the moment are lined in portable golf lockers for the pros that can be rotated to provide white boards for instructors in the First Tee of Greater Houston program and the Chevron STEM program.

“Ten days of the year the PGA tour and the Astros Golf Foundation take over to operate the tournament. The rest of the year it will be an educational center,” Kibbe says of the building.

The dual, coordinated programs will begin in January along with an outreach effort by the foundation, which is funding the education effort through proceeds from the Houston Open. The program is free to all youngsters and transportation will be provided to the park. First Tee national, based in Florida, has already declared that the Houston program will be among the top four in the country.

For its use of the golf course for the Houston Open the foundation is contributing $500,000 annually to the city parks department and $500,000 to the Memorial Park Conservancy.

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