Gators, Snakes and Bugs, Oh My

Alligators aren't uncommon sights on golf courses in East and Southeast Texas and in many locations along the coastal plains of Texas. I grew up in Corpus Christi, where several times a year we'd head over to the municipal course in small-town Sinton. It's inside the Rob and Bessie Welder Park, another part of which is a nature preserve. A little par-3 runs alongside a back fenceline, with a short carry over a tiny pond. But there was a sign next to that tiny pond: Alligators - don't search for balls in the water.

For several years at Oso Municipal Golf Course in Corpus Christi, a large gator took up residence in the pond near the 14th, 15th and 16th holes. This 6-footer could often been seen sunning itself on an embankment about 30 yards in front of the No. 15 tee box.

But the golf course where I've seen the most, shall we say, dangerous and/or annoying wildlife was a golf course that no longer exists and, in fact, really never did exist.

It was Goose Island Country Club. Goose Island is a spit of land north of the bayside community of Rockport, just over the Copano Causeway bridge that spans Copano Bay. It's home to Goose Island State Park and to Big Tree (state champion coastal live oak in 1969, and believed to be one of the largest oaks in the country ... but you already knew that, right?).

I was around 12 years old, and was heading to Goose Island with my family. My parents were in real estate, and they noticed a new subdivision being built so we drove into it to check it out. We stopped in the "show room" and talked to the realtor on duty. He told us about the golf course that was being built as the centerpiece of the neighborhood. Nine holes were close-to-complete, he said, with another nine on the way, with the first nine just needing finishing touches.

Schmoozing, my parents asked if we could play the nearly-complete nine. We had one set of clubs in the trunk and two unopened 12-count boxes of balls. The real estate agent said, "what the heck, go for it," and we did.

Those nine holes were a managerie of gators, snakes and insects. The place was thick with 'em - it was literally crawling with them. Every embankment had gators or snakes sunning themselves, every fairway had things slithering across it, and the air - especially around the greens where the thick brush and trees closed in - was choked with bugs.

It only took us about six holes to lose every ball we had, mostly because we were afraid to look for them if they missed the fairway.

Years later, I tried to find out whatever happened to Goose Island Country Club, but as far as I can tell, I'm the only person who's ever heard of it. It never opened, as best I can determine, and faded back into the brush.

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