Dallas, 1924. Houdini’s in town to perform at the State Fair of Texas. Clyde Barrow’s a small-time crook stealing turkeys in Oak Cliff and yet to meet Bonnie Parker. Skillman Street is still known as “Lindbergh Drive.” And over on Abrams Road, way out in the country and just south of present-day St. Thomas Aquinas Church, the McCommas family has opened Bob-O-Links Golf Course, a nine-hole course on its vast property.
You could find the entrance off Abrams, between what is now Mercedes Avenue and McCommas Boulevard, an area now completely developed and void of any sign of the crops and livestock that once were.
The McCommas family goes way back in Dallas history, about as far back as you can go; it was among the first four or five families to settle here. Present-day Lakewood resident Hal McCommas tells of his great-great grandfather Amon travelling by wagon train to the Texas frontier in 1844 from Missouri with his wife and nine children. They settled on 640 acres, a parcel of land from Abrams Road to White Rock Lake.
A yellowing, hand-drawn map by Harry McCommas, Hal’s father, shows the family’s prairies and pastures home to sheep, cows, horses and cotton fields.
But the turn of the 20th century brought changes. A new pastime was sweeping the nation: golf. Introduced in Dallas in 1900 by two British businessmen, courses and clubs began popping up all over the city.
Hal says his dad gave the game a try and was hooked: “He loved it.” Inspired by the ever-increasing popularity of the game, Harry convinced his father, Walter, to build a course on 60 acres of the family land. In 1924 the course was built, says Hal, by “one man and a team of mules,” and stretched from what is now Bob-O-Link Drive to Sondra Drive. It even had a built-in hazard: a small creek meandering through the property.
It was an immediate success, very popular in the neighborhood. A few years later, the McCommases added a miniature course and driving range. All told, Bob-O-Links Golf Course would eventually be home to a clubhouse, caddy shack (caddies for hire at 25 cents), barn to house a dozen golf carts, and even a café.
Neighbor Joe Jackson, lifelong East Dallasite, fondly remembers the course. Back in the day, Joe roamed the neighborhood on his bike while his parents ran their café downtown on Commerce Street. Joe says his usual stops were Tietze Pool, Wilshire Theater (present-day CVS), Lakewood Lanes (where Teter’s Faucet Parts is) and Bob-O-Links Golf Course. He often hung out there all day with his buddies and graduated from miniature golf to “the big course” at around age 12.
Speaking of Teter’s, owner Jack Teter was another “free-range” kid who frequented Bob-O-Links. “During the summers, my father dropped me off at the course and left me there all day knowing I was in a safe place.” And apparently owner/manager Harry McCommas made an impression: “He was a respected gentleman and added a lot of class to the facility.”
Hal speaks fondly of his dad, Harry, and displays old photos of him along with custom woods Harry made, including a tiny one for young Hal. Golf must be in the McCommas blood, for Hal set the course record of 61 in 1966 and played on the PGA tour in the 1960s.
Hal’s devotion to the game is evident in one of his favorite stories. Despite a major snowstorm hitting Dallas, Hal and his pal Lee Trevino were determined to play a round. They painted their golf balls red so they would be able to see them. Halfway down the first hole, they wisely gave up.
Bob-O-Links Golf Course closed in 1973 when the family decided to accept a developer’s offer to buy the land. “It’s a sad day,” Harry told a reporter, “but this property is just too valuable for development. You can’t stop time!” Hal becomes wistful as he recalls playing the last round on the course. “I shot one of the best rounds I ever had. It was like the course was saying, ‘Please don’t close me.’ “
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