Save Muny growing with passion

AUSTIN, TX, – Ben Crenshaw has a vision for the historic restoration of Lions Municipal Golf Course (MUNY), where he developed his game as a youth. He hopes for the opportunity to see it fulfilled with preservation of this urban green space, a civil rights landmark property steeped in golf history.

At the Lions Clubhouse Wednesday, Crenshaw unveiled plans to restore Muny’s course design to represent that of its golden years. While the playing corridors of Lions have remained virtually the same since construction in 1924, two renovations have resulted in a handful of hole alterations. The Crenshaw historic restoration plan returns to the exact routing that existed from 1951-1974, allowing golfers to play the course as it was envisioned by designer B.W. Rowe and consulting golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast. This time period also encompasses significant civil rights historical events at Muny.

Lions Municipal is recognized as the first desegregated golf course in the South and was recently added to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the United States. In 2016, the National Park Service listed the course in the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years noted golfers and luminaries including Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Joe Louis, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Kathy Whitworth, Harvey Penick, Morris Williams, Darrell Royal, Gov. John Connally and Jordan Speith have played the course.

The design renderings, done with the aid of local land planner Corey Hoffpauir, remove the Enfield Road entrance and add a new clubhouse and restaurant with parking, accessible from Lake Austin Boulevard. Elimination of the existing parking lot will create space for a lengthened practice tee and teaching area surrounding the current Muny clubhouse that would remain as an education and exhibition center.

“I constantly think about the situation that Muny is now facing,” Crenshaw said recently. “The landmarks that have made Austin special for so long are being continually threatened and we simply can’t stand back and let this precious asset slip away. Just as it is hard to imagine New York without Central Park, New Orleans without City Park, Houston without Memorial Park and San Antonio without Brackenridge Park, it is impossible to consider Austin without Lions Muny. Once the course is gone there is no going back and I would hate to drive by development on this property and have to tell my grandchildren, there was once a fine golf course there.”

The cost of restoring the course, expanding the practice facilities, and adding a new clubhouse have not been determined but estimates run in the $10-$12 million range. Crenshaw and others are convinced that funds can be raised privately.

“We feel confident we can go to the private sector, both to individuals and foundations, to raise this money,” says Scott Sayers, Crenshaw’s longtime friend and business manager, who also grew up playing Lions. “The generous nature of the Austin community has always come forth when it comes to saving our precious green space, and Muny is without question one of our city’s most important historic, recreational pieces of parkland along with Zilker Park, the Hike and Bike Trail and Pease Park.”

Because of national interest in efforts to preserve the course, the press conference will be broadcast via Facebook Live on the SAVE MUNY Facebook page. Setup for local media will begin at 9:30 am in the Muny clubhouse, with opportunities to take media footage on the course as desired.

“I only hope the opportunity to restore Lions presents itself in the next few months,” says Crenshaw. “While UT has long owned the property, I can’t help but think Colonel Brackenridge, who donated this land would not prefer shopping centers and condos to a place where a diverse group of individuals of all economic means can socialize and recreate. It is incumbent on our Mayor and Council to actively try and negotiate a win-win solution with UT to secure MUNY for future generations of Austinites to enjoy.”