Every city - like my home in Austin - has a golf course that could be better off with fewer holes
Just up this morning is a column I’ve written on a potential trend in golf: 18-hole clubs selling off a few holes for development and running a shortened layout of just 12-14 holes. In the article I speak to architecture firms like Design Workshop and Tom Doak, and also highlight some thriving 12-hole courses like Derrydale Golf Course near Toronto.
Ever since I began thinking about the article, I’ve been considering some city courses I’ve played in the past that are in prime urban locations but aren’t maximizing the land they’re on. In my home city of Austin, there are two city-operated courses that may be better off renovated and shortened.
Hancock Golf Course is located near the University of Texas, which is significant because UT doesn’t have a golf course open for students - UT Golf Club is a high-end private. Hancock is a historic nine-hole course, said to be Texas’ oldest in continual operation and run by the city. But I played it a few weeks ago, and I wouldn’t pay to play it again - not when superior Jimmy Clay Golf Course asks similar green fees and has much better conditions. Hancock is a tight squeeze on a small tract of expensive land, and also poorly conditioned. You can’t identify the fairway from rough and few holes really get your motor running.
The course is home to the Austin Junior Golf Academy, and I’d like to see the course dissolve the current 9-hole routing and make six really good holes plus a nice short game practice facility. I don’t see how excited juniors could get about golf playing Hancock in it’s current state.
The second course is an Austin favorite even closer to downtown: Lions Golf Course, which is already under fire. UT will take it’s 100-year lease back from the city in 2019, and it sounds like they’re already planning ways to generate maximum revenue on the prime acres - the priority of a public institution that is subsidized by the state, right? UT is currently considering keeping some golf or doing away with it all, but chances are beloved Lions will either be downsized or eliminated - unless the city’s fight to Save Muny prevails. UT stands to lose some Hook ‘em Horns fans if they plow over Lions for condos.
While Lions is short but really good as is, especially for the money, It could still survive as a 12-hole course. Keeping just nine holes may not be enough, because it’s location will cause demand far greater than what nine holes can handle.
What I’ve noticed in many cities that I pass through for golf, is that the most centrally-located courses are either ultra-private, or underachieving municipal courses. With such prime acreage, these layouts should be revamped, like San Antonio’s Brackenridge Park or Tucson’s Dell Urich and Randolph municipals. If cities are struggling for cash, they should consider selling off a few holes for another revenue-generating stream but keep most of the golf there to keep citizens happy and home values up.
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