Courses We Love: Lions Municipal
A lot has been written recently about Lions Municipal in the wake of the University attempting to retake the property at the end of its lease, but the efforts by many notable Austin residents, including Ben Crenshaw, seem to have stemmed the tide for now. Boy are we a lucky group in Austin that get to play this charming layout every day as it is everything you’d want in a muni, charming, quirky, fun and a pleasant walk just 10 minutes from downtown Austin. A perfect place to get lost for a few hours and forget the outside world. We hope it gets the makeover from Coore and Crenshaw that it deserves as it could be a model for municipal golf in this country, in-line with some of the developments that have occurred at Winter Park and Cobb’s Creek.
Constructed in 1924 by the Austin Lions Club, Muny, as it is affectionately known in town, has a long and storied history being the first fully integrated course south of the Mason-Dixon Line in late 1950. Ben Hogan played here in an exhibition before the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion, which he won, and remarked on the now 16th tee, “Where’s the fairway?” We have found ourselves asking the same question every time we stand on the same tee. The course was the home course of Ben Crenshaw, who still holds the course record of 61. While not an easy test, given the advances in technology and the golf ball, at 5,825 yards, the course relies more on its small greens and quirk than raw distance to challenge today’s modern golfer. Several par 4s that in the 50s required short iron approaches now are drivable for today’s longer hitters. Despite the lack of length there are many fun and notable holes on the property.
The first hole is an almost 90 degree downhill dogleg right around a large grove of trees to a small sloping green from rich-to-left. A long iron to the corner will leave a short iron in for longer hitters and a mid-iron for most everyone else. The key is to keep your ball short of the pin as anything long will kick into the thick underbrush and trees behind the green. A fun start to the round.
The 2nd hole is a mid-length par 5, reachable for long hitters. There is a large tree in the middle of the fairway that must be contended with for your 2nd shot, although it doesn’t come into play as much as other trees in the middle of the fairway. While trees in fairways are not our favorite hazard, this one works better than most and requires the player to hit it high or shape a long-iron or fairway wood around it to reach the green. A fun strategic element.
The 6th hole is a downhill sweeping dogleg right of 367 yards from the back tees, but bigger hitters can opt to take it over the corner and leave themselves a short pitch to this receptive green. Shorter hitters must play out to the left as the ground slopes to the right and anything close to the tree line will kick right into the trees. The green slopes slightly front to back and doesn’t seem apparent that it does at first glance, but trust us, it does.
The 8th hole is a reachable double dogleg par 5 and a fun hole. Longer hitters can drive it over the stand of trees on the right, leaving a mid-iron into the green, while shorter hitters play out to the left making this a true 3 shot hole. The tee shot doglegs right and then back to the left on the approach shot. The green is narrow and slopes back-to-front and missing on either side leaves a tough up and down.
The 10th is a great drivable par 4 of 287 downhill and usually with a slight tailwind. The green is protected by two ponds short that don’t usually come into play for a smart golfer. There’s two options off this tee, layup with a long iron and wedge on or take a rip at the green with driver.
The 12th in our opinion is the best par 5 on the golf course. A wide open fairway allows one to rip driver and attempt to reach in two. The elevated green is protected by a pond 60 yards short, asking the player to make a decision as to whether to lay up short or try and carry the hazard on their second shot.
The 13th is a fun par 3. Just a short iron to a green guarded by a stone wall and pond short of the green. The green slopes sharply back-to-front and hitting below the hole leaves a good chance for birdie.
The par 4 16th, Hogan’s Hole, is a downhill dogleg left to a narrow fairway with a pond about 295 from the tee. The key here is to hit the fairway as anywhere else will necessitate a layup for your 2nd shot. It is said, the famed A.W. Tillinghast added the pond at the end of the fairway and moved the green up the hill during his famous tour of courses in 1935-36 to ‘embolden’ the hole. We would say he did a good job as the hole is easily one of the most difficult on the course!