New Developments at Lions Municipal Golf Course

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Landslide

New Developments at Lions Municipal Golf Course

New Developments at Lions Municipal Golf Course
Apr 08, 2021

There has been progress made towards preserving Austin, Texas’ Lions Municipal Golf Course (“Muny”), but there is still much work to be done. 

Muny is the first municipal golf course in the South among the old confederate states to desegregate. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2016 and designated a Landslide site by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) two years later. At that time, it was included in the report and online exhibition Landslide 2018: Grounds for DemocracyIt’s significance also has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Texas, Preservation Austin and the Texas Golf Hall of Fame among other organizations. 

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Lions Municipal Golf Course, Austin, TX - Photo by Lorenzo De Paolis, 2015

However, Muny sits on the Brackenridge Tract, land that is owned by the University of Texas (UT) and which UT has expressed an interest in developing. UT actively opposed Muny’s listing in the National Register arguing that only the clubhouse should be listed, even though it was desegregated later than the golf course and is not as historically significant as the course itself. More recently UT has shown greater accommodation.

In 2019 the Muny Conservancy was founded with the express purpose of preserving Muny as a golf course and to helping secure funding for that purpose. The Conservancy is spearheaded by two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, who grew up playing on the course, and his business partner, Scotty Sayers. In fact, Mr. Crenshaw has offered to donate his time to bring back the course design to the way it was laid out at the time Muny was desegregated. Also, in 2019 the Texas Legislature created the Save Historic Muny District (SHMD) in order to preserve the course and maintain it as open space. The SHMD has five Board members.

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Lions Municipal Golf Course, Austin, TX - Photo by Lorenzo De Paolis, 2011

Muny sits on about 145 acres of the Brackenridge Tract. There are approximately 160 additional acres on the Tract that could potentially be developed (that are not part of Muny). The thrust of negotiations involving the city, UT officials and other neighborhood stakeholders is whether sufficient density can be allowed on the 160 acres to yield a sufficient return to the University and mitigate the loss of revenue from not developing Muny. 

Currently, traffic studies are underway that will determine how much density can be allowed on parts of the Brackenridge Tract other than Muny. In addition, the negotiations extend to other land the University owns in other parts of the city not on the Brackenridge Tract. Development rights could potentially be permitted on those properties so as to further mitigate the loss of revenue from not developing Muny.

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Lions Municipal Golf Course, Austin, TX - Photo by Larry D. Moore, 2014

The onset of the novel coronavirus has slowed the negotiations and related processes. At present, bills are pending in the Texas Legislature that will extend the term of the SHMD, which under current law is set to expire this year. Moreover, consideration is being given to whether the SHMD can be folded into the proposed Biden infrastructure bill so as to cover the cost of course improvements, bike lanes, bridges, sidewalks and other expenditures that might further facilitate a resolution to development issues on the Brackenridge Tract. 

Ultimately, a workable resolution should secure the public’s interest in preserving a nationally important civil rights site and recreational space in a manner that will be not undermine the educational and financial interests of the University of Texas.

For more background on Muny and to keep updated visit Save Muny and follow the Muny Conservancy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.   

Visit Save Historic Muny District for meetings, agendas, minutes and supporting documents about the District.