Austin targets PGA-quality golf course

(Updated 3:55 p.m. 8/10/14)

Four years from now, Austin could be hosting its first professional golf tournament.

City officials on Sept. 8 advanced efforts to build a PGA-quality golf course at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park in East Austin where there are 735 acres long earmarked for golf use. Decker Lake Golf LLC, a private group led by Austin resident and retired PGA Tour golfer Joe Ogilvie, has proposed building two "world-class, environmentally sensitive golf courses," and the city is listening.

The proposal was one of two submitted and the only to gain staff support during a formal process started last spring. The proposal next goes before the Parks and Recreation Board on Sept. 23. If approved, the proposal could be heard Oct. 2 by City Council, which could grant authority to negotiate a long-term agreement with Decker Lake Golf LLC.

The golf course project, with a price tag of approximately $18 million to $25 million, would be privately funded and constructed. Also, a city memo lists longtime pro golfer Ben Crenshaw and golf course architect Bill Coore as the potential designers of the golf facility.

If council grants approval in October, construction could start as soon as 2016, said Kevin Gomillion, golf division manager for the Parks and Recreation Department. Such construction typically takes one year, he said, and then another year to let the course grow into its new surroundings.

"Between 2017–18 would not be [an] unrealistic timeline for Austin to host a PGA tournament," Gomillion said. "I would say it's moving aggressively."

He did not rule out Austin one day hosting a major pro golf event such as the U.S. Open or Ryder Cup, among other potential traveling tournaments.

Gomillion and other city staff are meeting Sept. 10 with United States Golf Association officials to discuss ways for combating the most notable "roadblock" for developing such a golf-course facility: water.

They will discuss ways to conserve water based on other courses designed by the USGA, Coore and Crenshaw, an Austin native.

"They are already extremely well known for their conservation efforts at several sites," Gomillion said. "The USGA reps are also very notable for designing courses with very little water impact."

Also, because the land is on public property, the course must remain accessible to all, he said.

"It'd be an amenity not only for PGA golf but for other uses as well," Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell told Community Impact Newspaper in April. He met the month prior with PGA Tour officials to gauge interest in the proposed project.

Similar to other high-end public facilities, there would be local fees and other financial discounts for Austin residents. The proposal also gives the city another potential public golf course in the midst of uncertain futures for the Lions Municipal Golf Course and Riverside Golf Course, Gomillion said.

For now, a large fence and power lines run through the proposed property.

"This was always envisioned in the long-range plans, so [a proposed golf course facility] truly does sort of fit what's available in there now," Gomillion said. "It's a perfect piece of beautiful land."

The proposed project could also open up doors for economic development opportunities, he said. There have already been conversations about developing a nearby hotel, Gomillion said.

"It would be interesting to see what a world-class golf facility might drive in that way," he said.

Decker Lake Golf LLC Proposal:

— Finance and develop two world-class, environmentally sensitive golf courses to be completed in two phases.

— Phase One: an 18-hole championship golf course complete with a club house, meeting space, food service, a driving range and related amenities, will be designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore

— Phase Two will begin five to 10 years after opening Phase One, and will include a second 18-hole golf course and other park amenities.

— The overall development plan calls for more trail connectivity and a golf short course learning center that features youth programming

Key terms of proposal:

— 50-year agreement with four 10-year extensions

— Revenue sharing ranging from 3 percent to 12 percent

— Public involvement, city code, and water conservation efforts must all be included in design/construction process

Source: city of Austin

By Joe Lanane

Joe Lanane’s career is rooted in community journalism, having worked for a variety of Midwest-area publications before landing south of the Mason-Dixon line in 2011 as the Stillwater News-Press news editor. He arrived at Community Impact Newspaper in 2012, gaining experience as editor of the company’s second-oldest publication in Leander/Cedar Park. He eventually became Central Austin editor, covering City Hall and the urban core of the city. Lanane leveraged that experience to become Austin managing editor in 2016. He managed eight Central Texas editions from Georgetown to San Marcos. Working from company headquarters, Lanane also became heavily involved in enacting corporate-wide editorial improvements. In 2017, Lanane was promoted to executive editor, overseeing editorial operations throughout the company. The Illinois native received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and his journalism master’s degree from Ball State University.


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