Austin targets pro-quality golf course

City could exchange parkland in public-private partnership



Austin is close to becoming a professional golf destination.



A proposal to build a pro-quality golf course at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park in East Austin could gain City Council approval in late October. If an agreement is reached, construction could start by 2016 on a privately funded and maintained golf course within 735 acres of city-owned parkland long earmarked for golf use.



Decker Lake Golf LLC, a private group led in part by 15-year Austin resident and retired PGA Tour golfer Joe Ogilvie, has proposed building two "world-class, environmentally sensitive golf courses." The 36-hole facility could host pro golf's most significant tournaments, Ogilvie said, including The Ryder Cup, U.S. Open or other major events.



"College sports towns tend to support other sports as long as you're bringing the best that sport has to offer," said Ogilvie, comparing Austin to another large college town—Columbus, Ohio, which has successfully hosted numerous large-scale golf tournaments. "If you get the best in the world, I think Austin will respond favorably."



If awarded the job, the development team could include longtime golf pro Ben Crenshaw, a native Austinite who, alongside famed golf course architect Bill Coore, has developed many of pro golf's newest courses.



"In my opinion, they're the best at what they do in the world," Ogilvie said. "There's no two better."



The Decker Lake Golf LLC proposal was one of two submitted and the only to gain city staff support during a formal process started last spring. Depending on the outcome of a Sept. 23 Parks and Recreation board meeting, the group's proposal could be heard Oct. 2 by City Council.



The privately designed, constructed and maintained golf course project would cost approximately $18 million to $25 million. If construction starts by 2016, Ogilvie said the project's first phase could open for public play by 2018, and the first pro tournament could take place as early as 2019.



Obstacles still to overcome



Ogilvie and Kevin Gomillion, golf division manager for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, met Sept. 10 with United States Golf Association officials to discuss ways for developing a golf-course facility compatible with Austin's ongoing drought conditions.



"This project is going to look different than other major golf courses—it will not be wall-to-wall green like Augusta National [Golf Club]," said Ogilvie, who has proposed using native grasses that can turn brown and go dormant during drought conditions.



Environmentally friendly, water-conscious designs would also help keep the project sustainable, he said.



"This will be as green as you can get a golf course—not green from a color standpoint but environmentally," Ogilvie said.



The property was first pegged for golf use in 1968. For now, a large fence and power lines run through the area, Gomillion said.



"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."



But there is also a perceived decline in golf's popularity that Ogilvie admits he will have to be overcome.



"Golf is struggling, no doubt, because it's expensive to build and play, but if you build it right and you build it with sustainability in mind, we think this will work in Austin," he said. "The main thing: get the golf right."



There must also be enough space to host thousands of spectators, said Kerry Haigh, PGA of America chief championships officer. Haigh oversees golf course setup and administration at PGA of America's biggest events. There is also a growing line of courses slated to host major tournaments, he said, with the PGA Championship booked through 2020, the Ryder Cup through 2024 and the Senior PGA Championship through 2018.



"A decision wouldn't be made until the golf course and infrastructure is built," Haigh said. "We need to look and see and feel it and understand everything about it first."



Haigh admits the proposed project in Austin does benefit from potentially having Crenshaw's and Coore's names attached.



"Their record speaks for itself," Haigh said. "Ben and Bill get widely acknowledged for building some of the best new courses there are and for restoring in a very positive way some older courses."



Expanding East Austin



The proposed golf facility could also be a catalyst for new development, Ogilvie said. The U.S. Open Championships this year drew an estimated 350,000 people throughout seven days, or more spectators than during the NCAA Final Four, Ogilvie said.



"Great things can happen east—and not just two blocks away from downtown," he said.



Also, the public course must remain accessible to all, Gomillion 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 bringing a pro event to Austin.



Local greens fees and other financial discounts would be offered to Austin residents. The proposal also gives the city another potential public golf course in the midst of uncertain futures of other municipal courses.



In addition, the city has already received interest 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.

SHARE THIS STORY
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.


MOST RECENT

Dr. Liam Fry speaks about two nursing home isolation facilities that will be coming to the Austin and Travis County areas on March 30 at the city of Austin's Combined Transportation, Emergency, and Communications Center. (Courtesy ATXN)
Facilities to isolate nursing home residents who test positive for coronavirus will be set up in Travis, Williamson counties

The facilities will be for individuals living at nursing homes who do not need hospitalization or have already been discharged from the hospital.

Austin Regional Clinic Cedar Park
Austin Regional Clinic launches 5 drive-up coronavirus testing locations

Austin Regional Clinic will open drive-up COVID-19 testing sites across five sites.

NBISD workers deliver meals to students at the Veramendi Elementary School meal pickup location March 17. (Courtesy New Braunfels ISD)
Elections, closures, instruction: See what Austin-area schools are doing in wake of coronavirus

During the coronavirus situation, schools have had to make changes in how they deliver instruction, meals, elections and more. Below is a roundup of what local schools are doing to serve students and families.

Balcones Neighborhood Park
Austin closes city basketball courts, tennis courts, skate parks to public

Beginning March 28, all city-owned tennis courts, basketball courts, skate parts and pavilions are closed to the public.

Capital Metro station
All Capital Metro fares will be free throughout April

Beginning April 1, riders will not have to pay Capital Metro operators or use the farebox.

Easy Tiger is looking to bake 10,000 loaves of bread for those in need locally over the next 60 days. (Courtesy Easy Tiger)
From Easy Tiger baking 10,000 loaves of bread to Austin’s Couch Potatoes making masks: Here’s how local businesses are chipping in to help their communities

In addition to staying open for delivery and take-out, some restaurants are providing community meals to service industry workers and others in need.

Turnstile Coffee Beer and Spirits
Will they or won’t they? Austin restaurants split on when to open during coronavirus pandemic

While some restaurants have bunkered down to open at later dates, some Austin restaurants are moving forward with service.

Owners and founders Aurelio and Rosa Torres opened Mi Madre’s 30 years ago and have since grown it from a 10-seat taco shop to a Tex-Mex restaurant. (Photos by Emma Freer/Community Impact Newspaper)
Family restaurant Mi Madre's turns 30

"We wanted to make this neighborhood better, and we wanted to live in this neighborhood. We love this neighborhood," said co-founder Aurelio Torres.

Despite heavy restrictions on public gatherings in place, sizable crowds gathered March 24 on the free side of Barton Springs pool, just hours before Austin's stay-at-home order went into effect. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Residents have reported 180 violations since Austin area's stay-at-home order went into effect

No penalties have been issued since the order went into effect March 25.

Austin Public Health officials confirmed the first death from the coronavirus in Travis County on March 27. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
First Travis County resident dies from coronavirus

According to public health officials, the woman was in her 70s and had underlying health conditions.

Here is the latest news on stay-at-home orders across the Austin area

Find out if your locale is sheltering in place or what legal consequences the coronavirus is creating in the stories below.

Back to top