Archive for April 6th, 2010

Find and share local routes

As if Livestrong wasn’t already awesome enough.

Livestrong Loops is a collection of running, cycling and walking routes that users have mapped and submitted. You just have to search a location, and you’ll get a list full of options with ratings and data about each route. Once you’ve completed a route, you can add it (and your stats) to your “plate.” You can even submit your own route.

You start by selecting a general location and choosing a method of travel:

After clicking on “West Side Lady Bird Lake Loop,” it took me to the route description:

In addition to the map, this page contains a lot of detailed information about the route:

If numbers aren’t your thing, you also get a visual representation of the elevation throughout the route:

The page also includes a lot of interactive elements of the route. Here it shows course ratings and a chance to add the route to your “plate.” If you click on “I did this,” this box pops up so you can record your own personal statistics:

If you’re bored with your current route or just want to explore new territory, I highly recommend checking out Livestrong Loops. If you plan to travel, you can find routes for different places around the world, too. Unfortunately I’m not going to Paris anytime soon, but I found a delightful little 15k through the streets of Paris (though it makes sure to inform you that you’re supposed to return on the subway). And if there’s no listing for the place you’re going, simply add one yourself.

Donnie’s Final Focus: Lions Municipal G.C.

Lions Municipal golf course is arguably the most historic public course in the Austin area.

The course was constructed by the “Lions Club” in 1928 and earned it’s nickname “muny” because prior to its construction, Austin Country Club (now called Hancock G.C., discussed in an earlier post) was the only course in Austin and not open to the public. Didn’t expect to get a history lesson today did you?

Through the years, the traditional course has hosted golfing greats such as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tom Kite as well as local golf hero Ben Crenshaw who grew up three blocks from the course. Other historical facts about the course can be found here. Unfortunately for the golfing public, the University of Texas Board of Regents plans to use the city owned land for various new developments as part of the Brackenridge Tract proposal once Lions’ lease with the city runs up in 2019.

However, Lions Head Teaching Professional Chris Gordon said large amounts of money could tempt the city to override the current lease contract preventing Lions from lasting until 2019.

“I think the board just wants to demolish it and make more money from the land,” Gordon said.

Apart from its history, Lions’ challenging layout while remaining relatively short in terms of yardage makes it a perfect course for young players to learn the game of golf. Mike Brent, Lions tournament director and former Westlake golf coach, said he’s been taking his kids to Lions since 1985.

“My kids don’t want to play anywhere else but here,” Brent said. “The kids stay here all day. It’s part of their life.”

Save Muny is a nonprofit organization started by local golfers and supported by local, high-profile golfers like Crenshaw in an attempt to save the historic course. The future of Lions may be in jeopardy, but it’s past is well documented and as of now, the course is open for more history to be made with each round.

For my final focus of the semester, I’ve highlighted the nine most challenging holes on the course. If you get a chance to play Lions in the near future, approach your round the same way I do; by honoring its history and enjoying the course as if it were the last time.

#1 par 4 369 yds.
Keep the driver in the bag. The hole features a sharp dogleg around the trees on the right and the narrow fairway slopes from right to left once you make the turn. Translation, if you try to clear the trees from the tee you’ll have to land your ball in a tiny landing area that slopes downhill toward more trees on the left-hand side of the fairway. Grab a long iron or fairway wood and hit your drive down the middle, left-hand side of the fairway to give yourself the best angle into the green on your second shot. The green is slightly elevated and slopes from back to font. Don’t go long or right because the green’s elevation will cause your ball to roll into pretty thick woods. Stay below the hole to give yourself an easy uphill putt to start the round.

Putting on the #2 Green can make you feel like you're at a putt-putt course with all its different mounds and breaks.

#2 par 5 505 yds.
From the tee, the fairway looks rather narrow. The truth is, there’s a net that protects ball from hitting oncoming traffic on the right past the trees. If you lose your ball to the right, there’s a chance the net could save you a stroke. If you pull your drive left, the adjacent #3 fairway will serve as a convenient launch pad for your second shot back into the fairway. The trees along the left side are not too thick so you should have an alley to get back to where you need to be for your approach. The green on #2 is awkward because of all the breaks and runoffs. Everything funnels toward the middle of the green with the high-points being just outside of the two bunkers and the back-right of the green.

#3 par 4 400 yds.
This is just a straight, slightly downhill drive. The trees are less dense on the left-hand side compared to the right and if you miss badly left, you’ll be on the #2 fairway and may still have a shot at the green. The green itself is long and slopes from back to front. Deep woods pose a threat if you miss your approach to the right. The trees on the left of the green are more spaced out and there is room behind the green but you will have to chip back up to a green that slopes away from you to the front of the surface. Ideally, you want to be on the front-right of the green. If you find yourself in the bunker, it’s not deep and depending on pin position, you should have a lot of green to work with on your bunker shot.

#5 par 4 375 yds.
This hole features a very sharp dogleg left. It’s almost the exact opposite of the first hole without the drop in elevation off the tee. The trees are pretty thick on both sides of the fairway all the way up to the green. I would recommend not trying to cut the corner or clear the trees on the left on this hole. A perfect shot may gain you extra 20-30 yards off the tee, but on a 375 yd. hole it’s not that much of an advantage. Hit your drive straight and you’ll be on the right-hand side of the fairway with a perfect angle to the green. The green’s highpoint is in the middle and the surface slopes off front and back-left. There are no bunkers on this hole. The only real danger is missing long or right because of the runoff that will cause your ball to roll into trees that are fairly deep.

If you have trouble hitting the ball straight, the tree-lined fairways of Lions will test your nerves.

#8 par 5 445 yds.
The bunch of trees on the right will present a problem if you spray your drive right. If you’re behind the trees you’ll have absolutely no chance to advance your ball. To avoid wasting a stroke on a punch out, there’s a lot more bail-out room on your left should you miss your drive. There is a fairway bunker on the left, but it is not deep at all meaning you can still advance you ball with a long iron or fairway wood and be in prime position to meet this green in regulation. The street on the right of the hole doesn’t come into play unless you miss terribly. The green slopes from back to front and runs off the back of the surface down a hill if you miss long. An arrant approach to the left is guarded by deep woods and a bunker guards the right with a steep side-lip. If you’re not comfortable with your approach distance, bail-out short in front of the green. You’ll find that position much more comforting than the previous alternatives.

#10 par 4 295 yds.
This is my favorite hole to play on the golf course. It’s only 295 yds. long and it’s downhill. There are two small ponds that guard the front of the green and deep trees that will cause problems if you go left or long. The smart thing to do is grab a long iron and place your drive at the bottom of the hill leaving yourself a wedge over the ponds to the green. However, I always find myself pulling out the driver on this hole and going for glory. If you’re in a tight match, layup. If you’re just out having fun, it’s a great par 4 to go for the green off the tee. The green slopes drastically off the front, back-left and back-right. Be careful chipping around this green because those runoffs could cause your ball to roll a long way if you don’t stop your chip on the green.

Even with a perfect drive, your chances of reaching the green on #12 in two are pretty slim.

#12 par 5 500 yds.
In my opinion, this is the hardest hole on the golf course. The way the hole is laid out makes it almost impossible to reach this green in two. Knowing that, you should keep your drive on the right-hand side of the fairway to set up your second shot. If your drive isn’t perfect, it’s going to be a three-shot hole anyway so don’t be too upset. Even if you do hit a long drive down the right-hand side, you be faced with a long approach over a creek to an elevated, uphill green that is on a drastic slope from left to right that runs toward the water. The area around the green is also guarded by thick trees if you miss the surface. The only sane option is to lay up just short of the creek and give yourself a 100 yd. wedge shot into the green with your third shot. Pay attention to the wind and grab an extra club for this uphill approach. The green slopes pretty hard from back-left to front-right. Most of the putts are going to follow the contours of the hill and break toward the creek.

#14 par 5 525 yds.
Much like #2, a large net protecting oncoming cars makes another appearance on this hole and could save your ball if you pull your drive left. There are some trees on the right-hand side of the fairway but they are not too thick that you can’t find an alley to progress your ball forward. There’s also an adjacent fairway on the right, past the trees if you miss your drive far right. This green is not heavily guarded. There are no bunkers or water. The green’s highpoint is in the middle and the surface rolls of the front. There is a runoff on the back of the green, so don’t go long on your approach. If you catch the runoff, your ball will roll down the hill and into the woods.

Distances, wind and club selection are key around the greens at Lions. Frequent runoffs into deep woods around the greens will punish mistakes made on approach shots.

#16 par 4 403 yds.
This hole is very narrow off the tee. It’s down hill and doglegs left toward a small pond at the bottom of the hill. Depending on how far you hit your driver, it might be best to use a fairway wood or hybrid long-iron off this tee. Ideally you want your drive to follow the inside of the cart-path and funnel down the hill toward the water. The path is extremely tight, and deep trees pose serious threats for drives missed right or left. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, your approach will be up another hill to an elevated green. The green slopes off the front down the hill and has a runoff on the back side the will cause your ball to roll into the deep trees. There’s a lot of trouble on this hole. Make sure you’re comfortable with your distances and club selection because you don’t want to be short or long with your approach to this green.