Posts Tagged ‘golf’

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.

Donnie’s Friday Focus: Jimmy Clay back-nine


Last Friday I focused on how to maneuver your way around the front-nine at Jimmy Clay. This week, we’ll continue our navigation through the back-nine to complete your successful round.

#10 par 5 495 yds.
This par 5 is not very long, but it’s going to be a three-shot hole because of how the green is positioned (more on that in a minute). Therefore, anything in the fairway off the tee will do. There is a small pond on the left of the fairway, but don’t go too far right or you’ll end up O.B. in the driving range. No matter how hard you hit your drive, it’s still very difficult to reach the green in two. The green is extremely elevated, not very large and rolls sharply off the front and back all the way down the hill. You’re going to be hitting a long iron or fairway wood on your second shot. If you think you can get it elevated, with a high enough trajectory to be able to stop it on a small green, more power to you. I know I can’t. So I take a mid-iron and place my second shot at the bottom of the hill, leaving me a wedge up to the green. The putting surface slopes from back to front, so it’s best to be on the front of the green putting uphill. Just make sure you get it on, don’t flirt with leaving it short and rolling all the way down the hill.

#11 par 4 411 yds.
This is a fun driving hole because if you hit it far enough, you’ll catch top of the hill and roll for a while. It’s always fun to tell people you hit a 300+ yd. drive, even if you did get a little help from a hill. There are thick woods marked by white O.B. stakes on your right so stay center or left unless you want to be hitting your third shot from the tee-box. Your approach is fairly easy. It’s downhill, to a flat green that slopes from back-left to front-right with no real run offs. The only threats around the green are two front bunkers, but neither one is deep and both are easy to get out of.

Sharp run-offs cause a lot of problems around the green on the long, par 3 12th.

#12 par 3 185 yds.
I find this to be the most difficult of the four par 3’s a Jimmy Clay. It’s the longest, 185 yds. from the blues, and is well guarded for a hole with no bunkers. Deep woods guard the right hand side of the hole and the green rolls of the right sharply down the hill and into the thick trees. If you leave you tee-shot short, the green slopes from back to front and also runs off the front of the surface. If you’re near the fringe, your ball will roll all the way down the hill. If you go long, make sure you don’t go left and long because there is a small pond that will come into play. Basically, you’ll find that any tee-shot, other than on the green, will be a rather unpleasant place to try and get up-and-down for par.

#13 par 4 376 yds.
This hole is all uphill. It’s not terribly long in terms of yardage, only 376 yds., but it can feel like a par 5, especially if you’re hitting into the wind. There’s no real trouble off the tee. Get as much distance with your drive as you can. Your approach is uphill to an elevated green guarded by two bunkers and features a sharp run-off the front-left of the putting surface. I always get my distance and grab one club higher than what I would normally hit to make sure I get it up there. Once you get there, you’re probably going to be in the middle or back of the green putting downhill or across the green with a quick right to left break. I’ve had a lot of three putts on this green from being too aggressive and rolling all the way to the front of the green. Be firm, but be careful.

#14 par 3 174 yds.
This par 3 is almost as long as #12, but the surrounding area around the green is flat. Meaning you won’t be punished as much for a miss-hit as you were on #12. There are trees on the left and right of the green, but nothing too thick where you can’t find your ball. The green itself is narrow and two-tiered, sloping from back-right to front-left. The two front bunkers are not deep and because the green slopes toward the front, bunker shots to the middle of the green are easy to stop. The only place you really don’t want to be is in the trees on the left. You’ll have to clear the front-left bunker, but you’ll have no room to land it because of the narrow green. Go too far and you’ll find yourself in the other bunker.

#15 par 4 358 yds.
This is one of those holes where players who can hit a draw will be at a definite advantage. The hole isn’t an extreme dogleg, but if you can cut the corner around the trees, you’ll have a wedge left into the green which is important on this hole. The green slopes off three sides, front-left, back-left and back-right. If you didn’t hit a draw and are on the right hand side of the fairway, not only will you not have a wedge in your hand, but you’ll also have to clear a front bunker and stop your ball on the green before it reaches one of those run offs. Don’t get frustrated on this hole. Play smart around the green and take your par. You can get your birdie on #16.

#16 can be a turing point in your match if you play it the right way while it frustrates your opponents.

#16 par 5 526 yds.
If you’re trailing your buddy with three holes to go, this is where you can make up some serious ground. I play this as a three-shot hole, so your drive doesn’t have to be perfect. Just hit it firm. The green is tucked in between a back-right bunker and a front-left pond. The surface is small, and slopes sharply down into the pond. I don’t recommend going for this green in two, but you should encourage your buddy who’s in the lead to try it. Take a mid-iron and place your ball by the cart signs in the fairway leaving yourself 100 yds. into the green. No matter where the pin is, land your third shot on the front-right of the green. Your birdie putt will break right to left but trust me, it’s better than being in the bunker or on the back putting downhill toward the water. This is an easy birdie hole if you play it smart. Let the others pound their chests while they bomb their drive and go for the green in two. You’ll get the last laugh when they miss the green and have difficulties stopping the ball on the surface with their third shot.

#17 par 4 399 yds.
The drive is wide open on this hole so just give it a rip. The problem lies in the area around the green. The green is guarded by two front bunkers and rolls of the front of the putting surface. You’ll want to clear those obstacles, but don’t go too long. The back and back-right of the green roll off all the way down a hill. If you’re down there, you’ll face an almost impossible chip back up because of the green’s slope from back to front. If you’re not on the green, the bunkers aren’t a terrible place to be. It’s a lot easier to get up and down from the bunker than it is if you fly the green and have to pitch back up to it.

You'll need two perfect shots to be on the 18th green putting for birdie.

#18 par 4 420 yds.
In my opinion, this is the hardest hole on the course. You have a very narrow landing area in between trees that line the left and right of the fairway. A small pond on your left comes into play if you hit driver and if you spray your ball right into the woods, you’ll have absolutely no chance of reaching the green in two. Grab a fairway wood, or any other long club you know you can keep straight, and aim to land your drive in the middle of the fairway where the tree lines come together. If you did that, you’re still not home free. Your approach shot is long to a Y-shaped, elevated green that drops off all sides, especially the front-left that rolls into the water. You don’t want to flirt with the water or the front-right bunker so long is better than short. The green does run off the back, but it’s better to be dry than wet or in the sand on this hole. Par is an excellent score on this hole. Birdie is something to celebrate.

Next week: Donnie’s final focus on Lions Municipal G.C.

Donnie’s Friday Focus: Jimmy Clay front-nine

The Jimmy Clay/Roy Kizer golf complex is far and away my favorite place for public golf in Austin. All in one place you have two 18-hole courses, two putting greens, a driving range with lights for night practice and a short/practice course consisting of four par 3’s and its own separate putting green and practice bunker.

The two courses are both moderately priced, Jimmy Clay features a more American country club style with narrow, tree-lined fairways and Roy Kizer is a wide open links-style course and a bit more expensive. If you don’t have time for an entire round, it’s only $5 to practice on the short course and you can play it and use the putting green and practice bunker as much as you like. Great deal.

Today I’m going to focus on Jimmy Clay because I find the layout more challenging due to the doglegged, tree-line fairways. I have no problem with links-style golf, I just find Jimmy Clay is a bit more difficult to navigate if you’re new to the course due to the abundance of trees.

#1 par 4 385 yds.
The first hole is a sharp dogleg left with water all along the left side. You may occasionally see golfers intentionally hit the ball over the water and on to the ninth fairway to get a better, closer angle to the green. Even if you don’t feel it’s your place to correct them, notice that there are white stakes along the outside of the water hazard indicating that playing that route is illegal, out-of-bounds, and the golfer should be taking a stroke and hitting his third shot from the tee-box. Your approach shot must be straight because the water still lurks on the left and thick trees pose trouble on your right. The green slopes back to front and features two bunkers, one on the left and one on the right. Finding yourself in these bunkers isn’t terrible. It’s better than being in the water or punching out of the trees.

#2 par 3 134 yds.
This is short par three into an hourglass green that gets pretty narrow around the neck. The surface itself is fairly flat but does roll of the back of the green down the hill. It’s much better to be short, below the hole than to be long or in either bunker guarding the front-right and back-left of the green. Club selection is key on this hole. Get a good feel for what the wind is doing before you tee-off.

From the blue tees, #3 might be the most difficult driving hole of all the public courses in Austin.

#3 par 4 361 yds.
From the blue tees, this might be the most difficult driving hole of all the public courses in Austin. The narrow fairway doglegs sharply to the right and both sides are heavily guarded by thick trees. If you push your drive right, blast it. There is a clearing in the trees. You have to hit it pretty far to get there but trust me it’s there and you’ll have an open shot to the green. Whatever you do, don’t go left. The fairway itself slopes from right to left toward the trees and there’s a steep run-off along the tree-line that will cause your ball to roll down into the creek. The green itself is turtlebacked and not terribly difficult to put on. Getting started off the tee is the problem.

#4 par 5 540 yds.
From the tee it looks like you don’t have much room on your drive. The truth is, there’s plenty of room on your right once you get past the immediate trees right in front of you. Don’t go left. The trees are too think and you won’t be able to find your ball. Aim toward the pair of bunkers on top of the hill and hit a slight draw if you have one. From there it’s a straight shot, or two depending on how aggressive you are, to an elevated green that runs off the back. The surface is two-tiered and is guarded by two front bunkers. Whatever tier the pin is on that day is where you want to be.

#5 par 3 98 yds.
A 98 yd. par 3 with no bunkers or water should be a walk in the park, but for some reason this hole drives me crazy. It’s all about distance and wind. The green itself is narrow from front to back and runs off if you’re short or long. You’re definitely going to have a wedge of some sort in your hand for this shot, but which wedge to chose is always my problem. Study the wind, trust your distances, decide on a club and strike it clean. If you land on the green, putting is cake on this hole. If you go long and find yourself at the bottom of the hill, you’re not alone. I’ve been there plenty. Just be careful on your chip back up to the green. The last thing you want is to go long and run off the front of the green and be in the same position you are now, from the other side.

It sure looks pretty, but the island green on #6 can play tricks with your mind.

#6 par 4 291 yds.
If you’ve never played here before, you can’t see the green or the water from the tee-box. Just know that they are definitely in reach. Oh yeah and by the way, the green is an island. Keep the driver in your bag, grab a long iron and hit a straight shot. From there you’ll be left with a 100 yd. wedge into the island. If you go left off the tee, you’ll lose your ball in the woods. If you go right, you’ll be able to find your ball, but will have no shot at reaching the island green in two. So here you are, 100 yds. away from the green with a wedge in your hand. Under any other circumstances you can hit this green 10-out-of-10 times. There’s just something about island greens that cause you to doubt yourself. Fight through it. Trust your swing. If you’re undecided when you address the ball, step back and go through your routine again. Forget about where the pin is and aim for the middle of the green. Bragging rights for the rest of the round are yours for the taking.

#7 par 5 468 yds.
Number 7 is a short par 5 in terms of distance, only 468 yds. long, but it’s all uphill. No real hazard threats on this hole, just put together two or three good, solid shots and work your way up the hill. The green is elevated, guarded by two bunkers and has a ridge that runs through the middle of the surface. The green drops off back-right and off the front so landing in a bunker on your second or third shot is actually better than catching the run-off and rolling all the way down the hill. Don’t be tempted by a flagstick that’s tucked near one of those runoffs. Aim for the middle of the green and give yourself an opportunity at birdie or par.

Walking away with par on #8 is just as good as making birdie on other holes.

#8 par 4 425 yds.
This par 4 is long, doglegs hard the left and is extremely narrow. Off the tee, you have to be either straight of slightly off to the right. If you go left, you’ll have absolutely no chance of reaching the green in two. Your approach shot demands precision because of the thick trees on the left and right of the fairway. There are two bunkers on the front-left and front-right that you must clear but don’t hit it too far, because the green runs off the back and right down the hill. I’m not going to lie, this is a difficult hole. Walking away with par is a great victory.

#9 par 4 386 yds.
You’ll see people take a lot of different angles off the tee on #9. The safest route is just to the left of the cart-path with a slight fade back to the right. A lot of players will aim to blast it over the two trees right in front of you, but be careful about going that route. There is a wooden fence just to the right of the trees that is out of bounds. If you push the ball even a little to the right, you’ll be O.B. and teeing off again on with your third shot. The green itself is elevated and guarded by a deep bunker that stretches across the front of the green. Once I get my distance, I always use one club higher than what I would normally hit because of the green’s elevation. From a perception standpoint, it’s misleading because it looks a lot closer than it really is. The surface slopes from back to front and rolls of the left and right of the green. You want to be on the front, putting uphill rather than on the back putting down, but make sure you don’t leave your approach too short. That bunker is deep and can be extremely unpleasant.

Next Friday: back-nine at Jimmy Clay G.C.

Weekday golf withdrawal remedy: practice

It’s Monday. For the average golfer that means back to school or work for another long, stressful week.

While you may lack the free-time necessary to play an entire round during the week, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the sport you love for five days. In fact, it hurts your golf game.

My advice, practice more.

Below: Google map of public courses in Austin that include practice facilities.

You wouldn’t drive a race car on the weekends without putting any work on the car or track during the week. So what makes you think if you play golf once a week without practicing your scores will magically decrease?

Compare how many times you play golf to how many trips you take to the practice range or putting green in a given month. If the comparison is lopsided, you’re not putting yourself in position to succeed on the weekends.

Recognize where you lose the most strokes during a round, and practice that part of your game.

For example, if you average two putts on every green, that’s 36 total puts in a round. If your average score is 90, that means putting accounts for 40 percent of your total strokes. Compare that to your driver which you use less than 18 times in a round (due to par 3’s and other short holes ). But how many times to do see golfers go to the range, pull out their drivers and start whaling on golf balls?

If you’re having a bad day and you want to take out some aggression on a bucket of balls, I get it. But if you’re trying to lower your golf scores, spend some time on the putting green. Putting is a perfect way work on your game during the week because you can stay as long or as short as you want, it’s free and you’re working on the one shot in your golf repertoire that produces the most strokes.

Instead of going straight home after school/work, stop by a golf course and putt for 30 mins. two-three times a week. I guarantee your total putts and scores will go down when your long awaited weekend round returns.