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How Muny Conservancy Aims to Save Lions Municipal Golf Course


L. Nickerson Muny in the 1960s.[/caption]

Without court order or official rule of law, Muny became the first desegregated golf course south of the Mason-Dixon line. In the ensuing months, Black golfers came from around the state, or farther, to play the course, including Joe Louis, who visited Muny in 1953. Most famous for his career as a boxer, Louis became an avid golfer later in life and served an instrumental role in desegregating the game.

To attempt to give the course permanent security and preserve its vital history, Sayers and Austin-born professional golfer Ben Crenshaw formed the Muny Conservancy, a private, non-profit organization with a stated mission of preserving the course and keeping it affordable and accessible. Ultimately, the Muny Conservancy hopes to purchase the land from UT and has worked to raise funds through donations and events such as their 2020 benefit concert with Lukas Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel.

“When you add together the history, the civil rights history and the recreational aspects, you’ve got an important reason to save this,” Sayers says. Pausing his drive for a moment along the far Eastern boundary of the property, he notes some scrubby brush that needs to be removed and explains the kind of care required of the majestic oaks and walnut trees. From his perspective, short leases and city budgeting have hampered possibilities of growth and maintenance of the course. 

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Renowned golfer Ben Crenshaw with Donald Ross.

If the Muny Conservancy is able to purchase the land from UT, it could make it easier to raise funds from private donors and to plan revenue-generating events, according to Sayers. He envisions a new clubhouse that might be rented for events as well as a renovation of the longstanding historic clubhouse. His vision also includes the installation of bocce ball courts, picnic areas and a walking trail that connects Enfield Road with Lake Austin Boulevard — features that would attract an audience beyond just golfers.

In an emailed statement, Eliska Padilla, a representative from the Office of the President at UT,  acknowledged Brackenridge’s generous gift, saying, “As with all gifts entrusted to us, we will continue to strive to be good stewards of the Brackenridge land for the benefit of the current and future generations of students we serve.”

Sayers hopes the university weighs the value of the course’s history and the affordable access to golf it provides as a substantial benefit to those students. Despite its name, the University of Texas Golf Club is a private course to which neither students nor the public have access. Because of the expenses associated with acquiring the equipment and accessing courses, golf possesses a fairly high barrier for entry, but Muny’s status as a municipal course affords the opportunity for anyone to play.

Dallas-born actor Luke Wilson at Muny.

Sayers parks his cart back at the clubhouse and stands watching a youth class practice their swings on the driving range. A group of older ladies climbs into a cart to head out on the course. Beneath the shade of a nearby oak, a group of regulars sit in folding chairs, conversing after a round.

“This is two years older than Zilker Park,” he says, gazing out over the grounds. “This is so important to our city.” For him, the course’s history matters tremendously, but its future is even more important. “It’s a gathering place,” he says, and it’s one he’s fighting to preserve.

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