Hancock Park Municipal Golf Course: A Gem in the Hill Country

By Kyle Dalton, Contributor

LAMPASAS, TX - Located an hour northwest of Austin, Lampasas is just a small dot on the big Texas map. It is in every sense what you think of when you hear the words "small Texas town." With that comes the occasional tourist on his or her way to the "big" city. But if you ever happen to be that "occasional tourist," you might want to stop and check out this 18-hole public golf course.

Hancock Park Municipal Golf Course, like the city in which it is located, is small, measuring only 6,029 yards from the tips. But the size is not what makes this course unique, it's the layout. Tucked away in the woods just off a main highway running through town, Hancock Park offers a variety of hole designs with numerous challenges including water, sand and trees - and more trees.

On the first hole you get a taste of all three. This par-4, 353-yard dogleg-left features a tee shot over Sulphur Creek, which weaves its way throughout the course and is in play on 11 holes. After you have successfully cleared the 150 yards of water, you must manage the dogleg around the trees running along the creek to the left and a few on the opposite side of the fairway to the right.

After that, it's clear to the hole to one of the larger greens on the course, which is protected by a bunker in front to the left.

No. 2 - the signature hole - is one of the more interesting and challenging holes at Hancock Park, which plays host to 32,000 rounds per year. The creek and trees run the length of the hole on the left side with a few clusters of trees to the right. The second shot is what makes this hole. Your approach is to the Tifdwarf Bermuda green that is protected by water on all sides.

Sulphur Creek forks around the green with a small tributary running in front with the main body of the creek running from left to right around the back. Be cautious on this approach because anything long is wet. This 355-yard par 4, along with the other eight holes on the front side are relatively new and opened in 1996. The back side or original nine holes opened in the mid 1940s.

After No. 2, you get a break from the waters. Hole Nos. 3 and 4 are a pair of doglegs. No. 3 is a slight dogleg to the left at a distance of 336 yards. This par 4 features a tee shot through an alley of trees. After clearing the trees, the fairway is wide open and turns to the left to a green that is protected by a bunker to the left.

No. 4 is just the opposite of its preceding hole. This 345-yard dogleg-right is laced with trees on both sides and trees are prominent in particular on your second shot. Any drive to this uphill, open fairway will likely leave you with a tough approach to the green.

On that approach you will find trees along the right side that jut out into the fairway before the green. This design requires a decision - stay left of the trees and risk missing the green to the left with your ball possibly coming to rest behind several trees, or go over the trees avoiding the trees and two pot bunkers in front of the green and to the right. A precise shot is required.

According to head professional Van Berry, it's exactly this type of hole at Hancock Park that makes the course. "The course may be short (including holes like No. 4), but it can be very challenging."

No. 5 is also a dogleg - this time to the left - and water comes back into play on this hole. After a slightly downhill shot off the tee to a wide open fairway, your second shot must cross the creek at a point just left of where you began your round on No. 1. A drive to the right on this hole will put you in good position for a clear shot at the green, which is protected by several large oaks to the right and left, and bunkers also on both sides.

The clubhouse is located just to the right of the No. 5 green so you better make your purchases or take a bathroom break at this time. Although this is an odd time for the clubhouse to appear, it is all part of the modified course design that is truly unique.

It's these first five holes that give you a great appreciation for the delicate design and how it was all creatively incorporated into such a small area and the natural landscape - a course that is truly one with nature.

Following Nos. 6 and 7, a par 3 and par 5 respectively, is the par-3, 140-yard No. 8. This is a picturesque hole that features an elevated tee shot to a green with a wide expanse of the Sulphur Creek running to the left and behind. One bunker to the right can be a factor.

To finish out the front side, No. 9 is the longest hole on the course, outdistancing No. 10 by a whole yard. However, unlike No. 10, the par-5, 505-yard No. 9 prominently features water in its layout as the creek runs the length of the hole on the left. Trees sporadically placed along the left might give you a friendly kick back into the 419 Bermuda fairway if you happen to find one, but your best bet is to stay right and play the large slope on the right.

Only a few trees sit on this embankment and any shot that reaches it will likely roll back to the left leaving you in good position. After a layup second shot, which must also stay right, you are faced with a shot to a green over a valley and small tributary that crosses in front of the green.

If you have successfully played your second to the right side, a cluster of trees to the left should not be a problem on your approach, which is to a green with two bunkers to the right.

Like No. 9 and its approach, No. 11 includes trees that can definitely affect your score. Unlike No. 9, No. 11 is short - a par 3 of 160 yards. That's right, trees or more specifically, a tree is in play on this par 3. A large tree to the right overhangs the green with a good portion of branches directly in your desired line of flight.

Although many might think of this as unfair if the pin placement is to the right, others, myself included, think of it as a challenge. You must either carve you ball in from left-to-right or avoid the tree altogether by keeping your ball low.

Up next is an innocuous hole in No. 12. The only real difficulty on this par 4 of 387 yards is at the small green, unless of course you dump your tee shot into the water off the tee (Sulphur Creek runs in front of the tee box and is approximately 75 yards to clear). The green, in addition to being small, is crowned.

This is one of the main design elements at Hancock Park and is most notably featured on the historic back side, which was recognized by The Dallas Morning News as one of the top nine-hole facilities in Texas before the additional nine was added in 1996. The raised green is more distinct on No. 12 because of the relatively flat area surrounding it.

No. 13 also includes a crowned green, but it's what you do before reaching the green that will determine your score on this 297-yard par 4. Off the tee you must choose to hit a mid- to high-iron to a fairway that has several trees to the right and left. The direction of your tee shot, albeit important, is not the key on this hole - distance is. You must place your ball in a position to shoot across a wide portion of the creek to the green that sits just on the other side. Any approach shot left short will be wet.

If nothing else, hit an extra club on your approach to be safe. But be careful if you do hit over the green because your third shot will be to the crowned green with the creek patiently waiting on the other side to consume your ball.

Nos. 14 and 15 are a pair of doglegs with uniquely different designs. No. 14, a par 4 of 366 yards is a dogleg-right with trees and the creek sitting to the right. A solid tee shot along the right can clear the trees and cut the corner leaving you with 100 yards or less on the second.

No. 15 is also a dogleg to the right, but it includes so many trees it's almost difficult to discern where you should hit your tee shot. Your tee shot should be straight between the large oak on the left and a line of trees on the right.

It's the second shot on this 478-yard par 5 where the dogleg comes into play. If you maneuver around the corner on your second, your approach will be over a small valley to a small and narrow crowned green.

After so many twists, turns and standing timber on No. 15, No. 16 is a straightaway hole of 301 yards. Trees are to the right and left but not really in play. Grip it and rip it.

To conclude your round, Nos. 17 and 18 are two holes of different pars, 3 and 4, but play to distances with one more suited for the other. No. 17 is a par 3 of 221 yards. If the distance wasn't enough, a group of trees overhangs in play to the right and a large oak sits to the left. A straight tee shot is required if you have any chance of shooting par on this hole.

No. 18, unlike No. 17, plays short for its par. Just 314 yards, this par 4 is straight away with several trees to the right including one positioned just on the edge of the fairway. Several trees and the road to the left can also be a factor, but an otherwise straight shot off the tee presents a solid chance at scoring par or better.

Without question, Hancock Park is a great golf course for this quaint little community and a course that will charm you with its unique layout if you ever get a chance to play it. Definitely a course that's worth the hour-long drive from Austin.

Hancock Park Municipal Golf Course
281 South and 700 Naruna Rd.
Lampasas, TX 76550
(512) 556-3202
Web site: http://www.ci.lampasas.tx.us/golf

Head Professional: Van Berry

Directions: From Austin, take 183 north approximately 70 miles to Lampasas. At the first light, turn left on Central Texas Highway. Take Central Texas Highway until you reach Highway 281 and turn left. Off of 281, take a right on Naruna Blvd. and the clubhouse is on the left.

Kyle Dalton, Contributor

Since graduating from the University of Texas in 1992 with a degree in journalism, Kyle Dalton has been a writer and editor for a variety of national publications in various fields.

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