New-look Morris Williams is nearing completion
most talked about golf course in town is one that has not been open since last February. Anticipation is running high for the re-opening of Morris Williams, which is in the final stages of a major makeover and should be open for play in late January.
Since it opened in 1964, Morris Williams has been one of the most popular and most-played public courses in Central Texas. It has been the site of numerous amateur, high school and college tournaments. For many years, it was the home course of the Texas Longhorns when George Hannon was both the Longhorns’ head coach and the head pro at Morris Williams.
In recent years, though, it became apparent that the course needed some major changes. There was no way to keep it open and accomplish the work in little pieces, so it was shut down in order to construct a new pro shop and make substantial oncourse renovations.
Ask anybody who has had a look at the new Morris Williams and you will get a smile followed by some favor-
6-iron, 160-yard 11th hole at Barton Creek Crenshaw; witnesses: Rusty Word, Steve Perry, Dale Guthrie
7-wood, 165-yard 6th hole at The Hills; witnesses: Ben Walthall, Tom Wiles, Bob Rivet
8-iron, 118-yard 14th hole at The Hills; witnesses: Bee DeCordova, Maria Baker, Nancy McMichael
7-iron, 153-yard 17th hole at Berry Creek; witnesses: Dick Wood, Jan Douglass, Danny Miegs
125-yard 6th hole at Onion Creek (original); witnesses: Jimmy Craig, Barry Hutchinson, Cliff Miller
9-iron, 15th hole at Lions Municipal; witnesses: Bill W. Green, Russell Regalado, Tony D. Roberts Sr., Donald Hunter
8-iron, 156-yard 7th hole at Lakeway; witnesses: Jason Walters, Dawson Schauch
gap wedge, 116-yard 15th hole at Roy Kizer; witnesses: Bart Antle, Will Layton, Corey Brown, Gerry Diaz able comments. Kevin Gomillion, director of golf for the City of Austin, recently gave me a tour. I am biased about MoWillie since it was the first course I played in Austin, but I liked what I saw.
Without too much tedious detail, here’s the skinny on the new Morris Williams:
■ The biggest change you will notice is the greens. Most have been enlarged and/or reshaped. The slopes on many greens have been leveled to some degree, but there is still plenty of contour. My thought was that you had better hit your approach shot to the right spot. As Gomil- lion noted: “The average golfer is going to hit more greens in regulation, but will have more threeputts.”
■ The turf has changed to 419 Bermuda on the tee boxes and fairways and Tifdwarf Bermuda on the greens. The 419 Bermuda is known for its pleasing texture, drought tolerance and ability to hold up to traffic. The Tifdwarf has been popular on greens for several years. It is known for a sure, fast roll but also for holding up to a lot of play.
■ Most of the tee boxes have been enlarged to allow for a variety of hole distances.
■ The overall length of the course is up from 6,700 to 7,000 yards when measured from the back tees.
■ Numerous bunkers have been moved and/or reshaped. The new Cossi White sand provides a pleasing contrast with the green fairways and putting surfaces.
■ Several holes have been reshaped. The most notable are probably the par-4 10th and par-4 13th. The green on No. 10 has been shifted several yards to the right to move it away from the new power station just off Manor Road. The short, quirky 13th has seen a dramatic change. The trees and brush at the top of the hill to the left of the fairway has been cleared. Golfers now can opt to play to the top of that hill, leaving a wedge or short iron over the pond in front of the green, or play the hole as before down the right side of the fairway.
■ Mounds have been constructed alongside and just off many fairways to keep balls from scooting out of bounds. Gomillion noted that the goal is to keep balls in play to maintain a rapid pace of play and to make a round more enjoyable for the mid-to-high handicapper.
Gomillion is anxious to see how the new Morris Williams will be received, but he’s pleased with what he sees.
“The goal was to improve the overall condition of the course,” he said. “We wanted to make it easier and more playable for the mid-to-high handicappers because they are the ones who make up most of the play here. We want them to have an enjoyable round on a quality course and want to come back. You don’t want to see them get beat up on a too-difficult course.”
That said, past tournament results show that Morris Williams has always been a stern, honest test for the best players in the area. That should not change. Stretched out to 7,000 yards and with the flexibility for testy pin placements, Morris Williams should offer a legitimate challenge for top players.
It feels like an old friend is coming back.