Harvey Penick's old stomping grounds set for renovation

Harvey Penick
The PGA of America
PGA instructor Harvey Penick, shown here with a student in 1975, spent his life helping golfers improve their games.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Saturday, October 06, 2012 | 7:30 p.m.

Harvey Penick, the legendary instructor of major winners Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite as well as generations of other golfers, got his start in golf as a caddie at Hancock Park Golf Course in Austin, Texas. And now, the venerable city-owned course is scheduled to get a long-overdue renovation.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the goal of the makeover is to return the course to "something close to its origins, starting with an extensive irrigation project." There also are plans to re-route the current nine holes to something similar to the original 18-hole layout, the paper said, adding that some interested groups are trying to obtain an historical designation for the property.

"We want to keep Hancock operating as a golf course, and we want to improve its condition and make it more playable and enjoyable for everybody," City of Austin Director of Golf Kevin Gomillion told the Statesman. "It actually is not a lot of land, only 40 acres. In recent years it has been used mostly by beginners and retirees. At the same time, it’s not an easy course. So, we want to improve the conditions, re-shape some of the holes and make it playable for everybody."

No specifics on the budget or timetable for the work have yet been released.

Founded in 1899 just north of downtown, Hancock Park is Austin’s oldest golf course as well as the oldest continually operating course in Texas.

Hancock was the original home of Austin Country Club, which the newspaper called "the center not only of golf, but of the elite of Austin society." In 1950, Austin Country Club moved and sold the course to the City of Austin, which then sold off the front nine and kept the back nine as a nine-hole course. Over the years, it became neglected and run down.

Penick began caddying at Hancock Park during his grade-school years, and became the head professional after graduating from high school in 1923 – the club asked him to take over while he was still a student, but his parents wouldn’t let him. He left the Hancock location when Austin Country Club relocated in 1950, eventually serving as head professional for almost half a century.

Among his students were World Golf Hall of Famers Crenshaw and Kite, as well as Mickey Wright, Betsy Rawls and Kathy Whitworth. Other outstanding students included Sandra Palmer, Terry Dill, Don Massengale Rik Massengale and Davis Love Jr., who went on to become a prominent instructor in his own right and the father of Davis Love III. Penick also served as head coach at the University of Texas from 1931 to 1963, and led the Longhorns to 21 Southwest Conference championships in 33 years.

Penick was honored by the PGA of America as its Teacher of the Year in 1989, and in 1992 he and co-author Bud Shrake wrote “Harvey Penick's Little Red Book,” which became the biggest-selling golf book ever published. He died in 1995, and in 2009 was posthumously inducted into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame.