History of Pitch & Putt Golf Course
It Began with a Dream
The Butler Park Pitch and Putt has served thousands of Austinites for over six decades and is an integral component of Austin’s signature park. It provides an iconic destination in the heart of the city, a venue where friends and family gather for a relaxed round of golf, an oasis of majestic trees and green space, and an important habitat for urban wildlife.
But the golf course began as a dream by two men, Douglas and Winston Kinser, in 1948. Their dream was to design and build a usable green space for the citizens of Austin. At the time, the property that would become the Butler Park Pitch and Putt sat on the outskirts of town.
Douglas and Winston patiently built and opened the golf course…… one hole at a time. The “official” opening of the Butler Park Pitch and Putt came three years later, on June 1, 1950. Douglas and Winston ran the golf
course together in the early days, until Winston took over when Douglas
died suddenly in 1951.
Winston went on to work at the golf course he loved for 52 years, dying just a few months after its 50th anniversary. After Winston’s death, a diary he wrote in 1926, at age 13, was discovered. In his diary, Winston wrote
about a big golf tournament in San Antonio that he had just won. Thirteen
year-old Winston wrote that winning that tournament made him want to grow up and work in the golf world. That’s a dream he made come true through the Pitch and Putt.
Locally-Owned and Family-Run
The Butler Park Pitch and Putt has always been family-owned and family run. In fact, that same family has run the golf course now for over 60 years. Winston’s dad came to work at the golf course after Douglas’
death. Other Kinsers–Kit and his son Al-came to work at the golf course, as did current owner/operator Lee Kinser.
For all the Kinsers, the Pitch and Putt has always been about family and Austin and a green oasis, as well as the sport of golf. Winston Kinser’s whole life was the golf course and it showed in the loving care he took of the grounds and the customers. Many of today’s “regulars” have been coming to the golf course for decades… and several generations of some families have learned to play and love golf at the Pitch and Putt. New “regulars” are made every year from Austin’s new residents who experience the fun of discovering this little gem of a golf course right “smack dab” in the middle of the city, as generations of Austinites have before them.
Lee and Winston
Lee and Winston worked at the golf course together from 1984 until his death in 2000 at age 87, although Lee took over all day-to-day operations in 1995. When Winston’s glaucoma made him unable to drive, Lee would pick him up every morning and bring him to the golf course where he sat in his easy chair and visited with his customers, while Lee ran the operation.
Winston grew up in the depression era in Austin, and he never really got over that trauma. Consequently, he ran the golf course very thriftily. Once Lee took over day-to-day operations, she set about to make the golf course into the show place she knew it could be. As a result, the business has grown tremendously and has come to play an ever greater part in the life of the city and its citizens. These days, Lee is helped at the golf course by a standard poodle named Blanco, who greets the customers and keeps an eye on things.
A Place for Serious Golfers, Duffers and Families
The Butler Park Pitch and Putt has a following of golf legends who have played the course through the years, including Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Jane Haynie, James Street, Barbara Puett, Billy Clagett, Cary Petri, Wesly Short Margie Reidy, and Jim Spencer. Celebrities like Matthew McConaughey also enjoy a round at the golf course from time to time.
But above all, the Pitch and Putt is a place for Austin and Austinites to enjoy a relaxed round of golf on a lazy summer afternoon, to teach a child or grandchild the basics of golf in a fun, embracing environment, and to enjoy a little bit of the great outdoors in the heart of the city.
A Habitat as Well as a Golf Course
The golf course’s natural beauty is defined by its magnificent trees. This small patch of land has 19 documented “heritage trees,” trees over 100 years old.
And human families aren’t the only families who enjoy the Pitch and Putt. If you are quiet and look upward, you might see a family of red hawks, for instance. Lee tells of a red hawk pair who raised their family year-after
year in one of the trees at the golf course. One year, an owl killed the female red hawk. All summer long, Lee and her regulars watched nervously as the widowed male red hawk wore himself out feeding and tending the babies. When the last fledgling flew off, Lee thought she’d never see that old friend again. Imagine Lee’s and her customers’ surprise the following spring, when the old red hawk returned… ..with his new young bride….to set up housekeeping in that same tree.
That red hawk found a home there at the Pitch and Putt, just as thousands of Austinites, serious golfers, duffers and human families have for over 60 years.