Future of Austin's iconic Peter Pan Mini-Golf unclear as lease renewal looms

For the past 75 years, Peter Pan Mini-Golf called the corner of S. Lamar and Barton Springs Rd. home. 

"My dad, Glenn Dismukes, and his brothers, Jack and Clifford, started a golf course here in 1948," said owner Margaret Dismukes Massad. "It was real popular after the war."

It’s stayed in the family and stayed almost identical to the original venue over the years.

The Dismukes family leases the property from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department which also manages the adjacent property. With a cleared-out lot next door and a lease that’s up in March, there has been speculation about the future of the business. 

Additionally, according to a spokesperson for TJJD, the properties are under the ownership of the John C. Wende Trust, and the trust management is in the process of being transferred to a third-party trustee "as mandated by the 88th legislature which passed a package of changes to improve TJJD operations."

"The agency's information to us has been, let's get this trustee in place, and then we will follow up with any discussions about a renewal of the lease," said manager Julio Massad. "So we will respect the agency and our wishes are pretty clear." 

Just around the corner, three longtime South Congress businesses have closed their doors within the last year: Tesoros Trading Company, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds and South Congress Books. 

As the landscape around them changes, Peter Pan Mini-Golf has served as a piece of ‘Neverland.’

"It's nostalgia," said Margaret. "People love coming back to the place that came when they were kids. They love coming back and bringing their grandkids."

This picture is Peter Pan Mini Golf in 1948 near the time of the opening The man with his hands on his hips, back to camera, is Glenn Dismukes, one of the original founders. The woman in the foreground is Glenn's mother. Photo courtesy: Julio Massad

"Our business model is just keeping it low-key, old school and not changing," said Julio. 

They’re hoping it sticks.

"They certainly know our wish and desire to renew," said Julio "For us, it’s all good, God's in control."

According to TJJD, the new trustee will oversee both properties and their leases. 

"It will be up to the new trustee to determine the future best handling of these properties on behalf of the trusts’ designated beneficiaries, orphans of Texas."

John C. Wende, who died in 1953, set up the trust in his will to benefit the orphans of Texas. 

Over the years, the trust has generated funds from leases on the properties that have provided Texans who have lost a parent with financial help for higher education or vocational training.