Charleston Municipal Golf Course. Est. 1929
The Charleston Municipal Golf Course was built on James Island beside the savannas of the Stono River and adjoining a part of the historic Riverland Terrace neighborhood. Referred to early on (and still by some old-timers) as Jenkins Links, it is affectionately known today as “The Muni.” The elegant course opened in 1929 on 120 acres of land generously given to the City in 1927 by C. Bissell Jenkins with a stipulation that it be used only a municipal golf course.
Today nearly 90 years later The Muni hosts over 55,000 rounds yearly for men and women, boys and girls, residents and tourists--- all sharing a passion for the game of golf and the company of friendly people. It is to preserve and enhance this treasure that an ambitious restoration is planned for 2019-2020, its first in almost 60 years of absorbing weather and enthusiastic play.
Conversations about possibilities of a municipal golf course began two years or more before its opening in 1929. With other classic golf layouts popping up locally, those of the Country Club of Charleston and Yeamans Hall Club in particular, the demand for public golf became a clear opportunity. Members of these private clubs and City Council were soon on board to meet that demand. The City started with a budget of $25,000, and construction began in the fall of 1928. Leading the effort were Joseph M. Whitsitt and Johnny Adams, a respected former assistant to Donald Vinton. Vinton was the head professional at The Country Club of Charleston in the winter months and Plymouth Country Club (Plymouth, MA) in the summer months, where Adams was his assistant.
The course began with but 15 holes on its opening day, July 8, 1929. The remaining three holes were opened, along with its original Stono clubhouse, on May 5, 1930.
Seth Raynor and the Course Design
Although Johnny Adams laid out the course in 1928 on what in part were corn fields, it has been speculated for many years that The Muni’s design was influenced by respected course architect Seth Raynor. Prior to beginning of construction of the Municipal Golf Course in 1928, Raynor had spent a couple years here designing The Country Club of Charleston and Yeamans Hall courses, both superb layouts completed in 1925. However, Raynor suddenly passed away in January 1926. Troy Miller of Miller Golf Design suggested that “if you squint, you can see some Raynor around the Municipal Golf Course.” Given Raynor’s impactful design influence in America at the time, there is but little doubt that characteristics such as push-up greens, several deep bunkers, some serpentine mounds, and shades of template holes appear within The Muni’s delightfully classic layout. The current restoration plans will feature and add to these very recognizable characteristics.
Growing the Game – 1950’s ---1960’s
As the game in post WWII years was beginning to take off with more affluent Americans, the Golf Commission began to form plans for youth programs. In June of 1948, the Municipal Course’s first youth golf program was created and designed to revolve around local City schoolchildren. Regrettably, for the following 12 years these programs were offered only to caucasian players. In November 1958 such segregation came to the forefront when 12 African American men signed a letter to Charleston City Council respecting their right to play the course. By May 26, 1961, the Municipal Golf Course was successfully integrated “with no incidents….” during Palmer Gaillard’s first term as the City’s Mayor. This day marked an important, new period in which the Charleston Municipal Golf Course was the only desegregated 18-hole public or private golf course in South Carolina.
Clubhouse - 1965
The first clubhouse, known as the Stono Clubhouse, burned down in 1941. Rather than replace that clubhouse the City decided to renovate, enlarge, and update the existing caddy house. The original clubhouse had been located between the current practice green and the ninth fairway, while the caddy house was more conveniently located between holes 1 and 18.
Today’s clubhouse (ie, the renovated original caddy house) was renovated in 1965 with a budget of $25,000 to include paneled walls, air conditioning, acoustical ceilings, and a new porch across the front with wrought iron columns while offices and storage were added to the back of the building. Relatively minor renovation improvements were undertaken in 2016.It is to be hoped that a benefactor will soon step forward and assist with a genuine though still modest clubhouse
to complement the restored course.
1970’s – Resurgence of The City of Charleston Golf Championships
The Charleston Municipal Golf Course has enjoyed a rich tournament history, hosting its first official tournament less than a year after opening consisting of about 50 players. Prior to the event the course hosted its “First Foursome” during the opening of the course on July 8, 1929 between the winning team of Burnet Maybank/Henry Picard vs. Johnny Adams/J. M. Whitsett. Many exhibitions took place in the early years following this opening match featuring two highly respected professionals with amateur partners. The Municipal Golf Course also hosted several State Championships in the 1930’s.
In 1972, Al Esposito left the Country Club of Charleston to become the Head Professional at the Municipal Golf Course, and he revitalized the Men’s,
Ladies’, and Junior City Championships. The Men’s City Championship, which rotated yearly between the Country Club of Charleston and the Municipal Golf Course between 1931-1960, ended abruptly in 1961. The tournament was resurrected in 1974, and saw its 75th annual competition in 2018.
As with the Men’s Championship, the Junior Al Esposito Championship began at the Charleston Country Club. In 1954, Esposito had started the event to give juniors a look at unfamiliar competition from throughout the state. Upon his leaving there was a three-year break. Esposito restarted the tournament in 1975 at the Municipal Golf Course. The former Al Esposito Championship then became the Junior Azalea Tournament, a/k/a “The Beth Daniel” Tournament, as it is known today. Esposito also started the Ladies Championship in 1975, which continues today. [The many events’ champions are listed later herein.]