News & Events

Photo: Munis Are the Soul of Golf - Some fall press selections for your reading enjoyment

The 17th Hole at Lincoln Park - One of San Francisco's Municipal Jewels

Munis Are the Soul of Golf - Some fall press selections for your reading enjoyment

Oct 6, 2019by - San Francisco Public Golf Alliance

After more than a decade of decline following the Tigermania boom and bust, golf is growing again. Participation grew over 2% nationally in 2018 with growth projected to continue into the future. For many golfers, affordable municipal courses are the gateway to the pleasures of the game and create lifelong enthusiasts. Munis are where you find the most diverse and democratic collections of golfers - young and old, men and women, all colors, creeds and preferences. Many regular patrons will also assert that Munis are where you'll find the friendliest golfers. Industry leaders, press, and even politicians are recognizing the importance of munis to communities and to the game. For your reading enjoyment please consider this selection of recent articles on the joy and importance of municipal golf courses and efforts to renovate and restore them nationwide.

Starting close to home, Josh Sens writing in Golf Magazine, reflects on the egalitarian nature of munis in The City with arguably the worst income inequality in the country:
“In what has become a billionaire’s playground, San Francisco’s munis endure"
SF Muni regular Clarence Bryant on the 17th Tee at Lincoln Park
"Staggering wealth, accumulated at the speed of broadband, has sent San Francisco topsy-turvy. Entire neighborhoods have been reshaped. Real estate prices have grown surreal. One-bedroom apartments rent for an average of $3,700. Single-family homes list for a median of $1.6 million... If Tony Bennett came back to fetch the heart he left here, he’d recognize the cable cars but not much else. Except maybe the munis, which survive, underfunded, asking relatively little but offering plenty in return. No doubt they’ve given lots to golfers like Clarence Bryant, whose company I’ve got for my morning round. At 88, with a spring still in his step and a pop still in his swing, Bryant has a love affair with Lincoln that makes my ties to the course seem like a summer fling. He’s been a regular for more than 60 years, playing it with buddies on a rotating circuit of city courses. His fondness for the munis is well founded. As a black man learning the game in post–World War II San Francisco, Bryant was kept at arm’s length by the local private clubs. But the munis welcomed him, and he embraced them back. “I don’t know what I would have done without them,” he says..."

Garret Morrison, writing in The Fried Egg's ComMUNIty series, describes the  how heavy hitters like superstar architects Tom Doak and Gil Hanse, Bandon Dunes’ developer Mike Keiser, and other golf notables are joining with the National Links Trust in an effort to reclaim and renovate three long-neglected municipal courses in Our Nation’s Capital:
"The ComMUNIty Project: Doak and Hanse Come Aboard in D.C."
"As part of a bid to restore and renovate the municipal golf courses of Washington, D.C., the National Links Trust has partnered with two prominent architectural firms: Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design and Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner’s Hanse Golf Course Design. If the NLT wins the contract, Doak will work on East Potomac Golf Course, while Hanse and Wagner will lend their services to Rock Creek Golf Course. The NLT has also teamed up with management company Troon and developer Mike Keiser... NLT’s partners have come aboard in the spirit of public service. Both Renaissance Golf Design and Hanse Golf Course Design have agreed to waive their fees. Mike Keiser has pledged to support the project with his pocketbook as well as the network of connections he has assembled in developing Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley, and other golf destinations. Finally, according to Smith, Troon knows this will be different from a normal management contract. “They understand the importance to American golf of having these municipal courses in D.C. be thriving places where people learn the game, come back to the game, and stay engaged with the game at an affordable price,”

Also writing in The Fried Egg, Jeff Long waxes rhapsodic about Louisville, Kentucy's endangered Crescent Hill muni and explores the threat and promise of municipal golf in his community:

"The Uncertain Future of Municipal Golf in Louisville"

"That is why it’s important to pay attention to situations like Louisville’s current one. In 2020, it’s likely that the city will divest itself of some of its municipal courses. Perhaps the courses will persist under private ownership and charge higher green fees. It’s possible that the junior golf programs will continue, though one can’t say for certain what a private owner that prioritizes profit will do. Maybe some of the courses will be reclaimed as parks, as happened when the Old River Road Country Club in Louisville became Champions Park. Or perhaps the land will be sold to housing developers to help meet future budget shortfalls. Whatever happens in Louisville, the basic message for everyone should be clear: the future of golf depends on the future of municipal courses like Crescent Hill. So go out and play the burnt-out, scruffy, wild, or downright eccentric muni near you. It might be the cheapest round of golf you’ve played in a while, and it helps support a meaningful cause."

Writer Daniel Riley tells New York Times Magazine readers about what he learned growing up playing as a single on Los Angeles’ municipal courses:
"Letter of Recommendation: Golfing With Strangers"
On Golfing With Strangers on Muni Courses
"I contracted the golf virus when I turned 10, right as Tiger won his third consecutive United States Amateur title. I started playing, mostly with my grandma, several days a week, and before long I was heading out solo any afternoon I could, getting dropped off after school. These were public golf courses around Los Angeles, among the busiest in the country, which is why you don’t end up playing by yourself much... Conversation on a golf course is its own kind of chatter. The small talk is relevant: There is always the shift in the wind or the yardage to the pin or the speed of this green versus that last one to blab about. Golf is also forward-moving. You’re never just stuck there...  Your eyes are always directed down the fairway, even if you’re talking about layoffs or dead dads. The overlaps with strangers may not always be obvious. But you feel around. You shine your flashlight into the cave and see if maybe you’re fans of the same burger chain or whatever."

Jason Deegan writing in Golf Advisor called Sharp Park the highest priority – #1 – on its Top 10 list of American Munis needing TLC: 
Doak Blasi Teahan considers Sharp Park Greens
Architects Tom Doak (facing camera) and Jay Blasi (white hat at left) consult original 1931 construction blueprint
with SF Rec & Park head greenskeeper Kevin Teahan (at right), about restoring original Alister MacKenzie greens.
"Architects Tom Doak and Jay Blasi, a Bay Area resident, gave recommendations to mow out the 10th and 18th greens to their original shapes created by MacKenzie in 1932.. Sharp Park, which is blessed with some very attractive forested holes and other greens near a walking path along the Pacific Ocean, aches for upgrades..."

And, as we've noted before, Alister Mackenzie has a few words on why saving and restoring our municipal gem at Sharp Park is important...