The course, opened in 1929, was long rumored to have been designed by Seth Raynor, who died in 1926. The mistaken attribution is understandable given Raynor’s considerable impact on Charleston golf with his highly regarded work at nearby Yeamans Hall Club as well as the Country Club of Charleston – the latter also on James Island and only 1.5 miles from the municipal course.
An outstanding local amateur golfer named J.M. Whitsett is the designer of record. No doubt he was influenced by the Country Club of Charleston, where he was club champion. Charleston Municipal’s first pro, Johnny Adams, went on to make numerous improvements to the course, but without changing the routing or basic design elements.
If you looked carefully at the course during the last few years you would have found a Redan, maybe even an Alps – hole designs often associated with Raynor and the architects he inspired. But to do so you would have had to overlook a lot of tree clutter, shrunken greens, neglected bunkering and soppy conditions that prevented a firm, fast ground game.
Now, thanks to the inspired redesign work of course architect Troy Miller, there will be more Raynor in the course than there ever was – including the famous template par-3 holes: Redan, Biarritz, Short and Eden. Plus, some of the longer holes will look like Raynor had designed them once the new bunkering and greens are done. There are plans for a Knoll hole, a Maiden, a Cape and a Double Plateau.
It’s a job for which Miller, 38, has been destined – to the point where he donated his professional services. For one thing, he gets to walk 400 yards to the work site each day from his home in the Riverland Terrace section of town – a district that includes part of the golf course. He grew up there, played the course as a boy, and has been immersed in the game through his father, golf pro Ronnie Miller, who worked at the Charleston Municipal in the 1960s before becoming the golf pro at Kiawah Island Resort.
Troy Miller holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia. He worked on construction for Tom Fazio and Pete Dye before becoming director of golf for Landmark Land Co., then hung out his own design shingle a decade ago.
He says “I always knew Charleston Municipal was special. There’s been talk about fixing it up for years, but not much happened for a long while.”
Credit Mayor Tecklenburg for taking the initiative. A nongolfer, but someone who understands the value of the game and of greenspace in the city, Tecklenburg put together a public-private initiative called “Friends of the Muni, Inc.” that coordinated the restoration effort. The city pledged $1.5 million in bonds, roughly half of what the work was anticipated to cost, with the rest raised through private contributions. The resulting campaign, under the banner of the slogan “Fore Y’all,” is well on its way toward raising the remaining funds.
Following a formal bid process, NMP Golf Construction Corp. landed the contract against six other qualified firms. They’re now at work bulking up two holes in the middle of the back nine along the marsh bordering the Stono River. The goal is to raise the area out of the tidal flood zone while creating expanded ponds elsewhere to make sure the property retains its ability to handle storm water.
Miller’s plan calls for expanding the stormwater detention capacity of the golf course fivefold. Much of this will be achieved by enlarging two existing ponds, from a total of 1.5 acres to 9 acres. Those ponds can also be used as an irrigation source – reducing reliance upon wells or external sources. Throughout the course, drainage channels are also being installed to divert water from fairways to low-lying lateral areas. Because the golf course also functions as a drainage basin for the surrounding community, the results of this work will be quicker recovery for the neighborhood in times of high water surges.