LADEEEZ AND GENTLEMEN, STILL THE CHAMPION: BETHPAGE STATE PAAAAAARRRRRKKKKKK!!!
That was our ring announcer voice, thank you very much. It’s hard to argue with the 5-course package on inner Long Island that Bethpage offers. State residents pay, on average, $40 to play the Green, Yellow and Blue courses, $45 to play the Red, and $70 to tee it up on the foreboding Black. Add it up, and 5 world-class rounds set you back a pithy $235. For out of state guests, the number jumps to $350 for all 5. That’s in the neighborhood of the freight for 1 round at Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley, and Whistling Straits. It’s half the cost of a round at Pebble Beach or one of that ultra-fancy, Las Vegas preserves. If you look hard enough and plan well enough, you’ll golf splendidly, with cash left over for vittles and souvenirs.
Wondering where else you might find such a municipal deal? All across the wide expanse of the USA. All it takes is some planning and patience. The best part? You’ll see more of America than you ever thought possible. We did the digging to get you started. Have a look.
For a smallish state, the Nutmeg state has a sizable offering for municipal golfers. From Harris and Brennan in the southwest to Wintonbury Hills in the north, to Shennecossett in the east, attention was poured into golf from the New York and Massachusetts borders, to the Atlantic ocean. Richter Park and Stanley regularly feature in Best Of listings, while Keney Park, Hunter, and Timberlin give Hartford and Middletown-area golfers three more excellent choices.
Who hasn’t heard of Tacoma’s Chambers Bay? Site of the 2015 US Open, remember? Add nearby Gold Mountain in Bremerton, and you have quite the 1-2 punch for SeaTac municipal golf. A dozen more munis await across the state, although the majority are found to the west of the state’s north-south mountain range.
As one might expect from this massive and diverse state, the municipal golf offerings mirror in mass and diversity. From the Torrey Pines and Coronado courses near San Diego in the south to the city courses of San Francisco and Sacramento in the north, famous architects left their mark on publicly-funded golf in the Golden state. Leave the coast and head inland, and the desert areas offer their fair share of muni golf. Desert Willow and Palm Desert in the latter’s eponymous city are two examples of government-run golf that keep up with their ritzier neighbors when it comes to service and playing conditions.
While Dan Jenkins’ Goat Hills (in this life, Worth Hills) may be long gone from Fort Worth, Meadowbrook and Pecan Valley remain. No, old-timer, not the Pecan Valley in San Antonio, where Julius Boros won the PGA. Still, this one’s a muni and a fine one at that. Houston thinks the world of its Memorial Park, so much so that it retained Tom Doak and Mike Nuzzo to rework it for the PGA Tour pros, beginning in 2020. Way out in El Paso, nearly to New Mexico, you find Butterfield Trail. It’s a long way to go for one golf course, but we’ve played it and it’s hard to pass up. If you’ve never driven across Texas, either horizontally or vertically, consider it. Imagine California from top to bottom, but stretched out at the waist.
There are eight courses in the Chicago District coterie, but it’s the if…maybe about one of them that generates all the buzz. That story about Tiger Woods and the redevelopment of Jackson Park, a la Houston and its Memorial Park, into a tour course? Yup, that’s the PR juice. The real story in Chicago municipal golf is the Canal Shores golf course. It’s up in Evanston, but it is a grass-roots refurbishment, done by local volunteers and headed up by Jason Way. If your local muni had an operation like this, it would never want for golfers. Can’t wait to see the final, home-grown product.
There’s a lot of municipal golf in the Boston area, but you have to leave the city to get there, or at least, depart from downtown. George Wright is the go-to place to play; locals say it could be Bethpaged and a tour-quality event played there. All it needs is love. Adjacent to The Country Club in Brookline is the Robert Lynch muni, with similar topography and routing to its fabled neighbor. Legend has it, Lynch (nee Putteham Meadows) is the inspiration for Rick Reilly’s Ponkapoag, the lesser-valued neighbor of The Mayflower. No matter, architects Stiles and Van Kleek made it fun and challenging to play.
Hob-nob with the locals, rub elbows with the folks who push their carts and know a good deal when they find one. In addition, they support their local town, city, county, state, what have you. Muni golf is where it’s at. Get on the train today.