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What is a municipal golf course?

What is a municipal golf course? It's one you need to play on as soon as possible

A golf course with water views.
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You know where your go-to golf course is, but do you know what kind it is? Did you even know there are different types of golf courses? Chances are you swing your clubs at a municipal golf course. What is a municipal golf course? Gaining in popularity and growing in numbers, this golf course is having a moment — and for good reason. Here’s what you should know about a municipal golf course before your next tee time.

 What a municipal golf course is

People walking along a golf course.
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A few fun course facts

  • There are 2,939 municipal courses (out of almost 17,000 total) in the U.S.
  • Municipal courses are at their highest number to date and represent 18% of the courses in the U.S.
  • You might see the name “muni” used.
  • The main goal isn’t to make money.

The short answer is a municipal golf course is a golf course owned by the government. Let’s break that down a bit more. A municipal golf course is owned by a city, county, state, or other government sector. While municipal golf courses are government-owned entities, most are owned by the city and are run through the parks department, though these courses can outsource their labor and maintenance.

Not that municipal is a long word, but players have lovingly nicknamed the courses a “muni” or “muny.” This is American slang for them, so if you are playing on those gorgeous courses somewhere like Scotland, the term might not resonate.

The goal of these courses isn’t to try to squeeze every dime out of you. They are nice like that. Most of the money they make goes right back into upkeep, maintaining the course, and paying the salaries of the workers. You probably won’t see full restaurants and bars at these courses but might see smaller, concession stand-like offerings. It’s just nice and clean. Simple vibe at a course you want to play at.

Why having municipal courses matters

A person hitting a shot on the golf course.
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  • These courses are (on average) 8% cheaper for an 18-hole round than at a daily fee course.
  • Municipal courses have had a 2-decade increase in number of courses.

If playing a low-priced game appeals to you, municipal courses are your best friend. If you remember it or not, your first round was probably played on a municipal course. Most people’s are.

It is calming and relaxing to be out in the fresh air doing physical activity, so having an affordable place to play golf is important. It’s like why having public libraries is crucial for the public and community.

These courses have seen an increase in popularity in the last 20 years, and their counterparts, called daily fees and private courses, have seen a double-digit percent decrease. While municipals still represent the smallest number of the almost 17,000 golf courses in the U.S., they aren’t letting anything stand in their way to dominate the game.

Who can play on the course

Another amazing perk about municipal golf courses is anyone can play on them. You don’t need to be a member like you would to play at a private club, and anyone can make as many divots as they want on a municipal golf course.

The cost of playing

There are still costs to play at a municipal course, but it’s cheaper than at a daily fee course. You could get a yearly membership to the course, which might be even more affordable, or play at the course in your city, which usually offers local residents a discounted rate.

Popular municipal courses

A crowd watching a golfer take a shot.
Richard Stott / Unsplash

You might not have realized your favorite tournaments were played on a municipal course. But when it comes to golfers taking a swing on the best greens, it doesn’t matter what type, of course, it is; it will do the trick.

Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne in Florida

Fans watched the Royal Caribbean Classic of the Senior PGA Tour, which is these days called the PGA Tour Champions, played at Crandon Golf from 1987 to 2004.

Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona

The TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course has hosted the Waste Management Phoenix Open since 1987, earning the nickname the “Greatest Show on Grass.”

Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York

Playing Bethpage Black is no joke, with only the toughest golfers giving it a try. But it also makes for perfect tournament conditions, as it hosted the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Open, the 2019 PGA Championship, two FedEx Cup playoffs in 2012 and 2016, and will host the 2025 Bethpage Black’s Ryder Cup.

Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

A multi-million-dollar renovation over the last five years has brought some changes to the North and South courses at Torrey Pines. Maybe we’ll see more U.S. Opens played at the Pines, where Tiger Woods won in 2008, and Jon Rahm won in 2021.

Before you jump into the golf cart to find where you shanked your ball, see if the course you normally play on is a municipal golf course. They are great for the community and deserve your support. Even if your local one is a little rough around the edges, there’s nothing like playing a round on a reasonably priced course that will always be there for you to swing some stress away.

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Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
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