the muni

Est. 1739

And So It Begins

First golf equipment in the New World, 1739.

First golf played on city owned park, called Harleston Green, 1743.

First Golf Club established in Charleston, 1786.

Yep...we've been at it longer than anybody here in the new world...and we still struggle with 4-foot downhill sliders..

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An Overview

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 as a municipal golf course.

Golf on this continent first arrived in Charleston harbor. A bill of lading dated 1739, which was discovered at the University of Edinburgh in 2014, is evidence that golf clubs and balls were shipped to Charleston merchant, William Wallace, by his brother Andrew Wallace. Interest in the new game grew, and there is more evidence that even more equipment arrived in 1743.

When in 1786 the South Carolina Golf Club was founded Charlestonians played on holes winding through Harleston Green, a park owned by the City of Charleston. The land was located south and west of the present-day College of Charleston campus. So, it is not a stretch to acknowledge Charleston to have had the first golf equipment, first golf club and the first Municipal Golf Course in the New World!

Fast forward to the roaring 1920’s when C. Bissell Jenkins, a successful Charleston businessman and developer, purchased the land on James Island that now encompasses the Charleston Municipal Golf Course and Riverland Terrace neighborhood. Jenkins felt that he would be able to sell more houses faster and at a premium price if his new development included “amenities”. So, he donated land to the city within the proposed parcel to include a school and a park and 120 acres for a golf course! The original deed transferring the 120 acres from Jenkins to the city of Charleston specifically for the golf course had two noteworthy stipulations. First, the golf course would forever be known as Charleston Municipal Golf Course – Jenkins Links. Second, that if the city ever used the property for any purpose other than a municipal golf course, then the deed would revert to Bissell. The “reverter clause” in the deed would play a pivotal role in the eventual desegregation of the Muni in 1961.

Aerial - 1950’s

Aerial Rendering Post Renovation

Today, over 90 years later, The Muni hosts over 60,000 annual rounds for men, women, boys and girls all sharing a passion for the game of golf and community of friendly people. It was to preserve and enhance this treasure that the ambitious project was completed under the watchful eye of course renovation architect, Troy Miller, and a successful public/private partnership between the City of Charleston and Friends of The Muni.

Below are three books that the FOTM Board recommends (and receives no portion of sales) that provide more in-depth history of golf in Charleston and South Carolina than we could reasonably fit on the webpage. Enjoy!


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.

Johnny Adams

Joseph M. Whitsitt

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.

Municipal Golf Course Original Plans (June 1929)

“Designed by J.M. Whitsitt; Drawn by John McCrady”
(The John McCrady Co.)

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, 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.

John Chisolm, Jack White, and John Cunningham
“helped pave the way for African Americans to play at the Muni.”

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.

Port City Golf Club Annual Tournament at The Muni

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 & 18.

Clubhouse before 1965 Renovation

Original Clubhouse Sketch - 1929

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.



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.

1939 Runner-up, George Nungezer (Left) alongside Champion, Frank Ford (Right), winner of 11 Charleston City Championships.

City Champions, Chris Pinckney (‘79, ‘83), Frank Ford III (‘84, ‘86, ‘87, ‘91, ‘01, ‘04), and Bert Atkinson (‘92, ‘93, ‘95, ‘99, ‘02, ‘10, ‘12)

Jessie Finucan

Ladies City Champion, (‘75, ‘93, ‘95, ‘99)

Lea Anne Brown

13-time Ladies’ City Champion (‘84-’92, ‘94, ‘04, ‘05, ‘08)

Jeannie Hillock

Sr. City Champion (‘14, ‘18)

As with the Men’s Championship, the Junior Al Esposito Championship began at the Charleston Country Club. In 1954, Esposito started the event to give juniors a look at unfamiliar competition from throughout the state. Upon his departure from the Charleston Country Club, 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.


Charleston Municipal Golf Course



The Halfway House

‘The Halfway House’ would be located adjacent to the 8th tee and would be a stellar addition to the short game area and golf course. The pavilion would offer restrooms, concessions, and a covered patio ideal for hosting year-round golf development programs. Restrooms would take the place of current inadequate portalettes, and full-functioning concession capabilities would offer snacks, sandwiches, burgers, and more!


The new clubhouse would extend vertically, allowing for more office space and a banquet area ideal for hosting events and meetings. Alongside the addition would be the expansion of a community gathering area between the 1st tee and practice putting green. The improvements would also coincide with the expansion of the parking lot and entrance improvements.

Additional Proposed Projects:

  • Expand Parking Lot
  • Enhance Golf Course Entrance
  • Create Community Gathering Space
  • Continue Landscaping and Conservation Improvements