Our 7 favorite munis we played in 2023
In this special edition of Muni Mondays, we take one last look back at the best of 2023, including our favorite munis we played last year.
Our 7 favorite munis we played in 2023
Sean Zak, senior writer: I moved into a new apartment earlier this year, which looks out over Diversey Driving Range here in Chicago. No, this is not a municipal golf course but rather a municipal driving range, maybe 200 yards from my couch. You know what that means for my golf game, right? One might think lower scores, advanced skills, never needing a pre-round warmup because there’s a warmup across my street. But no, all it means is I sit here at my desk, typing out these words, and look out to see a range picker chugging along, little white pellets bouncing on the astroturf. Diversey is far from perfect. Its golf balls are not special. Its greens bounce like concrete. Its rubber tees are just a little too short. But its always there, with two stories of hitting bays, waiting for you to try to make good on your game. In a city of 2.7 million people, it’s absolutely beloved. I just hope my proximity to it brings me a lower index in 2024.
James Colgan, news and features editor: I played Christopher Morley Park, a nine-hole muni on Long Island just a few minutes from where I grew up. Morley is eminently a beginner’s golf course, but the opportunity to play alongside my wonderful partner, Jamie, (who picked up the game for the first time in ‘23) made Morley the site of some of my favorite golf memories this year.
Tim Reilly, VP programming: After a rainout a year prior, I finally played the Palm Beach Par-3 Course. I was determined to make it happen, rain or shine, after seeing drone footage shot by GOLF’s Connor Federico (above). I’m a sucker for a good par-3 course, and this property is second to none. There are scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean and Intercoastal Highway throughout. The 18-hole course features holes ranging from 81 to 211 yards to make it fun and challenging for all skill sets. If you’re looking for a good time in Palm Beach, this is it. Oh, and stick around for lunch on the second-story balcony.
Alan Bastable, executive editor: Over the past couple of years, my youngest son (now 11) has been participating in clinics at Galloping Hill Golf Course, a muni not far from my central New Jersey home. I’ve never played the course — by all accounts, it is well conditioned and challenging — by I can vouch for the phenomenal practice facility, which includes a 52-stall range (20 bays are covered and heated); sprawling short-game practice area with three greens; and the crown jewel: a nine-hole, par-33 practice course that stretches 2,348 from the tips and is perfect for young golfers still cutting their teeth. The pro — Baker Maddera — who leads my kid’s clinic is a local golf legend, a New Jersey PGA section Hall of Famer who has played in three U.S. Opens (1983, ’88 and ’94) and the 1992 PGA Championship. I don’t know if my son will ever play in any majors, but I hope he learns to putt like Baker.
Ryan Barath, equipment editor: Although nowhere near as famous as the Old Course, which is likely the most famous municipal golf course in the world, my favorite muni was the the Himalayas putting course at St. Andrews. For just £4, you can enjoy a seaside putting course within view of the Swilcan Bridge and sandwiched between the Old Course and West Sands Beach. From complete beginners to avid golfers playing for a few bucks and a cool pint after the round, the Himalayas represents everything I wish golf had more of — accessibility, imagination and, most of all, fun.
Josh Sens, senior writer: Short courses are all the rage these days, which means Jack Fleming was more than half a century ahead of his time. A former protege of Alister MacKenzie, Fleming turned up in Northern California in the 1920s to work on the Meadow Club, the good doctor’s first course in the U.S. He wound up staying and becoming the official “golf caretaker” of San Francisco. In that role, he designed a bunch of shorties around the city, none better than Golden Gate Park Golf Course, a nine-hole par-3 layout that opened for play in 1951. For years, I thought of Golden Gate as a sleeper (several of my golf-addicted friends in the area didn’t even know it existed). Not anymore. It’s been reawakened by architect Jay Blasi, with funding from the San Francisco First Tee program. The grounds have been reseeded. Sandy wastes have been exposed. And trees have been removed, revealing views of the nearby ocean. It’s a treat of a track, with a terrific sense of place. The one catch is that while the course is ready for public consumption, the clubhouse — which was scorched by a fire — has yet to be rebuilt. So the official ribbon cutting won’t be for another couple months. But Blasi and Co. have been offering sneak-peeks of the place. I’ve seen it. I’ve played it. I believe it’s up there with the best par-3 courses in the country. And I can’t wait to get back.
Jack Hirsh, assistant editor: I could probably make Jeffersonville Golf Club in East Norriton Township, Pa., my perpetual Muni of the Year. The greater Philadelphia area is a desolate wasteland in terms of affordable public golf, but Jeffersonville stands out. For the better part of the past decade, the township has started investing in the 1931 Donald Ross layout by reclaiming green surfaces, restoring old bunker complexes and building a new clubhouse and putting green slated to open this spring. Because of the construction of the clubhouse this year, the course has been rerouted to start on 17 and 18, but nonetheless, The Jeff, at just under 6,400 yards, is a thrilling and worthy challenge for any player. This is the course where my high school used to hold qualifying. Today, the increased recognition and business has made it too crowded to hold three days of tryouts there, but the staff is still generous enough to let my team on for just $25 for one practice round, about half the regular weekday rate.