A Redan You Can Play in Blue Jeans: Charleston Muni

The first municipal golf course in South Carolina has a new look and new life after a $3 million renovation that was a passion project for architect Troy Miller, who got the chance to overhaul the 91-year-old Charleston Muni—a course he grew up playing and now lives next to with his family. The unique public-private partnership was a labor of love for many others in the Charleston area as well.

Charleston Muni was always a popular facility, doing about 60,000 rounds a year, and had “good bones,” according to Miller, but it had also become partially overgrown and was prone to flooding, given its location along the Stono River.

Sightlines were cleared along the river, while ponds and wetlands were reclaimed by clearing out new-growth pine and cedar trees. A number of back nine holes in the flood plain were raised between three to seven feet using fill material from the expansion of the property’s two big ponds, in turn creating much-needed stormwater capacity for surrounding neighborhoods.

Most notable, though, are the design changes from Miller, who provided his services and time free of charge. What Miller created is an homage to Seth Raynor, embracing many of the template holes the renowned architect employed with great acclaim at nearby courses like the Country Club of Charleston and Yeamans Hall Club. While the first 10 holes have more of a parkland-style feel, the character changes once golfers cross Riverland Drive and step to the tee of the par-three 11th hole, which plays downhill to a Redan green backdropped by the Stono River. From there, players can see the water until they put the flag back in on the 17th hole and get to experience a memorable stretch of templates such as “Cape,” “Road,” “Punchbowl,” and “Short.”

“I’ve jokingly said that this is the only Redan in the world that you can play in blue jeans,” says Miller, noting that the moniker of the Friends of the Muni foundation is “Fore Y’all.” “The whole purpose of it is to make sure that golf is accessible to every member of our community.”

That community includes Miller, a Charleston native whose father helped Pete Dye build the Ocean Course on nearby Kiawah Island and once worked in the pro shop at Charleston Municipal. Miller was a design associate for various Tom Fazio and Nicklaus Golf projects throughout the southeast before moving into real estate. Today, he remains involved with golf design, development, and operations through his own company, Miller Golf Design, and lives in the neighborhood that sits along the course.

“When I moved back here five years ago, the current mayor knew my history and asked if I would take a look at it,” Miller says. “I said ‘absolutely’ and took it from there. This is part of this whole ‘Munissance.’ It is amazing to see how many of these great old municipal golf courses are getting the love and attention they need and deserve.”

Volunteers painted the clubhouse and created signs for the course, which is one of the city’s oldest parks and was intended to be a community hub when it opened in 1929. At a recent landscaping day, more than 100 members of the community showed up on a Saturday morning and spent the entire day planting sweetgrass, azaleas, and dogwoods—more than 2,500 plants in total.

“A lot of the guys from the city looked at me like I was crazy and said, ‘Why isn’t the contractor doing this?’” says Miller. “I said, ‘Well, this is an opportunity.’ I had a lot of people reach out to me and say, ‘How can I help with this project? I can’t give $500 or $1,000, what can I do?’ I said there would be an opportunity, and this was it.”

The 18-hole rate at the Charleston Muni remains just $20 on weekdays for local residents, even after the renovation. That rate goes up to $60 for a non-resident and the tourism base is growing rapidly, with about 6.5 million annual visitors.

“We’re hoping we’re able to maintain that and able to subsidize with those out-of-town rounds to keep it in the condition it needs to be in and provide a great product that everyone can take pride in,” says Miller, who also built an expanded practice area as well as a reversible three-hole short course that plays between 60 and 110 yards. While the local junior program has about 400 participants, it’s been limited by space. That practice and teaching area is now about five times as big, and Miller is optimistic the local First Tee and U.S. Kids programs might be able to double in size in the next year.

“Hopefully we’ll grow the game in a way we haven’t really tapped into yet,” says Miller.

Have you played Charleston Muni? Tell us about your experience.