What Is a Municipal Golf Course?

Bethpage State Park's golf courses are municipal courses
The tracks at Bethpage State Park in New York - including the famous Bethpage Black - are municipal golf courses. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

A municipal golf course is a golf course that is owned by a governmental authority. Typically that authority is a city — a municipality, hence the term "municipal golf course." But courses owned by a county or a state or province might also be referred to as municipal courses. Golfers sometimes abbreviate the term in conversation (or writing) to "muni" or "muny." The term is primarily used in the United States.

Key Takeaways

  • A "municipal golf course" is one that is owned by a city government (or some other level of government, such as a county or state).
  • Cities typically operate municipal golf courses out of their parks departments, but sometimes outsource day-to-day management to an outside company.
  • Golfers often shorten the term to "muni," as in "muni golf course."

Who Runs Municipal Golf Courses?

A city, county or other level of government that owns a golf course often operates the course, too, typically within its parks department. But it's also common to find municipal courses managed by an outside golf course management group on behalf of the municipality that owns the course. So long as the course is owned by some level of government, it can be called a municipal golf course.

Anyone Can Play a Municipal Course

Municipal golf courses are almost always open to any golfers who want to play. That separates muni courses from private golf clubs, which are typically members-only; and from semi-private courses, which might restrict times of play for the general public.

Although open to all, a municipal golf course might favor locals through its green fee structure. Some muni courses charge non-residents a higher rate than locals. Some offer local residents (typically those who live within the city or county) an annual discount card that gets them lower rates than non-residents. Still, everyone has the option to play at a municipal golf course.

A golf course that is open to the public but privately owned (not owned by a government entity) can be called a "public course" or "daily fee course." It is the ownership structure that differentiates such courses, although daily fee courses tend to have higher green fees than munis.

Rates & Quality at Municipal Courses

Municipal courses are like any other category of golf course: They range in quality from poor to outstanding, and just how good the course is depends on the time, money and expertise put into building and maintaining it.

Likewise, the rates at municipal courses depend on how much money goes into building and maintaining them. As a very general rule, municipal courses are typically the lowest-priced or among the lower-priced golf course options within a city or region.

Some of the most-beloved municipal courses are ones that are cheap, overplayed and a little ragged. Golfers who grow up playing on those tend to always keep a soft spot for them, even if they go on to play better courses in better shape.

There are some very famous municipal golf courses, including Torrey Pines Golf Course in California, Bethpage Black in New York, TPC Harding Park in California and Chambers Bay in Washington. All of those courses are municipals, and all have been the site of PGA Tour tournaments and/or major championships.