About Riverland Terrace
Popular Riverland Terrace, developed in the 1940s, is James Island's oldest neighborhood. The Terrace is located just 10 minutes west of downtown Charleston along Wappoo Creek and the inland waterway. The neighborhood boasts a public boat landing, Charleston Municipal Golf Course, a playground, five restaurants and numerous antique shops.
Leading into the neighborhood is the historic Avenue of Oaks, consisting of 73 live oak trees believed to be over 100 years old. They once led to Wappoo Hall Plantation on the Stono River. A Civil War fortification known as Fort Pemberton, built in 1862, remains today.
The Terrace consists of approximately 800 homes. Sizes and prices vary greatly. Starter homes of 900 square feet begin at $100,000. Riverland Terrace has an active neighborhood association that meets 3-4 times each year. The community actively works to preserve the historical integrity of the community, thus contributing to the hometown feel.
Charleston Municipal: The People's Course
1929-2004: 75 years of golf
In a city where the past is such a badge of honor, it is ironic how little respect is accorded Charleston Municipal Golf Course. That's because in golf "muni" is a pejorative term, equated with cut-rate, poor-quality goat tracks that only succeed because there's no other affordable alternative. And nothing could be further from the truth.
The U.S. Golf Association has recently selected public golf courses for its U.S. Open Championship, Bethpage State Park in New York for the 2002 and 2009 Opens and Torrey Pines in San Diego for the 2008 Open. While no one would suggest adding Charleston Municipal to the Open rotation, it certainly is worth more than a passing footnote in a city where public golf traces its heritage to 1786 when golf was played at Harleston Green.
For 75 years, Charleston Municipal Golf Course has fulfilled a mission statement of providing quality affordable recreation to the citizens of Charleston. Since opening in 1929 millions of golfers have played the sporty little layout on James Island. In the late 1950s, Municipal was a battleground for equal rights. And now, it's a course some feel would benefit from a long-overdue restoration.
Perhaps the Muni's lack of respect is simply a matter of timing. When the course was being built, the nation was on the brink of a catastrophic stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression; Charleston's focus was on an engineering marvel, a 2-1/2-mile long bridge that would span the Cooper River and connect Mount Pleasant to peninsular Charleston. The idea for a municipal golf course in Charleston was conceived sometime in the 1920s, perhaps sparked by the nearby construction of the Country Club of Charleston and Yeamans Hall.
Claudius Bissell Jenkins, owner of EdistoCharleston businessman. He started the first asbestos industry in Charleston and is credited with the idea of building Murray Boulevard over what then was marshland. Jenkins, one of the originators of the Star Gospel Mission, may very well have been a pioneer of the idea of using a golf course as a drawing card for development. In the late 1920s, Jenkins and his sons, who were developing Riverland Terrace, donated 112 acres near the Stono River to the City of Charleston for a public golf course. The property at one time was a cotton plantation. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh once landed a plane at an airstrip built on the property, and the land also served as a place for horse races. It was home to the Riverland Terrace Riding and Driving Club.The earliest documented reference to Charleston Municipal Golf Course can be found in the 1928 Charleston City Yearbook, where the Jenkins family's donation was noted. The yearbook also said the city had been authorized to pay for a survey of the land and that the golf course should be opened some time in 1929. "Smiling Johnny" Adams, an assistant along with Henry Picard at the Country Club of Charleston, was hired to be the city's golf professional, a job he would hold until his retirement in 1972. On July 8, 1929, even though three holes (present-day 2, 3 and 4) were still not complete, the course was opened to the public. The cost for playing was 50 cents, although golfers could "save a considerable amount by purchasing a book of 30 tickets for $10, cutting the cost of a round to 33 cents." A large gallery gathered that Monday to watch a ceremonial opening match featuring Adams, Picard, city golf course commission chairman J.M. Whitsitt and vice-chairman Burnet Maybank. The final three holes along with a clubhouse were expected to be ready by November or December, but they weren't opened until May 5, 1930. The 18-hole course was a par-70, with two present-day par-5s, the 7th and 10th holes, then playing as par-4s. A third "opening" was held on Sept. 8, 1931 when the "old sand greens were abandoned for turf." There has been plenty of speculation about who designed Charleston Municipal, but when it opened, credit was given to Whitsitt for designing and building the course. There are those who think Seth Raynor, who designed the Country Club of Charleston and Yeamans Hall Club, helped with the layout but no documented evidence exists. Raynor died in 1926, three years before Municipal opened. At the very least, though, Raynor's work at the Country Club and Yeamans Hall probably had some influence. At the end of 1929, the city yearbook notes that $17,003.09 had been spent on construction, maintenance and the early work on the first clubhouse; there was a net operating profit of $885.50.
It also is interesting to note the sequence of events. There is a plaque on the present-day clubhouse noting 1927 as the year the land was given to the city. The City Yearbook recounting the events of 1928 references the donation. While the golf course opened on July 8, 1929, the deed appropriating the land to the city for the sum of $5 wasn't recorded in the RMC office until 2-1/2 weeks later, July 26, 1929. The deed had several restrictions, among them that the golf course would always remain a public golf course or the property would revert back to the Jenkins family ñ a covenant that would prove to be critical three decades later when the city would contemplate selling the golf course in the face of integration. The deed also stated that the course would forever be known as "Charleston Municipal Golf Course - Jenkins Links."
An Evening Post story on the opening noted that the job necessitated a "prodigious amount of work. Out of a semi-wilderness of forest, farm land and marsh had to be built more than three miles of tees, roughs, fairways and greens. Trees and bushes had to be removed, stumps destroyed, roots dug up; weeds had to be pulled out, and the land graded, cleared and smoothed, with grasses being planted on fairways, greens and in the rough. Considerable drainage was necessary, but those who play over the court will find it difficult to realize what extensive physical obstacles had to be overcome...
"Patrons of Jenkins Links will find that the course will improve season after season. It compares most favorably with any in the South, and it is expected to prove not only popular with the people of Charleston, but to prove a great attraction to tourists."
Decades later, those words still ring true. It is popular not only with the people of Charleston, but also with tourists. General manager Herb Whetsell said the course gets plenty of patronage from tourists staying at nearby Kiawah and Seabrook, who can play four or five rounds at the Muni for what one round of resort golf might cost.
Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said the golf course is one of the community's most significant assets "because it provides affordable access to the game of golf."
"It's an excellent golf course in good condition, as those who played in the City Amateur witnessed," Riley said. "And its rates are such that young people from families of modest resources, working folk and retirees have access to the game of golf. The city's commitment is that it always be an affordable and accessible golf course, and I think it's a very valuable asset."
But all the traffic over the years combined with taking shortcuts on other projects has taken a toll. Dr. Morey Lipton, a member of the City Golf Course Commission, likens Charleston Municipal to many historic buildings found in the Holy City ñ a beautiful facade but underneath a crumbling foundation. Banks on several ponds have eroded to the point they have had to be shored up with sandbags. The irrigation system, inadequate and outdated, is being bandaged on an almost daily basis. Drainage is poor and when tides rise above the normal level the holes that border the Stono River are prone to flooding. The grass is decades old. It is a golf course many feel is in need of major upgrades.
Last year, John LaFoy of Greenville, a former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, was asked to inspect the course and offer his advice on what needs to be done to bring the golf course up to date.
"Time takes a toll on golf courses and although some improvements have been made over the years, many parts have deteriorated to the point of no return. You can only Band-Aid problems for so long," LaFoy said in a letter outlining his recommendations.
LaFoy said the best and most cost-efficient solution is to do a complete renovation, which would entail closing the course for the better part of a year to install a new irrigation system, redo the ponds and rebuild greens and tees. Foy estimated that such a project would cost approximately $2.5 million, but in the end the golf course could "become a crown jewel for the City of Charleston Parks Department."
Asked if renovations could be done in stages, LaFoy said: "It's hard to say how much it would add to the cost to do it that way. I hardly ever recommend working in a piecemeal fashion. I've never seen one I thought was done successfully that way. The only one I can think of is Augusta National, and they're closed all summer and have all the money in the world."
LaFoy said one of the biggest problems of carrying out renovations over an extended period is that the players eventually get tired of the course always being torn up.
"I've found it's just a whole lot more palatable and cost effective to do everything at one time. The only other alternative is to do nine at a time," said LaFoy, who pointed out the problem with piecemeal reconstruction is the chance you could get different shapers and different contractors, so there's a great chance the pieces don't fit."
Lipton said he has talked with Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. about the project and suggested that the work could be financed through some type of bond that could be paid back through golf course profits.
"In the long run, the course makes money and could pay the money back to the city without any cost to the taxpayer," Lipton said. "That's the big thing. We don't want people saying that we're spending money that could be used for schools or other projects. The golf course makes money. It doesn't cost the city a penny. If we had the thing fixed up, it could make an even bigger fortune. The mayor is against raising prices and I'm against raising prices. Everyone should have the opportunity to play at a reasonable price."
Whetsell said the golf course needs to generate about $1.25 million each year to break even. He said the golf course has reached a point now where it could generate $100,000 to $150,000 in profits to be put back into needed improvements. Whetsell said one of his biggest concerns is safety, an area that's going to devour profits for years to come. Golfers must cross busy Maybank Highway twice during their round ñ once to go from the ninth green to the 10th tee and again while going from the 14th green to the 15th tee. The latter crossing has been a major concern for years. In 1974, then Charleston Mayor J. Palmer Gaillard suggested that two "pedestrian underpasses" be built when Maybank Highway was widened to four lanes. Thirty years later, half of Gaillard's suggestion is finally being realized. After a heated debate, the decision was made to build a tunnel beneath the highway. That project is expected to begin later this summer, after the completion of the nearby four-lane Stono River Bridge is complete. The tunnel will cost approximately $1.4 million. The city has received a $720,000 state grant toward the project, with the golf course funding the remainder. But, Whetsell pointed out, that means there is no profit to pay for capital projects for more than five years, even if the course is making maximum profit.
One of the biggest problems the golf course commission would have to overcome is selling a complete restoration at the same time many golfers are saying the course is in the best shape ever. If anything, superintendent Shawn Geouge has been doing too good a job since being hired by the city in 2000. Both Whetsell and Lipton offer the highest praise for his work.
"We have people coming in for the (City) Four-Ball, the City Amateur, players from the Country Club of Charleston, and they rave about the course," Whetsell said. "We could fire everyone at this golf course and still survive if we've got good greens and good tee boxes."
Lipton echoes that thought, but offers the caveat that the course could be even better if the restoration became a priority.
"This kid has come in and taken a golf course that needs total reworking and has that magic touch," Lipton said. "In spite of all the praise, (the golf course) is basically falling apart. It's like going into an old building and putting up wallpaper. Shawn has the enthusiasm to keep the course in great shape and he has transmitted that to the rest of his crew."
Even those who play it infrequently praise the golf course.
As a panelist a year ago for The Post and Courier's top 25 golf courses in South Carolina, Bert Atkinson, a five-time winner of the Charleston City Amateur, put Charleston Municipal in his top 25 list, calling it one of the best values in golf.
"It's a nice design from the standpoint that people of all levels can go out and play," said Atkinson, who shot a 64 on his way to an 18-stroke win in the '96 City Amateur. "Conditioning wise, I'm really impressed with what they've done. I would love to see the city go in and give them the ability to really fix the holes by the marsh."
Frank Ford III, who earlier this year won his sixth City Amateur title, said there is a need for more golf courses like Municipal.
"It's almost perfect for the market it serves. It's fun for everybody to play. To me, the best courses are just as much fun for the high handicap players as they are for the low handicap players," Ford said. "Under certain conditions, it can be very testing for the good players. But you're always able to run the ball up on the greens. I prefer golf courses like that. If you ever make the greens firm, that golf course gets pretty testy."
Source: The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)