ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The 16th hole was the worst one.
That was the consensus during a 2022 tour of the Asheville Municipal Golf Course, which documented what the city called “steadily degrading conditions” over the last several years. At that point, the course had only spent a few weeks under a new management agreement with Commonwealth Golf Partners, which took over the course on Oct. 1, 2022. It had spent the 10 years prior with former operator Pope Golf.
Now, almost exactly a year later, Mike Bennett, one of the operators with Commonwealth, said that the same hole has gone from the worst condition to one of the best.
The 18-hole golf course, affectionately known as “Muni,” was designed by Hall of Fame golf architect Donald Ross and opened for play in 1927. It remains the last “affordable” public fee course in Asheville and is home to Skyview Golf Tournament, the longest-running professional tournament in the country owned and operated by Black residents, which held its 63rd annual tournament in July.
“We like to say (the 16th hole) went from last to first,” Bennett said of the year’s transition.
It needed the full gambit of improvements — guided in part by a $25,000 master plan, prepared by golf architect Kris Spence, a “roadmap” for restoring the relevant Donald Ross features of the course, maintaining the integrity of a historic design.
A framed copy of the 2023 master plan hangs in the Muni’s clubhouse, which just saw its own interior upgrades. On Oct. 18, Bennett traced some of the map’s faint outlines, delineating the course’s current condition, bolder lines indicating the original edges of the design; abandoned bunkers to be restored or shifted, some buried now at the edge of the tree line or faded to faint impressions in the grass.
$3.5 million in renovations, herd of goats
It’s just one piece of the ongoing $3.5 million in planned course renovations. The city has secured $2.9 million in funding to dedicate to upgrades and repairs. About $850,000 has been spent, said Chris Corl, the city’s director of Community and Regional Entertainment Facilities, with a bulk of the funds reserved for incoming stormwater remediation projects, which carry a hefty price.
The stormwater project will be bid out in the next two weeks, with construction beginning in late November or December. It should address the sinkholes scarring areas of the course, and overhaul holes 10 and 11, which Bennett described as still “pretty…