Cities across the country are giving municipal courses a much-needed makeover. And the result is not only increased play, but increased profits.
Mention the term "city services" to most people and what you get is a litany of complaints about missed garbage pickups and killer potholes. But one honest-to-goodness city service is making an impressive comeback in the most unlikely of areas - municipal golf courses.

Cities all over America are throwing some big dollars at city-owned and/or operated golf facilities, and the result is increased profits and increased play. And, yes, the occasional gripe or two over higher prices and the changing of familiar layouts.

"When people talk about municipal golf courses, they almost spit out that term, as in, 'It's just a muni course,' " says Fred Buehler, Houston's director of golf operations. "We're helping to overcome that image."

Houston's Memorial Park is a bellwether when it comes to city courses that had been smashed by the ravages of time and limitless play only to be brought back to life as a spectacular golf showplace. Other courses that have received favorable makeovers in the last couple of years include Dallas' Tenison Park West Course (now known as Tenison Highlands); Highland Park National in St. Paul, Minnesota; and Renaissance Park in Charlotte, North Carolina. San Diego's
revamped city links, Torrey Pines Golf Course, even received the sport's ultimate honor, being selected to host the prestigious U.S. Open in 2008.

"Our primary mission is to provide affordable public golf for the citizens of San Diego," says golf operations manager Jim Allen. "But we take great pride in the course."

While in many cases the trend toward upscale yet reasonably priced city golf is being accomplished by retooling existing courses, others like Fossil Trace in Golden, Colorado, which opened last July, are being built from the ground up.