Eighty Years and Counting
The Schenectady Municipal Golf Course celebrated its 80th anniversary. The 18-hole course was designed by Arthur F. Knight, an electrical engineer at GE and inventor of the famous “Schenectady Putter,” and Jim Thompson, a professional at the Mohawk Golf Club. It was built in 1935 when golf was steadily gaining in popularity and allowed everyone, regardless of cultural or economic background, the chance to play.
“Muni,” as it is known to locals, was one of several municipal golf courses across the country built during the 1930s. After World War II, golf gained popularity as American wages and leisure time increased. Muni continues to thrive as one of Schenectady’s multiple golf courses and was listed in Golf Digest Best Places to Play in 2004 with a 3 star rating. The course continues to be busy with golfers of all ages and backgrounds and is a main Schenectady attraction.
Building a Golf Course
Construction of the golf course began in late 1933. Funding came from three governmental work relief agencies: the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), and the New York State’s Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA). To employ as many people as possible, men were used instead of machines to build the course, the clubhouse, and other outbuildings. Horses and wheelbarrows replaced tractors and excavators. Besides manual laborers, professionals including soil chemists, engineers, and architects were involved in the planning and creation of the course.
“A Monument to the darkest days we have ever seen…”
The Schenectady Municipal Golf Course opened on July 15, 1935 to great fanfare. At the opening celebration. Mayor Henry’ Fagal addressed the crowd and declared the brand-new golf course “a monument to the darkest days we have ever seen. Days when everything but hope was gone.” Fagal was referring to the Great Depression which had been looming over the country since 1929, leaving unprecedented numbers of Americans out of work and looking for another chance. For the nearly 1,400 people w’ho were involved in construction, the Municipal Golf Course was that chance.
The work was difficult and the days were long, especially over a winter filled with snow’ and ice, but the people prevailed. The Schenectady Municipal Golf Course stands today as a testament to the hard work of the hundreds of people involved in its creation.
Special thanks to Union College Professor Andrew Morris for contributing his research on the history of the Municipal Golf Course in his paper “The Great Depression and Schenectady’s New Deal Golf Course,” Department of History, Union College, June 2010.