Wednesday, May 16, 2018

San Francisco Golf Club

San Francisco is a city that has an embarrassment of golf riches. Olympic has hosted several majors. TPC Harding Park has hosted multiple tour events as has Lake Merced. The eponymous golf club of San Fran is by contrast intensely private and eschews the spotlight of its neighbors but it is a world class track and I was lucky enough to play it recently.

What makes a golf course world class? I would argue it is the routing first and foremost. Does the course take advantage of what the land has to offer and create challenging and interesting holes for the golfer? Next are the conditions of the course in top shape (grass, sand, greens)? Further down the list but no less important is the history of the course and its place in the game.

SFGC has all of this in spades.

The routing of the first 9 holes of SFGC is perhaps the finest routing I have ever played. The first hole is a gentle handshake of a par 5 which gently drifts over some mounds but setting up a difficult return on the second hole which is set in an audacious valley right that sits parallel to the first hole.

From then on SFGC socks you in the mouth by going over hill and dale with fantastically framed tee shots, elevated greens, great bunkers and stellar greens. The front side culminates with perhaps the best 2 hole stretch on the planet, holes 7 and 8.

Both of these holes sit in the same valley with 7 being the famous downhill par 3 and then looking out over the expanse you can see what waits for you at hole 8. It is a tee box you want to stay on for a long time. 7 is a short but devilish hole with a crazy undulating green and significant bunker complexes. 8 is a fantastic driving hole with the banks of the hills sloping all around you leading to an elevate green.

The backside's routing doesn't hold up to the front as the course takes you over more flattish terrain although what it lacks in features, it more than makes up for with bunkers. I have never seen more and interesting bunkers then playing the back 9 of SFGC. The stars on the back are the par 3s, short but tenacious, these greens require all of your attention.

You find yourself back at the clubhouse after all too brief a round but what a way to end up! The clubhouse is a living, breathing history book showing you the connection of the course to golf history. There are amazing exhibits all over the place showing who has played the course, how the course has changed over the years, etc. Plus as  you are dining there, you can't help but feel part of golfing history.

SFGC holds onto its traditions which means no yardages, mandatory caddies eyeballing everything and no pictures of the course. The members want to preserve their place in history and in the shadows of San Francisco golf. While I feel that this course should be a little looser on how they run things and more open to the world so golfers can see its awesomeness, I respect what the members are doing there and am jealous at what a great golf course they have!

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