I remember fondly moving to San Francisco in 1993
and discovering one of the country's true municipal
golf course gems, Harding Park. Situated on a
beautiful piece of property, the only thing separating
the rag tag city-owned course from it's famous
neighbor The Olympic Club was Lake Merced. The
clubhouse restaurant, with it's vinyl diner-style
seats, had a fresh roast turkey every day, and
making the turn and grabbing one of their turkey
sandwiches was a ritual.
Harding Park had a fantastic layout, a history of
hosting the PGA Tour Lucky Strikes Open in the old
days, and much more. For amateur golfers in
Northern California, playing in the San Francisco City
Championship at Harding Park was a must. The
tournament is the oldest continually-held city
championship in the country.
THE FACTS: TPC HARDING
San Francisco, CA
SF Recreation &
PGA Tour Golf
Presidents Cup 2009),
Charles Schwab Cup
(2010, 2011, 2013)
We used to joke about having everything the
same as The Olympic Club while playing at Harding -
- weather, trees, and even a great layout. But the
conditions -- especially in the winter -- were not so
That all changed in 2003 with former USGA
President Sandy Tatum playing a major roll in
bringing the City of San Francisco and other parties
together to make a complete renovation happen.
(With the underlying design largely left alone.)
Shortly after, the sparkling new course played host
to the 2005 American Express Championship, and
was universally praised by both the pros and the
golfing media. Tiger Woods defeated John Daly in a
playoff that ended on the short par-4 16th, where
Daly missed a 3 foot par putt (and reportedly headed
to Las Vegas where he gambled away his winnings).
In the ensuing years Harding Park continued to
enjoy success, both in rounds played and
tournaments hosted. There was the President's Cup
in 2009, and three Charles Schwab Cups on the
Champions Tour (2010, 2011, 2013). Preceding the
Schwab Cup run was a partnership with the PGA Tour
and City of San Francisco that brought Harding Park
into the TPC network. It is now officially called TPC
Harding Park, but still commonly referred to as
Harding Park, just as the San Francisco City
Championship is called "The City."
Enough with the history already, you might be
thinking. What's it like to play there?
To start off, Harding Park has always been very
walkable, and if you're not required to take a cart I
certainly would advise enjoying your day on foot.
Views of the lake can be found on many of the holes;
they are especially dramatic as you round the corner
on the back nine into holes 14-18. The 9th and 10th
holes are back-to-back par 5s, and while the 9th is
pretty straightforward the 10th is no pushover as it
requires a straight drive and well-placed lay up. The
lake on your left isn't in play as in a "ball
splashes" kind of way, but everything from the
tree line left slopes off into a densely-wooded
section marked as hazard.
You'll drive over the lake from the back tee of
the 18th hole, a dogleg-left where long pros simply
blast over the corner, but were the average golfer
will have to gingerly steer around.
You will remember the 18th from TV, but you if
you're a huge golf-watcher you might get confused
about the hole numbers when playing TPC Harding
Park for the first time. That's because for the match
play events they typically change the routing to get
more matches going through that awesome final
stretch of holes.
As you might expect, courses like TPC Harding
Park, or Torrey Pines in San Diego, tend to get a lot
pricier when they get a makeover and host major
pro tournaments. And for good reason.
Unfortunately, that can push them beyond affordable
for some golfers visiting the area which is a shame.
Because if you visit San Francisco with your clubs,
you've got to make it over to Harding Park. Last we
checked, non-resident greens fees were still under
$200 on the weekend (less mid-week) and twilight
rates bring those down even more. The Fleming
nine, which is located inside the perimeter of the
main course, is a lot of fun too, and can be played
for about $35.
TPC Harding Park is slated to host the 2020 PGA
Championship, and the 2025 President's Cup. Sandy
Tatum's hard work and dedication has indeed
ensured a bright future for an old favorite.