Harding Park just one of a few San Francisco treats

By David AllenOctober 5, 2009, 9:04 pm
18th green at Harding Park Golf Course
A view of the finishing hole at Harding Park Golf Course during the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship. The 18th hole will play as the 15th at this week's Presidents Cup.

SAN FRANCISCO – The City by the Bay has numerous tourist treats within and around the city, from Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown to the Golden Gate Bridge, North Beach, Lombard Street and Alcatraz. But head southwest from downtown, toward the Pacific, and you’ll find a golfer’s paradise tucked into a three-mile stretch of doglegs and Cypress trees surrounding Lake Merced.

To the south and west of Lake Merced is the Olympic Club, host to the 2012 U.S. Open and four previous U.S. Opens; on the east side is Harding Park, home to this week’s President’s Cup; and just south and east of Harding is San Francisco Golf Club, a classic A.W. Tillinghast design ranked No. 17 on Golf Magazine’s list of Top 100 Courses in the U.S.

Of the three gems, only Harding Park is open to the public. But fear not, the recreational golfer has plenty of other options nearby to sneak 18 holes in between cable car rides and scenic tours. Just south of the Golden Gate Bridge, only 10 minutes from downtown, is the Presidio Golf Course, a tree-lined course which, until 1995, was owned and operated by the military. A few miles west of the Presidio is Lincoln Park Golf Club, offering spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown on rare days when the fog has taken a vacation.

If nine holes are all you have time for, there’s Fleming Golf Course, located within the interior of Harding Park. And if you feel like going for a scenic drive, Half Moon Bay Golf Links and its 36-hole facility is just 17 miles from Harding Park, and is also open to the public.

There’s a reason Northern California was chosen to host two of the next three U.S. Open championships (Pebble Beach has the honors in 2010) and a President’s Cup: It’s ocean vistas, rolling terrain and majestic tree-lined fairways make it one of the most desirable golf destinations in the world. Here’s a little peek into the San Francisco scene, headlined by Harding Park.

Harding Park Golf Course

Harding Park Golf Course
San Francisco, Calif.

Getting there: From the airport, take I-380W to I-280N to CA-1 S toward Pacifica. Exit onto CA-35 N/Skyline Blvd.

Prices: $135 Mon.-Thu., $155 Fri.-Sun; $46 and $59 for San Francisco Resident Card Holders.

Did you know: Harding's fairways were used for parking during the 1998 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club.

Harding Park is the third municipal golf course in the last 18 months to be thrust onto the world stage, following in the footsteps of Torrey Pines (2008 U.S. Open) and Bethpage Black (2009 U.S. Open). Harding is no stranger to big events, however, having hosted the American Express Championship – part of the World Golf Championships – in 2005. Tiger Woods and John Daly traded 300-plus yard blows in that event, with Woods prevailing in a sudden-death playoff when Daly three-putted the 16th green (Daly missed a 3-footer on the 72nd hole to win outright).

Woods will be back at Harding this week for the President’s Cup (Oct. 8-11), and he’ll find the course relatively unchanged since ’05. There is some concern about the greens, however, after an incident in late July when course officials mistakenly over-fertilized and burned several greens. Five greens sustained significant damage and were immediately closed for repair, with temporary greens in place on holes 1, 3, 7, 11 and 13.

A month ago all the greens were open again with the exception of No. 11. There were no visible signs of damage. Harding Park is a straightforward golf course, but if your tee shots stray just a little offline you must contend with the overhanging tree limbs, which spread out like a bird’s nest. The Monterrey Cypress and Pine trees beautifully frame each fairway, but they also can be a nuisance on your approach shots, as I discovered on the first hole when my second shot plunked one of these branches. The trees are very tight to the fairways here, so it’s essential you keep your ball in play to score well.

The inward nine at Harding Park (7,169 yards from the championship tees; 6,845 blue; 6,405 white) is certainly the more photogenic of the two nines. The 13th hole, a slight dogleg right par 4, provides you with your first glimpse of the Olympic Club and Lake Merced. Just to the right of the flagstick on this cool, foggy Saturday morning, you could see the giant Olympic clubhouse. Holes 14 through 17 all run alongside Lake Merced. The par-4 14th is the prettiest of this set of holes: The fairway slopes significantly from right to left, but not nearly as much as the fairways on Olympic’s Lake Course. From the 14th tee, you can see just how much these fairways pitch; it’s as if someone took a coffee table and turned it on its side.

The 16th is another spectacular hole. A short dogleg right playing only 330 yards from the back tees, a mammoth Cypress tree stands guard over the right side of the fairway, about 75 yards short of the green. The play is to take dead aim at the first fairway bunker on your left with a fairway wood or hybrid, which will leave you with a short-iron approach.

Harding’s finishing hole (440 yards from the back tees) is the one which will inspire the most chatter at the 19th hole following your round. A sweeping dogleg left, you must carry a corner of Lake Merced to a fairway that slopes hard from right to left. The more you’re able to draw your ball off the tee, the less yardage you’ll have in for your approach shot, which plays uphill to a green that slopes subtly from back to front and is fronted by two deep bunkers. Woods and Daly both cut the corner and hit 320-yard drives on this hole during the 2005 WGC event.

The 18th will play as the 15th hole in this week’s President’s Cup matches, so it has a chance to factor into most of the matches. Among the more notable holes, the par-5 ninth (525 yards) will play as No. 18, and the par-5 10th (562 yards) as the first, meaning the opening and finishing holes will both be par 5s.

Fleming Course

Sandwiched between the 10th and 11th holes of Harding Park to the east, and holes 2, 4, 5 and 6 of Harding to the west, sits the Fleming Course. This interior nine-hole course, originally dubbed the ‘Fleming Nine,’ features three par 4s and six par-3 holes, and measures 2,165 yards (1,865 forward tees). Opened in 1961, it was designed and built by Jack Fleming, who worked with legendary golf course architect Dr. Alister Mackenzie on such courses as Cypress Point and Pasatiempo.

With assistance from the PGA Tour design staff, Fleming recently underwent an extensive renovation much like neighboring Harding Park. With the exception of its length, it’s hard to differentiate it from Harding with its tight, tree-lined fairways, elevated greens and well-placed bunkers. Many regulars to Harding will head to Fleming after playing 18 at the big park. So whether you’re up for playing 27 holes or just have time to squeeze in nine, Harding Park has it all.

View from the ninth green at Presidio Golf Course

A view from behind the par-5 ninth hole at Presidio Golf Course in San Francisco.

Presidio Golf Course

Presidio Golf Course
San Francisco, Calif.

Getting there:Take I-280W to Highway 1/19th Ave., which becomes Park Presidio Blvd. Turn right onto Lake St., then right onto Arguello Blvd.

Prices: Non-residents pay $125 Mon.-Thu., $145 Fri.-Sun.; $69 and $85 for Bay Area residents

Did you know: The Presidio served as a refuge camp for survivors of the 1906 earthquake and fire.

The famous quote about “the coldest winter ever being a summer spent in San Francisco” was never more true than on this afternoon at the Presidio. Located on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, not far from the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio is exposed to a lot of fog and wind, something this newly transplanted Floridian was not ready for. At times, especially at higher elevations, the wind was gusting some 25 to 30 miles per hour.

Elevation is something you’ll see a lot of at this former military installation, which from 1898 to 1991 hosted top military brass and world leaders such as former Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Thirteen of the holes play uphill, although on the first two holes you feel like you’re teeing off from the clouds.

The par-5 10th hole (489 yards from the white tees) plays about two to two-and-a-half clubs uphill and usually into the wind, making it near impossible to reach in two for all but the longest of hitters. When you reach the top of the hill, you’ll find a green that slopes heavily from back to front and from left to right. When the wind is howling, this is a very difficult par.

Walk a few more steps to the 11th tee box and your at the highest point on the course. On a clear day, which is rare, you can see the span of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can’t see the landing area on this downhill par 4, but a 225-yard drive should leave you in flattest part of the fairway with a short iron in hand and a good look at the green.

The par-3 13th hole may be the strangest par-3 you’ll ever play, as an oak tree sits directly on your line to the green, halfway to the hole. It’s just big enough to block your view of the green, making it play almost blind. Your day ends with a straightaway par 5 hole which is guarded on the left by a row of tall Eucalyptus and Monterrey Pine trees that frame the hole like a series of Manhattan skyscrapers.

The Presidio (6,424 blue tees; 6,097 white; 5,705 red) opened to the general public in 1995, when it was converted to a National Park. Shortly thereafter, it underwent a four-year, $9 million renovation under Arnold Palmer’s Golf Management group, and like Harding Park, quickly became recognized as one of the nation’s top public courses. The greens fee is no longer 50 cents, as it was back in 1895 when it first opened as a nine-hole course, but for $125 you can walk among giants such as Byron Nelson, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.