The Takeaway: Grade A
Designer: A.W. Tillinghast in 1915
Cost: Private Private (Walking only, caddies provided)
Phone Number: (415) 469-4122
Directions: Get here! - 1310 Junipero Serra Blvd, San Francisco, California
Accolades: Ranked 33rd on Golf Digest's 2013-14 Top 100 Greatest Golf Courses in America and 5th in the state of California.
What to Expect: San Francisco Golf Club is one of the most historic clubs in all the West and takes you back to the roots of golf with club-carrying caddies, no carts, and no yardage markers. So historic looking is the locker room that upon entering you swear Bobby Jones or Walter Hagen will come walking around the corner at any minute. Masterfully designed by A.W. Tillinghast in 1915, SFCC is a beautiful parkland course that tries to be one thing and one thing only; a pure golf experience. You won't find wealthy e-commerce tycoons kicked back in their carts with a stogy hanging from their mouth and a cell phone pressed up to their ear. However, there is a good chance you'll see two members discussing how to proceed under a specific ruling or whether a given penalty costs a competitor one stroke or two. Majestic Monterey Cypress and Pine trees line the course along with an abundant of other foliage that both beautifies the course and challenges the golfer. You won't have to encounter any water hazards throughout the day, but numerous, large bunkers along with gentle doglegs and soft elevation changes will be the call of the day. However, unlike many older courses, SFGC offers generous fairways to hit off the tee and true, fast rolling greens. The course is extremely fair in its layout and length and is truly a course to be enjoyed by every skill level.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 7th Hole – 189 Yard Par 3 – Downhill par three to a two-tiered green with a pair of bunkers short left and two bunkers behind the green. The final legal duel in California was fought on the site of this green where Senator David Broderick lost to California Supreme Court Justice David Terry in 1859.
Best Par 3: Already tagged as the signature hole of SFGC, Golf Digest further validates this hole's greatness by ranking it as the 7th best one shot hole in the country. Known as the "duel hole" the green is masterfully designed for a tee shot coming from an elevated tee box by offering the easier front pin placement that slopes from back to front and then the more difficult rear pin placement where the green gently works away from the golfer and towards the bunkers. This hole also starts the strongest three hole stretch the course offers.
Best Par 4: The variety of par fours at SFGC is one of its strong points, however it is this author's opinion that the 378 yard 8th hole, seen in the background of the 7th hole photo above, edges out the strategic 410 yard 10th as the finest two shot hole at the course. Working with the natural terrain, Tillinghast placed the tee box 50 feet below the green on this hole where length isn't the difficult part, it is accuracy and the demanding approach shot to an elevated green that is both slick and undulated. Doglegging to the left off the tee, the fairway is narrow with a steep hill along the left side and thick trees and brush along the right side. A caddy's advice on pin placement is critical when hitting to this green where the majority of the putting surface isn't visible to the golfer and where three putts are more common than pars.
Best Par 5: Capping off a wonderful stretch of holes on the front nine is the long 582 yard 9th hole. Virtually impossible to reach in two, while playing at Stanford Tiger Woods went driver-driver to come within 15 yards of the green, but still short. For the average human, all you should be concerned with is avoiding the 12 bunkers in play throughout the hole. Your tee shot needs to avoid the series of bunkers on either side of the fairway in the landing zone before having to take your second shot over the high-lipped bunkers that encroach the right side of the fairway. The final shot drops down to a green that has to be attacked from the right side of the hole in order to best take the four surrounding bunkers out of play. A beautiful hole on a beautiful course and the perfect way to finish the front nine.
Birdie Time: Hopefully you visited the range before teeing off on the 1st hole because that is your best chance for a birdie on the day. A modest 522 yards, the hole is reachable in two and also provides one of the widest fairways at SFGC in which to swing away at. Aim at the bunker in the middle of the fairway with your tee shot and then keep your approach shot(s) on the right side of the fairway in order to have the best angle of attack at the green and a chance to start your round one under.
Bogey Beware: Shot shaping is critical on the 17th hole, a 432 yard par four. The is a sharp dogleg right where a bunker rests on the left corner awaiting tee shots that don't work left to right with the hole. Shots that work to far right have a high probability of finding trouble in the grove of mature trees engulfing the right side of the dogleg. Your approach shot will be haunted by a large bunker well short and right of the green, a green length bunker down the right side of the green, a series of three bunkers stalking the left side of the green, and troublesome trees luring behind the green. Scoring par on this hole will be an excellent momentum boost heading into the finishing hole of the day at a wonderful golf course.