The Takeaway: Like Bethpage Black and Torrey Pines, TPC Harding Park offers a major championship golf course to the public in a large metro setting. It isn't on the short list of best public courses in California, and the private courses in San Francisco are much more compelling, but it should remain a priority to play when in the Bay Area. Grade B-
Designer: Willie Watson in 1925
Cost: $52.00 - $175.00 (additional $16.00 for a cart) Click for current rates
Phone Number: (415) 664-4690
Course Website: Official Website - Visit TPC Harding Park's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 99 Harding Road, San Francisco, California 94132 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: Sitting at the tip of the Bay Area's revered links triangle, Harding Park rests just north of The Olympic Club and San Francisco Golf Club above Lake Merced. Any discussion about public golf in San Francisco quickly focuses on Harding Park's historic layout that is now part of the TPC network. The course features towering Monterey Cypress trees that frame the fairways while providing some shade with their canopy-like tops. The routing features gentle undulations throughout which deliver a nice variety to the holes while maintaining an excellent walkability level. The closing stretch of holes, 14-18, plays along Lake Merced and offers some impressive views beyond the tree line that are a delight to finish on. The finishing holes are so appealing that when Harding Park hosted the Presidents Cup in 2009 they altered the routing so that holes 14-18 became holes 10 and 12-15 to ensure a higher probability of them being played before a match was closed out. As a side note, the executive Fleming course is found inside the routing and offers a more casual golfing experience with a par of 30. All in all, the 2002-03 renovation to Harding Park resurrected the course from dire straits and produced a course that was good enough to host the 2020 PGA Championship (Colin Morikawa) and is a must play for anyone looking for a championship experience at a public facility. That being said, it is a far cry in architectural quality in comparison to its famous private neighbors.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 18th Hole – 440 Yard Par 4 – The best hole at Harding Park and one of the best closing holes in the region, the 18th is a beauty to play. The tee shot plays over a corner of Lake Merced to a fairway that bends left along the water's edge while a pair of bunkers sit on the right to catch balls from players looking to bail out. The approach shot sees two bunkers on the left side and an overhanging tree on the right, so players need to be exacting on their second shot if they have hopes of walking off the two-tiered 18th green with a par.
Best Par 3: 3rd Hole – 165 Yards – A quality uphill par three at a length that a player can still stand on the tee with confidence, the 3rd hole is pinched in the front by a pair of bunkers. An extra club is a wise decision since the middle and back parts of the green are much wider and par saves are more frequent compared to the front. The two-tiered green can create a visual illusion on the tee and a challenging putting scenario once you are on the green.
Best Par 4: 15th Hole – 405 Yards – Descending 40 feet from tee to green, the 15th is an exhilarating hole to play and features a fairway bending left along Lake Merced the whole way. A fairway bunker sits on the outside of the dogleg to discourage players from bailing too far away from the lake. The small green features a bunker on the right side that covers nearly as much area as the putting surface does and is tough to save par from considering the sloping in the green. During the 2020 PGA Championship this hole played fractionally under par.
Best Par 5: 10th Hole – 550 Yards – The back nine starts with a scoring opportunity with this par five that plays downwind and features a portion of Lake Merced on the opposite side of the left tree line. A tee shot that just skirts the inside of the fairway bunkers on the right will provide a green light for attacking the green in two while tee shots going too far left will be blocked out by the Cypress trees. The fairway kicks balls left which can be helpful when approaching the green since the best angle to attack the flag is from the front left where the bunkers can be split and the approach shot can play into the slope of the green.
Birdie Time: 12th Hole – 480 Yard Par 5 – You know you've come to a good birdie opportunity when you realize this par five plays as a par four when the professionals play it. There are no fairway bunkers so players can swing away on their drivers with the only concern being the trees that line each side of the fairway. There are four bunkers near the green but only one that is within 20 yards of the putting surface so you can swing away with confidence going for the green in two. During the 2020 PGA Championship this hole played to a stroke average of 4.3 and presents a great opportunity for someone in your group to throw a birdie on the card.
Bogey Beware: 14th Hole – 467 Yard Par 4 – Long and straight, a dreaded combination for many golfers, is what you'll find on the 14th hole that plays into the prevailing wind and makes it play closer to 500 yards. The visuals of Lake Merced are introduced on this hole and runs along the left side the whole way home, so missing left is an instant way to eliminate par from your scorecard. The tee shot plays downhill before traversing back uphill to the greensite with the terrain wanting to push balls left towards the bunker. Approach shots constantly come up short on this hole due the heavy wind that knocks balls down, so carding a par here will likely be the result of a deft short game.