On a recent trip through San Francisco, I played TPC Harding Park – home of this week’s WGC Cadillac Match Play Championship.
Much of the talk about the WGC Cadillac Match Play Championship has centred around the new (and much more sensible) round robin format, but for the first time in seven years the event is being held outside of America Arizona.
The tournament will be held at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco (for one year only), a course that has already been scheduled to the host the 2020 PGA Championship and the 2025 Presidents Cup!
The golf course is surrounded on three sides by Lake Merced and is located about 20 minutes drive from down-town San Francisco in the middle of Harding Park. Just down the road of the exclusive (and very, very private) Olympic, Lake Merced, San Francisco Golf Clubs; Harding Park is a gem for all golfers. It’s owned by the city of San Francisco which means that it is open to the general public – as the Americans say, a municipal golf course.
The golf course has been restored and brought back to PGA tour standards over the past 15 years oin an effort to regain some of its lustre and host some big tournaments.
I was astounded by the condition of the golf course; not a bad lie or roll anywhere and the bunkers were almost a pleasure to be playing out of – certainly nicer than the thick rough close to the green.
It’s a relatively flat, target golf course that will favour the bigger hitters this week. Aside from the imposing cypress trees there isn’t much danger off the tees. We would expect many of the pros to be pulling out driver for most of the week and lots of long putts rolling in on the pure, bentgrass greens.
The routing for the Match Play Championship has been jumbled around compared its normal layout but some of the best holes on the golf course are the three closing holes (playing as the 12th, 13th and 14th this week – see video flyover below).
The 16th hole is a cracking short par-4 with lots of decisions to be made off the tee that should make match play golf very interesting to watch. The 17th is a short par-3 that can be difficult into a prevailing wind and the dog-leg par-4 18th requires a good tee shot across the lake to set up a decent shot at birdie.
The day I played, I got a taste of the famous San Francisco fog which regularly rolls in mid-afternoon. It enveloped the golf course for a few hours and you didn’t have to hit the ball very far to see it disappear into the mist. Don’t be surprised to see a few misty golf shots played over the course of the WGC Match Play this week.
But there is something great about staging a professional tournament on a golf course where everyone has access, not just the elite few. It’s certainly not one of the great American golf courses from a design perspective, but face it – most golfers don’t care and are just happy to be playing golf.
It’s not often you can play a superbly conditioned golf course where you watched the world’s best golfers compete only weeks earlier. If you’re ever in San Francisco you should definitely go book yourself a tee time – and if you’re happy to play later in the day, you’ll get an ever better deal.