TPC Harding Park Profile: Municipal Gem Hosts The PGA Championship

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(CBS San Francisco) — TPC Harding Park has loved a protracted and attention-grabbing life on the banks of Lake Merced in southwest San Francisco. The notable historical past of this municipal course started in 1925, two years after the dying of its namesake Warren G. Harding. The 29th president, who loved golf, died on the metropolis’s Palace Lodge, whereas on a tour of the west. The general public gem will add one other chapter this weekend when it hosts the 2020 PGA Championship.

Famend course architects William Watson and Sam Whiting constructed Harding Park Golf Membership on 163 acres of metropolis property nearly a century in the past. (The pair additionally designed the Lake Course on the close by Olympic Membership.) Watson and Whiting have been paid $300 for his or her design providers; the price of setting up the par-70 course neared $300,000. The course opened as a 6,505-yard, par-73.

Harding Park Golf Membership’s stature rose pretty shortly. The course hosted the USA Golf Affiliation’s U.S. Novice Public Hyperlinks Championship in 1937, garnering reward nationwide. (The occasion returned 19 years later.) In 1944, it debuted on the PGA Tour, with Byron Nelson successful the San Francisco Victory Open there twice in the identical calendar yr. The course turned an everyday Tour cease in 1961, with the inaugural Fortunate Worldwide Open, gained by Gary Participant.

Harding Park additionally hosted anybody who might pony up the very modest greens charge. Consequently, it uncovered numerous gamers to the sport and helped some native gamers ascend to the very best degree of the game. San Francisco native and 14-time PGA Tour winner Ken Venturi credit the course together with his growth within the sport. His mother and father labored within the professional store, and he spent his youth on and round Harding Park. Johnny Miller, who gained two majors amongst his 25 PGA Tour wins, loved summers enjoying Harding’s nine-hole course and practising on the placing inexperienced. George Archer, 1969 Masters champion and 13-time Tour champion, honed his quick sport at Harding Park.

By the top of the 1960s, Harding Park was deteriorating. The PGA Tour left, and the deterioration continued. Quick-forward to the 1980s, when “weeds, clusters of daisies and splotches of grime got here to characterize this once-pristine structure,” in accordance with the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s lowest level got here in 1998, when its fairways have been used as parking heaps for the U.S. Open on the neighboring Olympic Membership.

Former Stanford golfer and USGA president Sandy Tatum took on the duty of rejuvenating Harding Park. Regardless of opposition, the native authorities was ultimately satisfied that restoring the course would result in high-profile occasions that boosted the native economic system.

A $16-million restoration in 2002-2003 overhauled the course, upgrading it to championship caliber. The renovations lengthened the course by about 400 yards, but in addition highlighted its former glory. Because the upgrades, the course has hosted the WGC-American Categorical Championship (2005), Presidents Cup (2009), Charles Schwab Cup Championship (2010-2012) and WGC-Cadillac Match Play (2015). It turned a part of the PGA Tour’s Match Gamers Membership community in 2010. The upcoming PGA Championship, the fourth to be held at a municipal course, will probably be Harding Park’s first main.

The course will play at a par-70, stretching to 7,234 yards. Cypress bushes line the fairways, which can play agency and have been narrowed considerably. The bushes could induce conservative play given their propensity to vanish golf balls. “It’s going to be extremely dangerous as a result of they lower the fairways down by 60 p.c,” says CBS San Francisco sports activities director Dennis O’Donnell, who grew up close to Harding Park and has performed the course many occasions. “And throughout the tough, lush tough goes to be thick. So you possibly can growth it, however at your personal threat.”

The heavy sea air will even preserve balls from flying so far as they could in any other case. The greens, refurbished with bentgrass in 2014, are typically massive and comparatively flat, however ought to play quick, given it is a main. After which there’s the climate, with wind and fog at all times a possible issue. In line with O’Donnell, “it’s a shot-making course, not a boomers course. It’s going to be a course of technique, not wail away from 400 yards…”

>>READ: PGA Championship: A Gap-By-Gap Look At TPC Harding Park

Harding Park consists of 12 par-4s. Whereas a minimum of two of them are driveable (seventh and 16th holes), two others are within the neighborhood of 500 yards (ninth and 12th holes). The 470-yard, par-4 14th gap begins a powerful closing stretch alongside the lake, with amped-up views and amped-up challenges. It’s a straight strategy to a front-sloping inexperienced with a gully on the left. The quick par-Four on 15 measures solely 401 yards however performs downhill with a sharp-left dogleg. The scenic closing gap, one other par-Four at 480 yards bends across the lake on the left, with right-side fairway bunkers introduced into play by a brand new tee. The wind picks up on this closing stretch with the water on the left.

The dearth of followers could seem a bit odd for a significant on a municipal course that O’Donnell describes as “a gem of San Francisco. Harding Park has a lot historical past for the locals as a result of it’s a public course. All people can play it.”

With a pandemic raging, the PGA clearly made the best name in maintaining followers away. And it shouldn’t detract from the season’s solely main. Storylines abound, as golf’s finest face a TPC Harding Park course to which they’ve had restricted publicity.

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