California Golf Club of San Francisco

California Golf Club of San Francisco – Played June 2016

  • Rankings: Golf Magazine #58
  • Location: 844 West Orange Avenue, South San Francisco, California
  • Year: 1926, 2008 (Update)
  • Architect: A. Vernon Macan (Original), Kyle Philips (Update)
  • Course Access: Private
  • Walking Rules: Carts & Caddies Available

Score Card Information:

  • Venturi: 7,216 yards, Par 72, 74.7 Rating/135 Slope
  • Back: 6,797 yards, Par 72, 72.7 Rating/131 Slope
  • Middle: 6,308 yards, Par 72, 70.2 Rating/129 Slope
  • Forward: 5,401 yards, Par 69 (Men’s), 66.2 Rating/120 Slope

Social media is a wonderful thing.  It allowed me to play this wonderful course.  I won’t go into too many more details than that, but let me say that I am very thankful for the opportunity.

It would be an early morning driving down from Sonoma, but it is easy to get up when you have a spectacular course to play.  After the always awe-inspiring drive over the Golden Gate Bridge it was a short drive to the club.  I was driving through South San Francisco wondering where my GPS was taking me.  All of a sudden I make a right and go up a little nondescript road.  On the right is the gate to the club!  I had no traffic and made it there way too early.  So I tooled around the area and got some breakfast.

Once my tee time drew closer I made my way up to the club to meet my host.  Let’s talk a little about the history of the establishment.

CAL - ScoreThe California Golf Club of San Francisco was incorporated in the City and County of SF in 1918 even though it is located in South San Francisco, San Mateo County.  The original location was on land leased from the Spring Valley water company. In 1922, members purchased approximately 425 acres to build their permanent home at the current location.  Two men, Willie Locke and A. Vernon Macan were enlisted by the members to design the original routing which opened in 1926.   Interestingly, Dr. Alister MacKenzie would redesign the bunkers and at least two of the greens in 1928.  This was just before he went to work at Cypress Point.

Macan’s story is interesting.  He was an Irish immigrant to Canada.  He was a lawyer by trade and a good player.  He returned to fight in WW I and lost the lower portion of his left leg.  That didn’t stop him from returning to competitive golf, but he didn’t venture fare from British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.  This lack of traveling may have stunted his golf architecture reputation.

Over the years deferred maintenance, cost cutting and tinkering made the course different from the near perfection of the original design.  In 2007 Kyle Phillips lead a major renovation that took 18 months to complete.  He removed trees and moved some holes around.  I can tell you that he did a wonderful job.  I think you will agree when we get into the course tour.

Below is the massive clubhouse.  My host told me that most of it barely gets any use.  Aside from the men’s bar of course!

CAL 1-1We decided to play the back tees, which are actually one up from the tips.  The course is grassed with fine fescue and colonial bentgrass in the fairways.  The rough is fine fescue while the greens are A1/A4 bentgrass.  The course has a total of 144 bunkers.  Let’s see all of that and more.

Hole 1 – 512 yards – Par 5

The first hole is a downhill par five with plenty of room off the tee.  We started with a little marine layer, which is common in SF.  In the next few photos you will see just how downhill the hole plays,

CAL 1-2

CAL 1-3

CAL 1-4This look from a popular third shot distance shows the bunkering and great fairway mounding guarding the green.

CAL 1-5Hole 2 – 409 yards – Par 4

While the last hole was downhill and eased you into the round the next few holes are much different.  This one plays uphill most of the way.  Like most holes here there is plenty of room off the tee.  Beware of the bunkers you see to the left.

CAL 2-1Here is a look at the approach.

CAL 2-2The green complex has some great contours and a bunker behind.

CAL 2-3Here is a look back at the surrounds and a reminder of how you are in the city.

CAL 2-4Hole 3 – 415 yards – Par 4

I snapped the shot below from behind the second green.  It is a cool angle and gives you the scope of the hole.

CAL 2-5The tee shot, seen below, plays quite a bit downhill, but you will need it because this is a long hole.

CAL 3-1The approach plays over a large dip in the fairway to a green guarded by some nasty bunkers.  You don’t want to find yourself in the ones on the front side.

CAL 3-2

CAL 3-3Hole 4 – 542 yards – Par 5

This is a true three shot hole for me.  You also have to focus on this tee shot due to the tree on the left.  I thought this was a nice way to make you think even though it is a wide open fairway.

CAL 4-1

CAL 4-2You can start to see that the bunkers are a real strength here.  Check out the large one next to the green.  The putting surface is seen in the following photo.

CAL 4-3

CAL 4-4Hole 5 – 325 yards – Par 4

You get a little breather from the long holes here, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tough.  It plays uphill all the way and you must be precise if you don’t hit driver.  With a shorter club the bunkers are in play.

CAL 5-1The approach shot is seen below from different angles.  Notice the green is guarded by plenty of sand.

CAL 5-2

CAL 5-3This green has quite a bit of slope to it.  It is also pretty small.

CAL 5-4

CAL 5-5Hole 6 – 182 yards – Par 3

This is a great hole that requires precision.  You cannot go long here and the bunkers are no better.

CAL 6-1Here is a view from the front, left bunker.

CAL 6-2And a wider angle of the green.

CAL 6-3Hole 7 – 395 yards – Par 4

This is probably one of my favorite holes on the course.  It is great for match play.  The green is tucked way right, but with a long drive you can reach it.  You also have the option of playing safe up the fairway left of all the bunkers.  There is more room out there than it looks.

CAL 7-1From the fairway the approach plays to a green that is open in front, but teeming with trouble everywhere else.

CAL 7-3Hole 8 – 216 yards – Par 3

While it is downhill it is still a beast.  Take a minute on this tee to survey your surroundings.

CAL 8-1Hole 9 – 402 yards – Par 4

The front side finishes with a very strong hole.  You play to blind landing area with more room than you think.  Due to the length of the hole you will most likely need driver.

CAL 9-1The approach shot is the real meat of this hole.  It is great visually with the deception bunkers in front that aren’t really in play.

CAL 9-2Here is a look at the green with mild sloping.

CAL 9-3Hole 10 – 391 yards – Par 4

The marine layer burned off and the sun came out for the back nine.  Lucky us!  The fairway here bends to the right slightly and favors a fade.

CAL 10-1The second shot plays to a green obscured by the slope.  The approach must be precise due to the size of the green and the bunkers.  You will see that in the second photo.

CAL 10-2

CAL 10-3Hole 11 – 399 yards – Par 4

There is plenty of room here and the hole plays downhill.  Overall it is a very inviting tee shot.  If you can get a slinging draw down there you will be in good position.

CAL 11-1Depending on where you are you can only see the 18th green.  That is why it is good to have a caddie.  The green sits in a little hollow making it difficult to see from parts of the fairway.

CAL 11-2

CAL 11-3Hole 12 – 201 yards – Par 3

Hit one solid here.  It is uphill all the way and features a big false front you will see in the next photo.  There is room in front of the green, but you do not want to miss anywhere else.

CAL 12-1

CAL 12-2Here is another angle to show the putting surface.

CAL 12-3Hole 13 – 393 yards – Par 4

This hole typically plays into the wind and it was one of the longest sub-400 yard holes I’ve ever played.  A good line is just left of the mower.

CAL 13-1The green is raised adding to the length.  The bunker on the left is quite a bit short of the green.

CAL 13-2

CAL 13-3Hole 14 – 443 yards – Par 4

This hole is a brute, but at least it plays downhill off the tee.  The hole moves to the left and favors a draw.

CAL 14-1I just liked the look from the tee seen below.

CAL 14-2The approach is filled with visions of sand.  Luckily it will only get you if you are offline.

CAL 14-3Below is a closer look at the green.

CAL 14-4Hole 15 – 494 yards – Par 5

This hole is typically protected by the wind and today that was no different.  It played as a three shot hole even though it is less than 500 yards.  The tee shot is downhill, but as you see in the next photo the second is uphill.

CAL 15-1

CAL 15-2The green is fronted by a large bunker and you cannot see all of it.  You must play for the wind here or you will end up in the front bunker like I did.

CAL 15-3Below is the putting surface.

CAL 15-4Hole 16 – 125 yards – Par 3

Short par threes are some of my favorite holes.  The sixteenth here is no exception.  Look at the bunkering!  The green is very shallow and difficult to hit.  As you would expect, a short hole requires precision.

CAL 16-1

CAL 16-2The look from the back of the green shows you the slope of the green complex.

CAL 16-3Hole 17 – 559 yards – Par 5

I loved the view here and the hole is just as good.  You play to a blind fairway with the line being a little right of the caddie out in the fairway.

CAL 17-1The second and approach play back down the hill.  With the bunkers in the fairway you need to be cognizant of what distance you play your second shot.

CAL 17-2

CAL 17-3The putting surface is large with a ridge running through the middle of it.  You will want to be on the correct side of the green to avoid having a difficult two putt.

CAL 17-4Hole 18 – 394 yards – Par 4

The final hole plays back towards the clubhouse and is mostly flat until it reaches a downhill slope.  You will want to keep the ball up the left side for the best angle.

CAL 18-1The green is plopped down in a low area and is surrounded.  You can start to see some of the slope in the green as well.

CAL 18-2The photo below illustrates more of the sloping in the green.  Overall it is back to front.

CAL 18-3I can’t fully express how fun this course is.  It baffles me that it is not on Golf Digest’s list.  I loved the bunkering and the flow of holes was very good.  It was a very nice course to walk ask well.  There were some hills to give you exercise, but the temps in SF make it easier.  I was absolutely blown away by this course and it has to go on your must play list.

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