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.
The 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!
We 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,
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.
I snapped the shot below from behind the second green. It is a cool angle and gives you the scope of the hole.
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.
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.
This is a great hole that requires precision. You cannot go long here and the bunkers are no better.
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.
While it is downhill it is still a beast. Take a minute on this tee to survey your surroundings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This hole is a brute, but at least it plays downhill off the tee. The hole moves to the left and favors a draw.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.