Looking back down the par 5 4thThe 344-yard par 4 7th green The 18th is a tough finishing hole
Well, I’ve made my tee time with over an hour-and-a-half to spare, so I decide to catch up on some sleep in the car. I know this is going to be a long trip with 20 courses in twelve days, so I may as well take all the rest I can.
Harding Park has hosted several PGA events and the Presidents Cup in 2009. The course opened in 1925 and was named after President Warren Harding. It was designed by Willie Watson, who also conceived the Olympic Club along with Sam Whiting which is situated just across the road, its unmistakeable clubhouse visible from the 13th tee – a hole which I feel is one of the best on the course. In fact the 13th starts a run of very tough holes that make up the finishing stretch and has no doubt put paid to many a scorecard.
The course starts slowly with a fairly easy 395-yard par-4. But what makes this course an uncompromising track is the small greens with their many contours and complexes, some of which will (I think) only become apparent once you’ve played this course a couple of times. And don’t think you’re going to come here and overwhelm this track with your driver – apart from the course being over 7,000 yards in length, strategy plays a big part here and if you’re in the wrong part of the fairway you’ll have some tough second shots into very narrow target areas. I’m informed that the course is always damp because of the climate in this part of town, so make sure you take a windcheater jacket and jumper because the weather really does change from hole to hole.
For those of you looking for a great-looking course, Harding Park isn’t the type. This is a players’ course. The beauty comes from its use of the land and its many Monterey Cypress trees that line the fairways and the views of Lake Merced. It will test every part of your game from tee to green as well as your mental strength, and you’ll use every club in your bag before you stand on the 18th tee which weighs in at 468 yards, has a drive over the lake to a fairway that sweeps right to left and a green that sits above you – which, if you’re short with your approach shot, will spit your ball back down the slope.
When you do hole that final putt for whatever score you will say to yourself: I’ve just played Harding Park. And like every San Francisco golfer I meet, you’ll want to come back for more, wearing that invisible T-shirt that says: I felt pain, I felt joy and I lived through them both at TPC Harding Park. Go and get yourself one. I’m glad I did.