Lincoln Park Golf Course in San Francisco

Matt Cohn

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Hole 10, 268 yards, par-4: The first of seven holes on the back nine between 200 and 299 yards. Trees require another left-to-right tee shot if the player chooses a driver, and a miss either way leaves an awkward pitch. Anything short of the green requires a partially blind second shot up a steep rise to a green set at the base of the museum.

The tee shot on the 10th, another hole strongly suggesting a shaped shot from the tee.

The tee shot on the 10th, another hole strongly suggesting a shaped shot from the tee.

Hole 11, 265 yards, par-4: To me, perhaps the best hole on the course. The hole arcs left around trees and an embankment. In front of the green, a huge mound makes many approach shots blind while also complicating efforts to reach the green from the tee. The hole might be improved by removing a few trees down the left side, creating a more tempting view of the green. On the other hand, the requirement to play a draw that could bounce anywhere off the big mound probably makes for a more interesting hole.

The 11th hole from the tee. The green is just to the left of the green roof in the distance.

The 11th hole from the tee. The green is just to the left of the green roof in the distance.

The huge mound in front of the 11th green can kick balls in any direction; it tends to accentuate whatever the golf ball is already doing, for better or worse. Anything left of this picture is big trouble.

The huge mound in front of the 11th green can kick balls in any direction; it tends to accentuate whatever the golf ball is already doing, for better or worse. Anything left of this picture is big trouble.

 

From behind the green, note the size of the 11th hole's mound relative to the size of the golfers on and to the left of it.

From behind the green, note the size of the 11th hole’s mound relative to the size of the golfers on and to the left of it.

Hole 12, 203 yards, par-3: The first of three really hard par-3’s on the back nine. This one is played uphill and into the wind. There’s no sand, but the opening in the trees is narrow and there’s virtually no way to run the ball up to the green.

There's not much definition to the 12th hole; just a long, straight shot up the hill.

There’s not much definition to the 12th hole; just a long, straight shot up the hill.

Hole 13, 500 yards, par-5: One of the few holes where the player feels free to blast away, as this appealing tee shot is downhill, downwind, and over a couple of gigantic “field goal” cypress trees. But this feeling is false: in fact, a huge downslope in the fairway makes length a non-issue. The real concerns are the huge trees left of the fairway and a, uh, “monumental” obstacle to the right. One of the few relevant bunkers on the course is placed 20 yards short-right of the green, the perfect place to catch a long second shot played from a downhill lie in the fairway.

The tee shot from just under the museum on number 13.

The tee shot from just under the museum on number 13.

 

A pushed tee shot faces interference not only from trees, but also from this old monument just a few steps off the fairway.

A pushed tee shot faces interference not only from trees, but also from this old monument just a few steps off the fairway.

 

From behind the green, one can see the steep downslope in the 13th fairway. The maintenance practices mean that good tee shots tend to stop on the downslope rather than rolling to the bottom.

From behind the green, one can see the steep downslope in the 13th fairway. The maintenance practices mean that good tee shots tend to stop on the downslope rather than rolling to the bottom.

Hole 14, 259 yards, par-4: A potentially challenging hole, but not really one of the better ones on the course. The tee shot is a forced layup into the side of a hill, followed by a semi-blind wedge to a plain green.

The dogleg left on the 14th hole is too sharp and narrow to reasonably go anywhere but straight ahead.

The dogleg left on the 14th hole is too sharp and narrow to reasonably go anywhere but straight ahead.

Hole 15, 282 yards, par-4: A layup is wise on this hole as the fairway narrows near the green. The greensite is attractive, but not the most complex one. The main challenge of this hole comes from the second shot, which is generally played from a sidehill lie and into the wind.

The 15th green from the left side, with Baker Beach in the background.

The 15th green from the left side, with Baker Beach in the background.

Hole 16, 239 yards, par-3: The green on this long par-3 is a surprisingly difficult target: small, two-tiered, with little run-up opportunity and a deep bunker on the left.

Hole 17, 240 yards, par-3: Lincoln Park’s most famous hole, known for its cliffside setting and spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge on clear days. The hole itself is a long downhill par 3 that plays the same length as the previous hole, though this time with an opening at the front of the green.

The setting for the famous 17th hole: today on a foggy day…

The setting for the famous 17th hole: today on a foggy day…

...and a few years ago on a sunny day. The other way to tell that this picture is more than 5 years old? Mower stripes.

…and a few years ago on a sunny day. The other way to tell that this picture is more than 5 years old? Mower stripes.

 

From behind the 17th green.

From behind the 17th green.

Hole 18, 383 yards, par-4: The most “normal” par-4 on the course, the 18th hole plays straight towards the weathered white clubhouse. The terrain is again the main feature here: the fairway is semi-blind from the tee, and the green is semi- to fully-blind depending on one’s position from the tee. The green itself sits in a three-quarter punchbowl, but again the soft and slow turf makes it impossible to use this punchbowl to any effect.

 

The attractive and demanding 18th tee shot.

The attractive and demanding 18th tee shot.

What could be a wonderful punchbowl green on number 18.

What could be a wonderful punchbowl green on number 18.

 

The question of what Lincoln Park would be like with firm turf and a little TLC is probably nothing more than a hypothetical. For fans of golf course architecture though, and of the ground game in particular, it’s a fun question to ponder. Golfers would face decisions and complexity on every shot: just to name a few, a suddenly dangerous crowned first green, a testing approach uphill to the fifth to the shallow green, balls galloping wildly down the hill on the seventh and bouncing in all directions off the big mound on the twelfth…the list goes on.

For San Francisco’s golfers, these are hopefully questions to be pondered in the future. For now, the only item on the agenda is to ensure the continued existence of the golf course itself, as the loss of Lincoln Park Golf Course would be the ultimate disgrace to a fascinating course that has been allowed to deteriorate much too far already.

Given that an order-of-magnitude improvement in the conditions at Lincoln Park seems almost impossibly unlikely, perhaps the best we can do is to accept it as is, acknowledge what could have been, and appreciate that we have this golf course at all.

hx

THE END