Looking back down the 2nd holeThe 219-yard par 3 7th holeElevated tee at the 15th hole
This place has a long history and my two playing partners for the day, Chris and Rubin who work for the San Francisco Fire Department, inform me that until 1996 you could only play the course if you were in the armed forces or invited to play by someone in the armed forces.
The original course was designed by John Lawson in 1895 after Colonel William M Graham, who was then the Presidio’s commander allowed a group of businessmen known as the San Francisco Golf & Country Club to establish a nine-hole course. In 1910 it expanded to its full 18 holes, with Robert Wood Johnstone commissioned as the architect. A decade later British course architects Fowler & Simpson were commissioned to lengthen the course and install a watering system. Thousands more eucalyptus and Monterey pine trees were planted along the course in the 1930s when a tree nursery was built, and today those trees make this one of the most beautiful courses I’ve played.
The Presidio has been a refugee camp for survivors of the 1906 earthquake, and prisoners from Alcatraz were used to help build the course. When you stand on that first tee from its elevated position, it all seems somehow perfect. The trees truly make this track, not only from a visual and course-strategy standpoint but also as they help shape its microclimate. If you like launching your driver, you’re going to love this track. You can watch your ball sail through the trees from some beautifully designed elevated tees, none more so then the short par-5 2nd hole where after a great tee shot you can leave yourself a long to medium iron. But beware – you could be better off just playing up and wedging on.
The second shot is blind over a hill to a very small green protected by three bunkers at the front – one at the back and another back left – and if you’re long, it’s going down a steep slope and out of bounds! One of my favourite holes is the third. This uphill par-4 stands at 386 yards and has only one bunker front right to protect it. But with out of bounds on the left and a step slope on the right plus a three-tiered green, it’s ranked the second hardest hole on the course.
I love all the par-3s including the 13th where the green is blocked out from the tee by an oak tree that sits in a small valley, and at 175 yards to an uphill green that is surrounded by out of bounds it’s a tough little hole. The fourth and 15th par-3s are both played from elevated tees and how I feel that par-3s should be designed. Each nine finishes with a par-5 and both are very birdie-able. I feel the ninth is the tougher of the two as you need to be in the right position on this dog-leg right to see the green. The 18th has out of bounds down the left and trees down the right making it quite a claustrophobic hole from the tee, but a good drive will see you in position to make the green in two.
I wish I could stay in the bar for a couple of beers with my two playing partners, but I have another tee time at Wente this afternoon. It’s a chilly day but I love the course and the guys I play with were great company. I hope you enjoy the same experience – it’s been worth the 104-year wait for those of us who are not in the armed services.