10 Things I've Learned from Playing Golf On the West Coast

As a native New Englander, I’ve played golf in sweltering 90 degree heat and humidity (which I personally love), I’ve put my clubs in a closet for months at a time, and I’ve searched for (and lost) many ProV1’s just off the fairway under fallen foliage in early November. In contrast, Northern California has it’s own authentic style of golf. Here are the top 10 things that I’ve learned about golf, from playing golf in the greater Bay Area.

PACE OF PLAY

Much like the surf culture and skateboard culture that exists in these parts, there is a soulful vibe that blankets many of the golf courses in the area. As a result, I’ve learned to play faster, grind less, but all the while, be more thoughtful. I’ve learned that it’s the time spent between shots that’s important, not the time spent standing over shots.

TAKE A WALK

The topography of this area is nothing short of spectacular. There is enough awe and sheer wonder across all the various golf courses that a round of golf much more than a round of golf. It’s quite often a perfect hike, as well. Now, I may take some proverbial flack for feeling so strongly about this, but it’s undeniable. I can count on one hand the number of golf carts I ride in per year, and that makes me rather content. This brings me to my next point…

COMFORTABLE SHOES AND WATERPROOF SHOES

Gone are the days where leather Footjoys are the only choice for your foundation. The very first lesson I learned is that in order to play golf for 12 straight months here, waterproof footwear is essential. It’s not recommended - it’s mandatory from November to May. With that said, a comfortable pair of sneaker-like golf shoes for the dry months will serve you well for the other half of the year.

PLAY THE PROPER TEES

This is a big one. Check your egos at the pro shop. Leave your bravado in the trunk of your car. Play the proper set of tees. I grew up thinking I had to play the back tees to “see the whole course” and to “get the most out of the round”, but guess what? Here’s what I was missing out on:

  1. Playing up a tee box or two will yield lower scores. Yeah, I know, that sounds terrible.

  2. Playing up a tee box will improve pace of play. Again, that’s awful, I know.

And here’s what you get out of playing the tips:

  1. A reminder that you don’t average 305 off the tee.

  2. A few “who does this guy think he is” type looks from other foursomes.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a time and place for the black tees, but be mindful of who you are playing with, and what you want to get out of the day.

DON’T SLEEP ON THE NINE HOLE COURSES

If you haven’t checked out all of the 9-hole golf courses in your area, you’re likely missing out. The 9-holer has a reputation far and wide for being less-than-a-real-golf-course. I regret not visiting some of the better 9-hole courses in New England. These courses are often hidden gems, local treasures, and peaceful enclaves. Do yourself a favor and explore the 9-hole courses in your area - you’ll likely be pleasantly rewarded.

CREATIVITY WINS

We are surrounded by hills. It rains heavily for months at a time. Certain golf courses might have soggy spots and rock hard spots on the same hole. Oh and it can get windy, too. Learn all the shots - each one is a valuable weapon. Personally I’ve added a 2-Utility Iron, and a third wedge, with nothing but positive results. I would estimate that only 1 out of every 3 shots with an iron is a stock/full/normal iron shot. Use that time between shots to consider the elements, the topography, and the turf conditions and plan your next shot mindfully.

BE HELPFUL

This one seems overly simple, but required a spot on this list. Help your playing partners. Look for their ball when you can. This includes keeping an eye on it off the tee. Get the flagstick if you are the first person to hole out (that is, if your group wants the flagstick out these days). Share yardages from your spot. The list goes on, but the message is the same.

LAYERS, LAYERS, LAYERS

Trying to predict the weather is like trying to predict traffic. You can do all the research you want, but it’s still ‘gonna do what it’s ‘gonna do. Be prepared. Nobody has ever complained about being comfortable.

BE OPEN MINDED ABOUT VARIETY

Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t avoid a golf course because of preconceived notions. You truly never know what type of day you might have until you experience it for yourself. Golf courses come in so many forms - Private, Public, 18 holes, 9 holes, flat, hilly, old, new, pristine, shaggy, etc. Remember that your perspective is personal to you. Don’t let other golfers dictate what you should like and dislike. Form your own opinions about courses. Share your own hidden gems or personal favorites with others.

GO HOME

Last but not least, go home after you play (perhaps after some clubhouse banter) and get on with your day, with your life. Do not let a mediocre morning on the course impact the rest of your day. After all, you got to spend time outside with your friends playing a game. How bad is that, really? Remember that you are likely a role model for someone else out there - perhaps a young golfer, or a family member - so carry yourself with dignity and go easy on yourself. After all, golf is hard.

The 99 Percent

The commonly used term “the one percent” or “the one percenters” refers to those that hold the most wealth in America. That status isn’t available to all of us for various reasons, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about something that IS available to nearly all of us. For 99 percent of us, better health is available. Now, I understand how generalized that statement is, so let’s focus on the word “better”. I didn’t say “ideal health”, or “optimal health”, but “better health” is available to 99 percent of us.

For many golfers, the game is very much a significant part of his or her lifestyle. So what role does golf play on the journey to better health?

The three most basic pieces of health, in my opinion, are fresh air, clean water, and sunshine. Golf helps us obtain all three of these elements in regular doses. A round of golf is often the equivalent of a hike in nature. Surrounding ourselves with trees, grass, and sometimes ocean breezes is a dose of fresh air that we could easily miss out on if it weren’t for the game of golf. Fresh air isn’t just good for our lungs, it also relaxes us, and creates an awareness of our own breathing. Some people meditate in order to connect with their spiritual side - they listen to their own breathing - and temporarily delete much of the stress and worry that fills their mind. We can achieve that by walking down the first fairway. We’re also lucky enough to carry our own supplies as we play golf. This includes a generous portion of clean water to drink. This sounds so simple, but you’d be surprised by how many adults are able to go five hours without any hydration. Not only does this have a negative impact on ones health, but I can almost guarantee that it has scorecard implications as well. Drink water while you play golf. It’s a simple task, with wonderful results. This is most important when it’s sunny and warm out. Speaking of sun, often times we get the benefit of Vitamin D while we play golf. We all have access to hats, jackets, sunglasses, and sunscreen, should we want to limit our exposure, but the benefits of being in the sunshine are plentiful. Numerous studies show that the risks involved with not getting enough Vitamin D are far more severe than the risks of getting too much sun. Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorus in our bones, helping us maintain bone density and muscle strength. Mood disorders and cardiovascular problems are also issues that can be improved with an increase in Vitamin D.

Cardiovascular health is obviously one of the most important elements of health in the human body. We improve our own cardiovascular health by walking. Walking 18 holes of golf, roughly the equivalent of four to five miles, is nearly ideal for your heart. Walking is also easy on the knee joints, tendons, and ligaments. This cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness that we gain from walking 18 holes decreases our risk of many heart diseases. Walking also helps manage hypertension (high blood pressure), muscle pain, and even diabetes. On top of all that, we get improved strength and balance, which no golfer would object to.

Lastly, we often gain the benefit of human interaction while we play golf. Though this is highly dependent on each individual, social interaction can also reduce certain health risks. A reduction of stress, depression and anxiety can all occur as you walk down a fairway with your playing partner.

So next time you hook your tee shot, and feel like you might get upset or frustrated, remember that you’re doing more than just playing golf. So much health is available to you as you make your way around the golf course. Golf is not meant to add stress to our lives, it’s meant to improve our health. Next time you play golf, I urge you to look beyond your yardages, club selections, and contours of the green, and seek more. Take advantage of all that a round of golf has to offer. Embrace the goodness that’s available. It’s not hard to find.

Muni Mission Interviews Drew Walker

Drew Walker is a walking encyclopedia of obscure facts. He’s chock full of both useless and useful information and can wax poetic with the best of ‘em (See: His thoughtful response to the final interview question below). He drives the greens of par 4’s, and he drives me to the golf course. This makes him long off the tee, and a truly great friend. Read on to learn how the line between Golf and Life is blurry, for Drew Walker.

Muni Mission: How long have you been playing golf at Lincoln Park Golf Course? 

Drew Walker: 23 years.

Muni Mission: Over that time, what has changed most, if anything at all, about the golf course? 

Drew Walker: Lincoln Park was much more densely wooded and forested. The El Nino weather event in 1997-98 disturbed much of the natural landscape, reducing existing tree count. 

MM: Your Lowest Career Round at Lincoln Park GC? 

DW: 67.

MM: Your Favorite Hole to play at Lincoln Park GC? 

DW: #18.

MM: Your Least Favorite Hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

DW: #6.

MM: What do you wish was different about Lincoln Park GC? 

DW: It’s lack of short game and drive range facilities.

MM: To me, Lincoln Park Golf Course is very unique and unlike any municipal golf course out there.  To someone that has never been to San Francisco, what elements at Lincoln Park give it a unique Bay Area vibe? 

DW: The course is mostly unchanged and unkept much like it’s immediate surroundings.

MM: Harding Park and Lincoln Park are completely different golf courses, but they are both part of the city and just a few miles apart.  In what ways are they the same?  

DW: Many of the long time residents of The Richmond, The Sunset and beyond know the two as sister courses before the revamping of Harding Park. It is the memory of Harding’s vintage legacy that links the two together.  

MM: What can the Lincoln Park Golf Club do to attract new players? 

DW: Try and connect with the young “community”. Additional dues from the newer, younger members could support comprehensive golf trips, additional prizes and featured events.  

MM: What characteristic do you have that serves you best on the golf course during a competitive round?  

DW: My ability to be social and connect with people allows me to stay in touch with the group during a round for leisure or competition. Although mutually important, the ability to establish sportsmanlike conduct surpasses the need to invoke rules when disputes arise. This lends itself to diplomacy in times when myself or others need to resolve necessary matters on the course. 

MM: In general, I feel that many golfers don’t drink enough water or consume enough food/snacks while they play.  Do you have a favorite food item to carry with you in your golf bag? 

DW: Yogurt and power bars serve me well. I would like to include more trail mix in the future. 

MM: Lastly, give us your most treasured piece of advice that you take with you each time you play golf. 

DW: Golf should be cherished as a metaphor for the deepest realities of life. Above all is the potential to engage in the idealistic possibility of achieving greatness at any given moment. While perfection is the goal, the will to get better in tandem to the inexorable human condition of constant change makes each day different than the last. It is this impermanence that teaches us to shed our apprehension of the greater reality and discover the moment or zone that can make any player wholly successful. We realize submitting to the present allows action to follow intention and confers convincingly the expression of golf to be the most creative, fluid and artistic actions ever pursued. 

Muni Mission Interviews Vivek Vinjamur

Meet the newest member of the Lincoln Park Golf Club. Vivek is an energetic SoCal native, that can often be found roaming the practice facilities of Presidio Golf Course before, during, and after his workday. He’s an enthusiastic, athletic young golfer, with lots of untapped potential. Please look for him at future club events and introduce yourself to him.

Muni Mission: How long have you been playing golf at Lincoln Park Golf Course?

Vivek: 18 Months.

Muni Mission: What do you remember most about your first visit to Lincoln Park Golf Course?

Vivek: The View at the 17th tee.

MM: Your Lowest Career Round at Lincoln Park GC?

VV: 78

MM: Your Favorite Hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

VV: Number 3.

MM: Your Least Favorite Hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

VV: Number 12.

Editor’s Note: Holes 3 and 12 seem to be fairly common answers from the membership, for favorite and least favorite holes, respectively.

MM: What do you wish was different about Lincoln Park GC?

VV: That it was less sloppy and wet.

MM: To me, Lincoln Park Golf Course is very unique and unlike any municipal golf course out there.  To someone that has never been to San Francisco, what elements at Lincoln Park give it a unique Bay Area vibe?

VV:  I think the people that play there regularly speaks volumes. Like the Bay Area, the people are engaging, intelligent and welcoming. Being a native Southern Californian, I still have felt welcomed - to the game and the course.

MM: Harding Park and Lincoln Park are completely different golf courses, but they are both part of the city and just a few miles apart.  In what ways are they the same?

VV: The fairways tend to be more narrow on both courses. Accuracy off the tee is such an important tool to have success on both courses.

MM: I’ve always thought the Food and Beverage offerings at Lincoln Park have such unrealized potential.  The Local Brewing Company offerings from SOMA are a good start, but what food item do you wish the Lincoln bar and grill would add to their menu?

VV: I usually just get snacks or beer, and bring my own food items.

MM: In what ways did Lincoln Park Golf Club appeal to you, as a young professional, living in San Francisco?

VV: It was presented as a great way to network with other young professionals. So much of living / working in the Bay is about networking, so being part of the club really opens another avenue. Also, it'll be a great opportunity for me to become a better golfer.

MM: What characteristic do you have that serves you best on the golf course during a competitive round?

VV: I do my best to stay focused on the next shot in front of me / try to keep emotions in check and stay positive.

MM: In general, I feel that many golfers don’t drink enough water or consume enough food/snacks while they play.  Do you have a favorite food item to carry with you in your golf bag?

VV: Tons of water in general. I really like the Kind protein bars, bananas, and beef jerky.

MM: Lastly, give us your most treasured piece of advice that you take with you each time you play golf.

VV: My instructor told me this: you relax to play golf, you don't golf to relax.

Muni Mission Interviews John "JJ" Jackson

“JJ” is easy to root for. A good putter and a dedicated golf enthusiast, he’s a pillar of the Lincoln Park Golf Club. You’ll find him in attendance at most club events, or casually strolling the fairways after work with his partner-in-crime Jim Waggoner. Whether you need someone to make an important 8 footer for par, or someone to have a pint with at the clubhouse, “JJ” is your man.

Muni Mission: How long have you been playing golf at Lincoln Park Golf Course? 

Jackson: About 12 years, I think.

Muni Mission: Over that time, what has changed most, if anything at all, about the golf course?

Jackson: The golf course has been about the same.  Sometimes in better shape and sometimes in worse shape.

MM: Your Lowest Career Round at Lincoln Park GC?

Jackson: 75, playoff match for 12-man team.  Only time I have eagled #13.

MM: Your Favorite Hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

Jackson: Interesting question!   I think #4 is the most interesting to play.  You have options off the tee and I think it’s one of the trickiest greens on the course

MM: Your Least Favorite Hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

Jackson: Easy question. #12.   I don’t like the tee shot, I don’t like the inevitable chip shot and I don’t like the green.

MM: What do you wish was different about Lincoln Park GC?

Jackson: I would love to see two things happen. First, improve the course condition. Secondly, add a bunker along the the left side of 18 fairway so that shots don’t roll OB.   It would be a half-stroke penalty versus out-of-bounds and re-teeing. Since I don’t see either of those happening I would settle for LPGC speeding up our pace play!!!

MM: To me, Lincoln Park Golf Course is very unique and unlike any municipal golf course out there.  To someone that has never been to San Francisco, what elements at Lincoln Park give it a unique Bay Area vibe?

Jackson: Where to start? The most obvious are the stunning views of the beach, the city and the Golden Gate Bridge. There is no mistaking you are in San Francisco.  There is also the parade of characters that often wander the course. I have seen picnics and weddings in the middle of the 17th fairway. The old guys shuffling up #7 on their daily stroll. You can always count on someone who is not a golfer to be wandering about.

MM: Harding Park and Lincoln Park are completely different golf courses, but they are both part of the city and just a few miles apart.  In what ways are they the same?

Jackson: They both have strong ties to the City and both have dedicated golfers who call the courses home. They both also have trees that will eat a golf ball.

MM: I’ve always thought the Food and Beverage offerings at Lincoln Park have such unrealized potential.  The Local Brewing Company offerings from SOMA are a good start, but what food item do you wish the Lincoln bar and grill would add to their menu?

Jackson: I’m ok with the menu but I would like to see a refresh of the facility.  I think if the facilities were nicer then the food is fine.

MM: What can the Lincoln Park Golf Club do to attract new players?

Jackson: At the very least get some advertising in the pro shop.   Seems like the best target audience are people who already play the course occasionally and might appreciate playing in our tournaments.

MM: What characteristic do you have that serves you best on the golf course during a competitive round? 

Jackson: Forgiveness. I have learned to forgive myself for the bad shots and accept that I am going to have them.  The sooner I can let it go and not beat myself up, the sooner I can get back to a positive mind set. Making a couple putts helps, too.

MM: In general, I feel that many golfers don’t drink enough water or consume enough food/snacks while they play.  Do you have a favorite food item to carry with you in your golf bag?

Jackson: I agree, especially on the water. I bring a water bottle and make sure I take a drink at least every couple of holes. I have experimented with energy bars, fruit, peanuts etc. My current go to is a PB&J sandwich.

MM: Lastly, give us your most treasured piece of advice that you take with you each time you play golf.

Jackson: Remember that you have a handicap which means you are going to hit some good shots, some mediocre shots, and some really bad shots.    It’s okay. Let it go and have fun. Getting pissed off doesn’t help your game and makes you kind of unpleasant to play with.  If I can stick to this 50% of the round I feel pretty good.

Muni Mission Interviews Mike Han

Mike Han is like our bigfoot. Some members claim they “saw him”, while others may spot him in the woods during a round. Mike is a legend in his own right. Like the cargo pants he’s often seen in, he’s multi-functional, and always reliable. Read on to learn more from one of Lincoln Park’s most important members, and why he thinks that playing a round of golf at Lincoln Park just might be the best way to tour the city!

Muni Mission: How long have you been playing golf at Lincoln Park Golf Course?

Han: I started playing Lincoln around 1990.  Me and a couple of friends would usually play the dawn patrol “back 9”.

Muni Mission: Over that time, what has changed most, if anything at all, about the golf course?

Han: There used to be way more golfers who played the course.  It was hard to get a tee time and if you showed up at 6:30 am there would be 25 guys hoping to walk on.  As for the course, it had many more trees.  The 18th hole in particular was heavily tree lined and it required a very straight tee shot.  A major windstorm in 1995 took out dozens of trees.  Back then many of the tee boxes were hard pan dirt.  You needed a hammer to get your tee into the ground.

MM: Your Lowest Career Round at Lincoln Park GC?

Han: 71 played from the blue tees during a Director’s Cup round.  I didn’t win that year but that round put me in contention.  I believe I made one birdie, four bogeys and the rest pars.  I got up-and-down at least 7 times to save par.

MM: Your Favorite Hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

Han: Hole #13.  From the tee box you can see so much of the city.  The reward of hitting it straight and “splitting the uprights” is such a great feeling and hopefully getting a solid bounce leaves you a shot at getting to the green in two.  I’ve eagled the hole twice.  The first time I crushed a drive and hit a 4 iron to 4 feet.  It was a nervy putt for a 3.

MM: Your Least Favorite Hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

Han: Number 7 has always given me fits.  I’ve hit many balls into homes off of Clement St. and I’ve also stone cold pulled countless drives dead left.  

MM: What do you wish was different about Lincoln Park GC?

Han: Of course, I’d love to see the course in better condition.  That said, it’s a truly unique layout with no two holes the same and I like it the way it is.

MM: To me, Lincoln Park Golf Course is very unique and unlike any municipal golf course out there.  To someone that has never been to San Francisco, what elements at Lincoln Park give it a unique Bay Area vibe?

Han: The views from the course are like taking a tour of San Francisco.  There is, of course, the spectacular view on the 17th tee but there are so many more including views of the Mt. Diablo, Ocean Beach and downtown.  Forget the Hop-on-Hop-off bus - just play a round at Lincoln.

MM: Harding Park and Lincoln Park are completely different golf courses, but they are both part of the city and just a few miles apart.  In what ways are they the same?

Han: The fog and the trees make both courses feel the same.  

MM: I’ve always thought the Food and Beverage offerings at Lincoln Park have such unrealized potential.  The Local Brewing Company offerings from SOMA are a good start, but what food item do you wish the Lincoln bar and grill would add to their menu?

Han: I’d like to see some good sandwich offerings.  Roasted turkey on a fresh wheat roll would be a good start.

MM: What can the Lincoln Park Golf Club do to attract new players?

Han: I think a standing Saturday skins game would bring in some new players.  Attracting new members is a challenge with golf on the decline in general.

MM: What characteristic do you have that serves you best on the golf course during a competitive round?

Han: Being even-tempered helps in golf.  You never want to get too excited if you are striking it pure and making putts as things can go south quickly.  Conversely, if you’ve had a bad hole or two, forget about it.

MM: In general, I feel that many golfers don’t drink enough water or consume enough food/snacks while they play.  Do you have a favorite food item to carry with you in your golf bag?

Han: I like to have 2-3 power bars or energy bars.  

MM: Lastly, give us your most treasured piece of advice that you take with you each time you play golf.

Han: I think of each round of golf as a mini-lifetime.  Sometimes you start off and run into a bad stretch just like you might face in life but you have to fight through and make the best of it.  Other times things are going well so enjoy it and keep it going.  At the end of your round, you thank your playing partners and you appreciate the chance to play with them just as you appreciate all the people you meet throughout life.

Muni Mission Interviews Jim "Waggs" Waggoner

On the golf course, Jim Waggoner is as cool as the other side of the pillow. It only makes sense that he’s one of the men behind the W.A.Z. round - if you haven’t played golf with Jim yet, I can assure you that you’re missing out. Read on to learn about Jim’s hopes for barbecue brisket at the clubhouse, as well as some of his oldest Lincoln Park memories.

Muni Mission: How long have you been playing golf at Lincoln Park Golf Course?

Waggoner: 14 years. My first club event was the Orange Ball tournament in 2004. It was my first or second round at Lincoln Park ever. I was paired with 3 legends: Ken Harrington, Paul Kumli, and Mike Han.

Muni Mission: Over that time, what has changed most, if anything at all, about the golf course?

Waggoner: If anything the conditions have gotten slightly better since 2004. Either that or my standards and expectations have decreased. Probably more of the latter. The number of tourists (walking the grounds) seems to have increased.

MM: Your lowest career round at Lincoln Park GC?

Waggoner: 77

MM: Your favorite hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

Waggoner: Number 3. There are so many different ways to play this little hole and it’s the most challenging relative to par, in my opinion. When I’m on the green on number 3, I feel like I’m deep in nature, away from the city and further away from all the tourists.

MM: Your least favorite hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

Waggoner: The tee shot on number 7. I actually like the approach shot and the green, but I despite that tee shot.

MM: What do you wish was different about Lincoln Park GC?

Waggoner: I wouldn’t change anything. Yes, the course conditions are awful, but that keeps the crowds away.

MM: To me, Lincoln Park Golf Course is very unique and unlike any municipal golf course out there. To someone that has never been to San Francisco, what elements at Lincoln Park give it a unique Bay Area vibe?

Waggoner: I think Lincoln Park is unique because it’s like going back in time. Every round at Lincoln is like a retro round of golf. The fairways are like cow pastures and the greens are just as bumpy as St. Andrews back in 1413 (Muni Mission is laughing out loud at this comment, Waggs!). I actually love that. Combine that with its location, unique topography and fantastic views of the prettiest city in the world and you have a one of a kind golf course.

MM: Harding Park and Lincoln Park are completely different golf courses, but they are both part of the city and just a few miles apart. In what ways are they similar?

Waggoner: Beautiful trees…that’s about it.

MM: I’ve always thought the Food and Beverage offerings at Lincoln Park have such unrealized potential. The Local Brewing Company offerings from SOMA are a good start, but what food item do you wish the Lincoln bar and grill would add to their menu?

Waggoner: Make it a BBQ place (ribs, brisket, chicken). SF doesn’t have enough of these restaurants. I feel like this would fit the Lincoln Park crowd perfectly.

MM: What can the Lincoln Park Golf Club do to attract new players?

Waggoner: I think we should hold some more events that encourage guest participation. Existing members should also try to actively recruit. Maybe free Dues for the member that refers the most new members each year.

MM: What characteristic do you have that serves you best on the golf course during a competitive round?

Waggoner: I’ve always been pretty consistent and patient. That has always helped my game, especially during match play.

MM: In general, I feel that many golfers don’t drink enough water or consume enough food/snacks while they play. Do you have a favorite food item to carry with you in your golf bag?

Waggoner: I drink a ton of water. I always carry a water bottle and strategically pace my drinking so I can refill at the water fountain on #6 (the only functioning water source on the course). I always pack an almond butter sandwich too.

MM: Lastly, give us your most treasured piece of advice that you take with you each time you play golf.

Waggoner: “Take your medicine.” A double or triple bogey in medal play is not going to ruin the round of a mid/high handicapper like myself. But a two-digit score is always a crusher.

Muni Mission Interviews Ken Harrington

Over the final weeks of 2018, I’ll be publishing a series of club member interviews. After asking many club members if they’d like to volunteer to be interviewed, Ken Harrington was first to respond - adding another first place finish to his already highly decorated playing career. Ken is a friend, a golf mentor, and a nutty professor, both on the golf course and off. Ken needs no real introduction in this intimate golf circle that we are all a part of, but if I were to announce him on the first tee, it would go something like this: “Now on the tee, from San Francisco, California, 10-time Club Champion, Course Record Holder, honorable club member, and perpetual supporter, Ken…HARRington.” Read on to hear about Harrington’s favorite hole at Lincoln Park, as well as his least favorite, some of his course strategies, and why he thinks that there’s no other muni quite like our Lincoln.

Muni Mission: How long have you been playing golf at Lincoln Park Golf Course?

Harrington: 45 years.

Muni Mission: Over that time, what has changed most, if anything at all, about the golf course?

Harrington: The condition has remained about the same - the course has never been in great shape. However, there have been three relatively major structural changes. There used to be a second bunker short of the green on #5. It was positioned short of the existing bunker but it stuck out a few yards more, so a shot that came up short could roll backwards and catch this bunker, leaving a terrifying long bunker shot that required 20 yards of carry over the existing bunker. It was quite penal because a poor second shot brought 7 or 8 into play (on the scorecard). Additionally, it provided an excellent aesthetic view from the tee, like a “church pew” look.

Secondly, there was a bunker on the front/left of hole #9, and it was long and slender. Also, given the steep slope it was on, and the generally unkempt nature of that particular bunker, any ball finding this hazard tended to roll backwards near the bottom of the trap, leaving a brutal long bunker shot to the existing green. The fee for finding this sand hazard was at least 5.

Lastly, Hole #16 had a beautiful pot bunker 30 yards short of the green on the left-hand side of the fairway, sort of near where the cart path begins heading to #17. If you did find this pot hole, any score was possible. But the best part was the amazing perspective it gave from the tee. It was visible thus added terror, but gave great site lines and illusion, a masterpiece of sorts.

I was sad when they took these three hazards out. I forget when this transpired - maybe mid-1980’s.

MM: What is your favorite hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

Harrington: You may think I’m crazy, but my favorite hole to play is the 1st. It’s such a diabolical hole! It demands a well placed drive and perfect second shot, otherwise 5 or 6 is easily made to begin your round. I’ve always loved this aspect of our Lincoln. In the 2008 Twelve-Man Playoff against Contra Costa CC, Mr. Naoto De Silva made a natural 3 on this hole to beat their pro and send us to the finals at Poppy Hills. I was his partner that day, and I’l always remember that clutch birdie and that it happened on #1.

MM: Your least favorite hole to play at Lincoln Park GC?

Harrington: Under pressure my least favorite hole to play is the 3rd. I must admit in my younger days I made my share of triple bogeys. But it’s a great hole as there is ocean right and assorted demons to the left. John Susko always told me to hit a punch-draw low 5-iron, and to this day that’ smy shot when the heat is on. I’ve aced this hole once - back-left pin - and I used a 5-iron.

MM: We know you share the course record at Lincoln Park Golf Course. You shot a 60 nearly 30 years ago - an incredible feat given all the nuances and unpredictable elements at Lincoln Park. I’m sure you’ve recollected this round many times, but one thing that stands out in my mind, is that you made pars on the 10th and 11th holes during this round. For those that are familiar with our golf course, what would you say makes these holes difficult, despite how they appear on the scorecard?

Harrington: When I shot 60, holes 2 and 12 were switched from their current routing (so the course was par 33-35, instead of 34-34). I opened the round with five pars in a row, which was quite good by any standard. After birdies on 6, 7, and 9 to shoot three under par 30 on the front, I failed to birdie holes #10 and #11. The tenth is always harder than it looks because taking a run at the green brings the left trees into play, and laying up leaves a short wedge from a tight muddy lie. Coupled with the fact that I had birdied 6,7, and 9, making another birdie at #10 proved too difficult (pressure?). #11 is another great risk/reward hole, and on that day I could not get up and down from the thin downhill lie that houses most tee shots. The difficult lie accompanied with the geometry of the 2nd shot makes this hole much harder than the yardage reads. I’m proud of the birdies I made at 12, 13, 15, 16, and 18 to shoot 60, it was a fabulous finish to say the least. I almost aced 16 with a 4-wood, made a 15-foot par putt at 17, and an ‘across-the-green’ 45-footer at 18. Crazy. 60 scored for all 18 holes, ball down, back tees.

MM: What do you wish was different about Lincoln Park GC?

Harrington: Like most of us, I wish it was in better shape. If the greens could be made slick and quick, many holes would require a different set of strategies.

MM: To me, Lincoln Park Golf Course is very unique and unlike any other municipal golf course out there. To someone that has never been to San Francisco, what elements at Lincoln Park give it a unique Bay Area vibe?

Harrington: From most every hole you can see the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, or the City itself. The views are legendary and hard to top. I’ve never seen a course that has ‘seaside ocean energy’ amongst trees, with city views. There is nothing like our Lincoln.

MM: What can the Lincoln Park Golf Club do to attract new players?

Harrington: This is a tough one. In the 1970’s we had 153 members, and it’s been dwindling for the past 40 years. Many of our city’s golfers prefer Harding or Presidio - the conditions at Lincoln along with the executive par 68 often act as deterrents. Naoto has done an outstanding job as President - I’m sure all avenues have been investigated. You’d need 100% cooperation from the pro shop along with someone hanging out at the course on weekend mornings to greet and meet golfers. I’m not sure what else can be done. All of us that have been long time members always ask our friends and co-workers to join, and this is the main reason we are still valid with 65 members.

MM: In general, I feel that many golfers don’t drink enough water or consume enough food/snacks while they play 18 holes. Do you have a favorite food item to carry with you in your golf bag?

Harrington: I always carry water, one banana, and one power bar. Sometimes a hard boiled egg.

MM: What characteristic do you have that serves you best on the golf course during a competitive round? Can you give us your most treasured piece of advice that you take with you each time you play golf?

Harrington: Under the gun I think positively and remain serene. Focus, calmness, proper breathing, and I never quit. Also, I play smart. I’m not going to beat myself or hit balls off the course. Keep it in play and let my short game speak. Every time I tee it up, I always think about the possibilities - the good things that can happen. Also from tight muddy lies within 50 yards of the green, I’ve developed a technique whereby I ‘cover’ these pitches quite well (I avoid chunking them). This is key to playing Lincoln well. If you let the muddy lies get in your head, the ‘scary man’ can start caddying for you.

5 Things The USA Ryder Cup Team Could Learn from Lincoln Park Golf Club

After watching Team Europe run a clinic on how to play team golf at the Ryder Cup, it wouldn’t hurt for Team USA to take a few pointers from the Lincoln Park Golf Club.

The Leader Has To Inspire The Team

Jim Furyk never seemed convincing enough to make you believe that he had a winning strategy. Through many interviews and press conferences, it never appeared that Furyk had any tricks up his sleeve.

Our leader, Naoto De Silva, knows how to get the most out his team and his membership. At the NCGA Team Zone Championships, we knew there was a plan. We trusted the plan. We knew that our potential outcome was optimized from the start. Whether we won or not, we knew we were set up to potentially maximize the production of our components. On a weekly basis, our leader displays control, organization, and authenticity. Captain Furyk could have done a better job at optimizing pairings, and making us all believe in his strategy.

Keep The Ball In Play (Often At All Costs)

It was no secret that the host golf course was “USA-proofed”, by creating severe penalties for misfired tee shots. Team USA was neutralized. The Par 5’s were reachable for the entire field, which took away from the USA distance advantage. The Par 4’s would not yield birdies unless the tee shot found the fairway. And the Par 3’s required precision.

Here at Lincoln Park, there is a premium on keeping your tee shot in strategically advantageous positions. Holes 1, 4 and 14 at Lincoln are great examples of strategic play from the tee. On Day 2 of Four-Ball play, we watched a number of Americans hit long irons and fairway woods into the water hazard left, or deep rough right. Playing from behind early caused ill-advised play for the Americans, and they paid the price for it.

Communication

It’s no surprise that the Saturday morning atmosphere at Lincoln Park is friendly and easy-going. I rarely saw two American players communicating with one another during the Ryder Cup on the driving range or putting green. The player I saw most involved with off course communication was David Duval. At the amateur level, golf for most, is a social experience with competitive aspects. At the professional level, golf is a competitive experience with social aspects. At the Ryder Cup, trust, belief, and admiration for one another is nothing short of a recipe for success. I bet Tommy and Frankie would agree. I witnessed Bubba Watson hand the ball to Webb Simpson as he walked off a putting green in alternate shot, thinking it was Webb’s tee shot. It was Bubba’s tee shot. Do you think Webb had any belief in Bubba from that point on? At Lincoln Park, at the social level, at least our head’s are in the game. Ask Jeff Park, or Rick Walczak, or Mike Han. Their head’s are in the game. Communication is the foundation of any club or team that’s worth their weight in ball markers.

Risky Pairings are Risky for a Reason

Let’s be honest, people enjoy playing with certain people more than others. At the end of the day, we know who brings out the best in us. We know who causes us to feel unnecessary stress. There’s nothing wrong with a safe bet. A player wants to feel mentally happy, stress-free, and unburdened at the beginning of every round. Playing with Phil Mickelson in Foursomes could not have been a peaceful place to start a Ryder Cup round. At Lincoln Park, there isn’t enough credit in the world to give to the effort that goes into “keeping everyone happy”. Captain Furyk played the numbers. Captain Bjorn played the personalities. Team Europe mixed and matched based on universal chemistry. Lincoln Park is able to accomplish that same level of universal chemistry.

Slow Greens Aren’t Bad Greens

In European fashion, additional strategy was used with green speeds. The Europeans looked far more comfortable on the slower greens (see: any lag putt by Molinari) than Dustin Johnson, and Patrick Reed and most of the Americans. Our greens at Lincoln are slow, but they are exciting, challenging, and are tameable. The Americans looked consistently frustrated and never truly embraced the greens in Paris. The greens at Lincoln Park have been embraced by the membership. We are proud of our knowledge, of our authenticity, and of our terrain. Team USA was never in the right frame of mind, for the most part, to bounce back with any sort of tenacity. It’s how you roll with the punches that determines your next step.

See you at Whistling Straits, Team USA.

How To: Achieve Weekday Afternoon Utopia

Who

Jim Waggoner (Wags), John Jackson (JJ), Naoto de Silva, and ("unofficially") myself.

When

At the perfect time of day, on a weekday afternoon.  When the weather can usually be best described as "golden", and our muni feels like Muni Golf & Country Club.  Before the evening crowd arrives for a twilight nine.  After you put in a full morning of work, fatherhood, errands, appointments, and other necessary real life tasks.  Around the time that lets you eat lunch at work, and get home in time for dinner, as well.  This all translates to the 2:00-3:00 p.m. hour, typically on Thursday afternoon - when the pro shop staff accepts our greens fee and replies "you can head to the first tee...whenever you are ready." 

Where

At Lincoln Park, JJ recently said "It's sort of what you expect when there's so many cool things to see around the golf course," as we waited for a family of tourists to clear from the right side of the 4th hole.  On a Saturday morning, such an occurrence might irk the dawn patrol foursomes.   But on a Thursday afternoon, as the sun continues it's descent, the tourists, hikers, cyclists, and sightseers, are all searching for the same thing we are - some weekday afternoon zen.  That's what makes the W.A.Z. (Weekday Afternoon Zen) round so special.  Yes, we want to hit some greens in regulation, and avoid three-putting, but we're out there to achieve something a bit deeper.

The walk from 2nd green to 3rd tee

The walk from 2nd green to 3rd tee

Why

The reasons are aplenty.  Let's start with the golfy reasons - to try out new equipment, to implement a swing change, to hit a different club off a certain tee, or to keep the rust away during a busy month.  Beyond those reasons, though, the W.A.Z. round serves a more soulful purpose.  It's brings together similar energies and allows for easy conversation.  Nature itself feels extra Nature-y - the birds, the foghorns, the distant voices of tourists in awe, the general absence of more common "city sounds". 

What

Simply put, it's three-and-a-half hours of golf Utopia.  Your score on each hole counts on the scorecard, but matters a bit less than usual.  An afternoon absent of pressure, but full of purity.  Utopia by definition is an "Imagined place, where everything is perfect", but for a brief time, this Utopia is undeniably real.

 

Passing Time: A Day At Pasatiempo

First Impressions

Behind the 18th green from the parking lot upon arrival.

Behind the 18th green from the parking lot upon arrival.

It wouldn't be that outlandish to say that Pasatiempo is the most wonderfully designed public golf course in the entire country.  Everyone has their own opinions, but Pasatiempo makes you push aside your loyalties to your favorite spots.  The ambience and aesthetic of the grounds are understated, stylish, serene, and filled with interesting details.  From the perfectly integrated homes, to the original Alister MacKenzie drawings in the clubhouse, to the glimpse of the 18th green near the back parking lot, you are captivated from the moment you arrive.  And possibly best of all (for me, at least), the logo rules.  The levels of golfiness on the property are off the charts.  And for those of you that need a refresher on what "golfiness" means...well, there is no real definition, but you know when you see it (that little punch hook 8 iron into the wind executed perfectly, that bump and run you pulled off that nobody else in your foursome considered an option, most wedge shots hit by Naoto de Silva, or maybe that seemingly plain navy blue cotton polo shirt that has a very sneaky little Pinehurst logo on the chest pocket?)  Personally, I made the trip with good friend Jon Stein of The Black Hall Club, in Old Lyme, CT.  His generosity that day will not be forgotten, nor will the generosity, support and love of both Di and Higgins, as they sent us on our way. 

Warm-Up

Since we knew we would walk our 18 holes (shout out to True Linkswear), we skipped the golf cart shuttle down to the driving range.  The tee boxes were down by the first green, about 400 yards away from the putting green.  We opted for a quick chipping contest at the short game area, and some putting on the large putting green directly adjacent to the first tee box. 

First Tee

As we waited on the first tee (457 yards, par 4, into the wind, with an elevated tee box, and views for miles), we noticed a secret tee box across the walkway, further up a hill, hidden among the plantings and trees, stretching the par 4 to nearly 500 yards, presumably put to use once or twice per year, at most.  I'm not sure we ever saw a starter, but the place is so relaxed, and so peaceful, that it essentially operates itself.  Nobody is in a rush to tee off, nobody is late getting to the first tee, and nobody is running to or from the pro shop to check in.  All of this makes you forget, momentarily, that you are teeing off on a hole that would demand every ounce of skill you have to make a four.  After decent tee shots, we opted to lay up to wedge yardages, rather than take our chances with fairway woods.  The first MacKenzie bunker that greeted us protected about 90% of the front of the green, diagonally, from front left, to back right.   Given the back right pin location that day, we were rather satisfied to hit wedges onto the green, and two-putt for a pair of fives to start the day.

Third Hole - Par 3

Bunkers at the third.

Bunkers at the third.

The third hole, much like the first, is so spectacularly designed, that it makes you feel at ease.  The picture to the left speaks for itself.  Nonetheless, you are teeing it up on a 225 yard, uphill, heavily bunkered three-shotter, with a diagonal green.  The seemingly meaningless bunker 100 yards off the tee is subtle brilliance from MacKenzie.  It's there to trick the golfer into thinking the hole is shorter than it really is.  This is also the first hole that started to reveal a theme at Pasatiempo.  The extremely difficult challenge that the greens imposed, was offset by the fact that nearly every green had a playable 'ground entrance', unblocked by hazards or bunkers.  This allowed for a safer approach, in exchange for a more demanding two-putt. 

 

Fifth Hole - Par 3

Par 3 Fifth, fully restored to MacKenzie's original design.

Par 3 Fifth, fully restored to MacKenzie's original design.

The Fifth hole at Pasatiempo is another MacKenzie gem that was restored to identical perfection of the original design. 

 

 

 

 

 

Sixth Hole - Par 5 & Alister MacKenzie's Home

A perpetually hatless Mr. Stein passing by MacKenzie's ultimate residence, left of the Sixth fairway.

A perpetually hatless Mr. Stein passing by MacKenzie's ultimate residence, left of the Sixth fairway.

"I've always wanted to live where one can practice shots in one's pajamas before breakfast." -MacKenzie

McKenzie himself lived to the left of the par 5 Sixth Hole at Pasatiempo.  A humbly stylish home, much like the golf course itself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eighth Hole - Par 3

The third and final par 3 on the front nine was an extremely special green complex.  Jon and I both had one-in-a-lifetime two putts for par, from about 100 feet, each.  The big takeaway here, is that the green is so large, yet there are just a few handful of obvious pin locations.  The green is surrounded by carefully landscaped bunkering, making the entire complex a work of art.  The mastery that MacKenzie achieved with these greens is such that they are huge and undulating, but they are fair and can be attacked.  

Ninth Hole - Par 5

"The chief object of every golf architect or greenkeeper worth his salt, is to imitate nature so closely as to make his work indistinguishable from nature itself." -MacKenzie

The ninth hole takes you back to the clubhouse via a shortish uphill par 5, protected by huge bunkering short of the green.  Again, MacKenzie provides a ground entrance on the front right edge, allowing a skilled right-hander to sling a longer shot into the green for a chance at eagle.  The setting for this hole reminded me a lot of number nine at Poppy Hills.  A risk-reward par five, where clubhouse spectators are always present.

10th Hole - Par 4 - The Best Hole on the Course

" Golf is a game, and talk and discussion is all to the interests of the game. Anything that keeps the game alive and prevents us being bored with it is an advantage. Anything that makes us think about it, talk about it, and dream about it is all to the good and prevents the game becoming dead.” -MacKenzie

The 10th Hole at Pasatiempo could possibly be the best par four I've ever played in my life.  With a tee box that sits on the edge of a ravine, an old footbridge that takes you to the fairway entrance, a vista at the top of a gentle dogleg left, a majestic downhill approach shot, spectacular fairway bunkers, and a green that allows for a full variety of short game shots depending on pin positions (including throwing a pitch shot well past the hole up near the back left fringe and letting it funnel back towards certain pin positions), the 10th hole is the most interesting par 4 on the entire property.  That says a lot, given the variety of holes at Pasatiempo.  The 10th hole takes the cake.

Eleventh Hole - Par 4

MacKenzie's 11th at Pasatiempo traverses a huge barranca with another footbridge, and is the most demanding par 4 on the back nine.  Precision and thought are required to make four here, as you can easily get distracted by the stunningly peaceful surroundings.  This was the hardest Par 4 on the golf course.

 

Thirteenth Hole - Par 5

Restored bunkers at the Thirteenth Green.  Note the potential for a back left pin location.

Restored bunkers at the Thirteenth Green.  Note the potential for a back left pin location.

The 13th is another hole that is restored to its original state.  Inspiring bunkers short of the green make for an exciting approach, and once you arrive on the green, you'll realize that there is a "hidden" back left pin location, tucked slightly behind a grand old greenside tree. 

 

Sixteenth Hole - Par 4 - Green

Notice the extreme contours of the Sixteenth green.

Notice the extreme contours of the Sixteenth green.

The 16th hole is the only FOUR-tiered green I've ever seen.  The green sections are "front tier", "middle right tier", "slightly higher middle left tier", and "the big back tier".  This hole works on so many levels.  It creates a dramatic point of interest for those who's rounds of golf (score-wise) have already been given up on.  It creates a unique and challenging two putt to keep a strong round alive.  It also creates a gambling opportunity for those who enjoy that type of thing ("I bet you can't two putt from here...").  I can also say that a photo of the green does not do it justice - there's no good way to capture all the tiers in a picture.  I presume that the sunlight might hit it at the right angle, at the right time of day, allowing for a good photo opportunity.  I took the below picture from the 17th tee box across the street, in hopes top capture the profile view of the green and the undulation from back to front.

Seventeenth Hole - Par 4

"A good golf course is like good music.  It does not necessarily appeal the first time one plays it." -MacKenzie

The 17th hole is the most mundane hole on the golf course.  It's probably the only hole on the course that you couldn't defending as being the "signature hole".  And yes, the other 17 holes are THAT good.  But, alas, it does serve a wonderful purpose.  It essentially allows for time to come down from the emotional elevation of the 16th green, and it also preps the golfer for one last grand spike in interest as you reach the 18th tee box.

 

Eighteenth Hole - Par 3

"The ideal hole is one that afford the greatest pleasure to the greatest number."
Eighteenth at Pasatiempo.

Eighteenth at Pasatiempo.

The 18th hole, bisected by the same huge ravine that your tee shot on the 10th must carry, is the perfect culmination.  A birdie opportunity awaits, as it can be played from about 125 to 175 yards, and the punchbowl setting makes you feel contained within the landscape right until the very end. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post-Round

View from back porch.  Looking back down the Ninth.

View from back porch.  Looking back down the Ninth.

The post-round setting for a beer and a bite is as good as it gets.  After you dabble in the wonderful pro shop, and take a glimpse inside the MacKenzie showcase, filled with original design drawings, magazine features, and artifacts, head straight to the back porch.  The porch has tables made from old whiskey barrels (a sneaky homage to McKenzie's drinking habits), and are staged above the 9th green, with views of most of the front nine.  There's a local Santa Cruz IPA on tap, and a huge American Flag waving in the wind between the first tee and 9th green.  It's a place where you can sit until nightfall with an extra layer or two, and the view does not get old. 

We can't wait to get back to Pasatiempo. 

Old Man and The Sea

It was the summer of Two Thousand Sixteen.  I had arrived just a few months earlier.  Curiosity reached its peak, and I decided to call a meeting between myself and this old man.  Perhaps to introduce myself to him, but mostly so that he could introduce himself to me.  This was no ordinary old man – for he was well over one hundred years of age.  I took an early afternoon trip from the Inner Richmond to the edge of the continent to meet him.  As with most golfers, he was there already – prompt, if nothing else.  His garb a bit outdated, but his style was undeniable.  He greeted me with nothing more than a quick handshake, and set me off on my own to explore, with very little direction – I don’t remember quite clearly, but perhaps he offered words like “That way.” and extended an arm and a semi-bent finger towards the first.  As I set my bag down, the salty air and fog were creeping across the property.  I thought back to something my father shared with me years ago – something John F. Kennedy once said.  “All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears.  We are tied to the ocean.  And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back to whence we came.”

 

18th Fairway from Practice Green

18th Fairway from Practice Green

With eucalyptus trees abound and the Golden Gates not far across the Eighteenth fairway to my right, my maiden navigation was slightly misleading.  My boldness was rewarded only temporarily, as I now reflect upon the naïve approach I took that day.  With a cautious long iron off the first tee, though, I soon realized that just because it’s called the fairway, doesn’t mean it’s always fair.  He defended his first green with a tree that resembled a bouncer or doorman – you will not go through me, perhaps you might find a difference entrance, but in all likelihood you will pay five to get in.  The second hole quickly showed me it’s endless routes from tee to green – I would have no idea if I chose a suitable one that day, but I moved to the outer three holes unscathed.  Numbers three, four, and five, reside on their own plot of land – he unofficially deemed these holes special by placing them far beyond the obvious municipal boundaries of the city.  The three holes shared no similarities, yet they belonged together like a pair of old sneakers on the front porch.  He presented me with a par three that I could only describe as ‘golfy’, with various options over and around an encroaching tree, set into a majestic corner of the property.  Four and Five were four-shotters that went in opposite directions.  The tee shot on four could be hit with a half-dozen clubs, while the tee shot on five was a driver every time out.  I knew this much. 

Onward he said.  But where do I go from here?  Back inward towards the city, I found myself near a museum within the art gallery I was already walking upon.  Around this world class building I walked, hoping to somehow stumble upon the next tee box.  Around the corner he led me, and sure enough, there was the niftiest little par four you’ll ever see.  The museum to my left, the off-white hue of the city residences set deep on the horizon, and a razor sharp dogleg, all of which made me realize that there was an abundance of knowledge to be gained here.  I walked away from the sixth green, through a narrow path next to the blackberry bushes, down to the seventh tee.  With eclectic Clement Street paralleling the right side of this blind tee shot, there was very obvious danger here.  The chain-linked fence that separated the golf hole from the city street, was not an eyesore, but a welcomed sight.  A feature that seemed to be something like a signature at many municipal courses.  And the seventh green – oh, the seventh green – what just happened on that putt? 

The eight hole was a gift from the old man.  Not because it was easy, or spectacular, but because it was a hole that seemed familiar – classical by design, and classical within my own memory bank – a downhill mid-iron shot, with a pair of bunkers framing the entrance.  Passing through the eighth, I found remnants of old practice cages and nets that the he must have offered to his players many years ago.  My attention was quickly drawn to an uphill tunnel, tier upon tier, a steady climb.  Here my ignorance was bliss, as a long straight driver would only happen this one time, until further wisdom was gained.  The tenth, was the old man’s trick up his sleeve.  A short par four, framed by the museum, likely guarded by coyote dens, but merely a driver away.  I took the cautious route, because I did not know if the man was hiding any surprises around the corner.  It wasn’t until recently until I learned what opportunities he offers here.  As I walked off the tenth tee, I did a double-take – pausing for a moment, absorbing the pacific coastline view that this vista offered – Ocean Beach and the Outer Sunset District right there before me.  The Eleventh offers similar rewards, should similar risks be taken.  The old man’s skin was weathered on this hole – bumps and bruises from years of exposure to this unique climate which he lived in – I may have hit the tee shot, but at some point, he took control of the ball and determined its fate.  A good shot at the eleventh is heavily rewarded nonetheless. 

Twelve is the first of a trio of back nine monsters that the old man hurled my way.  Playing steadily uphill, to a multi-tiered green, this may be the most fierce resistance on the land.  A shake of my head as I walked off the upper tier of the putting surface was the only thing I could think to do.  I placed my putter back into my carry bag and made a short turn up the hill.  Suddenly I was sitting on the top of the golf course.  From the thirteenth tee you saw it all – the old man’s Sea, the headlands far across the Bay, the Gates, and even deep into the downtown Financial District.  Looking through a pair of goal posts, over a valley, outward towards the top of a hill, with salt water to my left, and the city by the bay out ahead.  I will forever be eager to reach this point on this course.  As we moved to fourteen, the demand for precision is high.  The old man badly fools me as I look at the scorecard yardage.  The fifteenth, much like the eighth, makes me feel like I’ve been here before – though the old man continues to present hidden perils that I know will take time to mitigate.

Finally, I’ve reached the place that I learned is sometimes called “the holes where good rounds go to die.”  Back to back par threes that seemed longer than some of the par fours.  The old man doesn’t want you to coast into his clubhouse.  He wants you to earn your nourishments.  He wants you to remember that both a long driver and a short pitch shot with a wedge both count as one stroke on the scorecard.  He doesn’t want you to fear him, but he does want your respect.  After all, look at what he just provided to you for the past three and a half hours.  Finally, back across the road, and up a slight rise, is the 18th tee box.  The old man asks for one more ounce of fortitude from you.  One more moment of focus and commitment.  Show any signs of doubt, and he will make your culmination difficult.  You may be picturing this old man now – perhaps in tattered clothing – with gray hair – and leathery skin – maybe like a ship captain.  And as FDR said, a Smooth Sea never made a Skilled Sailor.  In the city by the bay, I’m slowly learning to be a skilled sailor.  The waters are cold, the winds are often high, the fairways are uneven, and the lies are tricky.  This old man, has welcomed me, but also asked that I pay my dues – the history here is storied, the ground is hallowed.  This isn’t a story about the layout of the golf course, but a story about the spirit and soul that resides within it. 

A pleasure to meet you, Lincoln Park <hat tip>.