In today’s day in age, you know you are in for something special when you go to a club where there are no cellphones allowed. And in 2019, SFGC is still an old-fashioned club right down to its bones. Walk into the lockeroom to see the lockers that have been there since the club’s inception, the cleat marks from the thousands of pairs of shoes being tied on the benches, and even the toilets, where there was no automatic flush in sight. Maybe stop in and take a call in one of the phone booths, or admire the original pistols from the famous “Duel”, that took place along where hole 7 is currently located. Not to mention the old-fashioned pro shop separated from the clubhouse. The buildings at SFGC keep a quaint and simple atmosphere that seemingly remind you of the simpler times in the country club life.
SFGC has one of my favorite opening tee shots of all-time, mainly because the fairway is nearly 100 yards wide, and you are teeing off right on top of the putting green and pro shop, so room to miss is nice. I cannot say enough about this Tillinghastlayout. The courses that surround the Lake Merced area have been truly blessed with some incredible terrain to build on. The front nine at SFGC utilizes it so well. I was never a huge fan of uphill par 4s, but Tillinghast damn near made me one here. Hole 2 and hole 8 are two of my favorite holes on the property. Both uphill par 4s, but both different than one another. Hole 2 is a slight uphill dogleg left that presents a favorable slope of the left side of the fairway to bounce your ball back into play. Only to set you up for a very difficult approach to a well-guarded and sloped green. Hole 8 is a little more demanding off the tee with a bunker guarding your landing area on the right. A short iron in to the 2-tiered green makes it a difficult approach when looking to control your spin to a back-pin location.
Hole 7, a short downhill par 3, is the famous “Duel” hole. The site of the Broderick-Terry duel on September 18, 1859. David Coolbrith Broderick, a United States Senator, and Daniel Smith Terry, a California Supreme Court Justice dueled over political differences, and it proved to be the last duel in the state of California. The pistols now sit in a case behind the bar in the clubhouse. A pretty cool artifact to be able to be represented at the club.
A lasting image that sticks out in my mind about SFGC is its bunker complexes. Each bunker was so finely shaped, and there were so many that were perfectly placed to intimidate you. Hole 12, a mid-length par 4, is maybe one of the most intimidating holes on the course, and purely because of the bunker placement. It feels that they are everywhere, and the hole shaping allows the bunkers to become visually intimidating because there is much more room than can be seen. Standing on the tee, it looks as if you would rather blow it 25 yards left off the tee into the rough, instead of taking on the fairway. Each hole and each green is guarded very well, and that will surely leave you in some tough up and down positions with some of the sneakiest sloping greens I have seen.
SFGC is all about the experience. The par 70 is a difficult test to golf, but kind enough to allow you to enjoy the golf side of things on your visit. SFGC has the teeth to sneak up and bite you, but everything on the course is right there in front of you. SFGC is a very special place and deserves its spot as one of America’s premier golf facilities.