The Olympic Club has been one of the most mixed review golf courses I have ever played. Olympic Club has been a staple inside the Top 100 golf courses for its lifespan, and is most definitely one of the most historic championship venues in the land. All that being said, it is seemingly hit or miss with a lot of people. Some say the layout is monotonous and others say that the finishing stretch, specifically hole 18, just isn’t great for such a prestigious course. Contrary to those beliefs, I thoroughly enjoyed Olympic Club, and it gave me great respect for its championship setups.
On your average day, Olympic Club is probably set up favorably with short rough and greens rolling around 10 or so. It’s very easy to go into a championship venue and expect greatness from the course, and for everything to be spotless. I’ve been around enough to realize that golf courses don’t work like that even as much as you want it to be for your visit. In most cases a course like Olympic Club is set up favorable for visiting guests to enjoy their visit thoroughly. Not to get beaten up by the course during their round, but to enjoy the great golf and experience. Olympic was set up very favorable during my visit. As a matter of fact, besides my local muni, I don’t know if I have ever seen rough cut that short. It was more of a first cut than rough. Although the course may not have been what I expected, I was able to see something different during my visit than how most others may see it.
In somewhat favorable conditions, I was able to see the layout for what it truly is, which is a championship venue. Yes, maybe Olympic Club is loaded with bunkers situated 260 yards out on the dogleg corner off the tee, or heavily wooded tree lined fairways, but it is loaded with something else. Tight fairways and lush rough. During my round, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, as I was missing the fairway every hole, how demanding it was to keep the ball in the fairway off the tee. If I had been playing in a US Open setup, I could only imagine the incredibly difficult lies I would have been faced with just being 5-10 yards off the fairway. The demand on keeping drives in play for approach shots is incredibly important. One of the other reasons keeping the ball in play is so important is because of how well the greens are guarded by bunkers. The greens at Olympic are not large, and with a recent bunker renovation, they are as visually intimidating as ever. Hitting approach shots out of thick rough to firm and fast greens that are well guarded does not sound real friendly.
Olympic Club boasts a great combination of holes of all pars. Some of the most famous and picturesque par 3s on Tour, a perfect mixture of short and long par 4s, and some very strategic par 5s. Personally, I believe the par 5 hole 16 is one of the hardest holes on the course. A long par 5 that is a slight dogleg left. A tight fairway that demands you to hit your 2nd shot far enough to get around the corner, in order to attack the green. This hole stuck out in my memory because I had felt the demand to hit the fairway all day, and as I finally saw the first par 5 on the back nine, and maybe an opportunity to relax a little, Olypoured it on again. Then again on the par 5 17th. It’s always so impressive to me how architects are able to make layouts demanding without having water on the course. We all love a good water hole or ocean hole, but there sure is something special about a course with none of that, that is able to challenge you in all aspects of your game.
Olympic Club received all my respect, from a golfer’s point of view and a course point of view. It may not be a place that will beat you up on a regular old Tuesday, but has the muscles to flex when it needs to.
P.S. – the par 3 course is amazing. Fun and simple. Take the time to go walk the 9 and enjoy the views. Also, come to the course plenty hungry, as you’ll want a burger dog before and during the round.