Maybe it was just me, but heading into my round at TPC Harding Park, I was very excited. It was my first round in San Francisco and my first round of the day, as I was heading over to play Olympic Club in the afternoon. I was also excited about my round at Harding Park because of the history. I’m not going to lie, going into my round all I could think about was that shot from Tiger in the President’s Cup. The 4-iron club twirl. You could have taken me straight out to hole 9 and let me try to duplicate that shot all day and I would have been a happy camper.
With next year’s PGA Championship approaching, we had received an email the day before our round that the Harding Park staff had begun preparations to the course for the event. The staff had brought some of the fairways in a bit tighter, as well as already beginning to lengthen some very thick rough.
Harding Park is not an easy course as it is. The 7100-yardcourse plays long, and the tall Cypress trees that surround each fairway make accuracy off the tee a must. Depending on weather conditions, I could see Harding Park posing a challenge for the pros next May. From what I saw, the fairways are considerably smaller than what they can be. That is going to bring the rough into play a whole lot more. If you’ve ever played in Northern California, then you know the rough can get gnarly. Thick rough paired with the sloping, firm and fast greens could pose for a struggle.
From start to finish, Harding Park just has a look about it that is appealing to the eye. The tall, hanging Cypress trees just scream California golf. It’s the kind of aesthetics that a Midwesterner thinks about when he thinks of golf in the Bay Area.
The layout itself is a special one. For the first 12 holes or so, things may be a little slow. The layout tends to go back and forth, and just wind its way through the trees. Although the start may be a bit slow, the finishing holes at Harding Park are world class. I was very impressed with not only the shape of the finishing holes, but the strength of them as well. Each one a test coming home. It is a very demanding stretch that requires accuracy not only from the tee, but on approach shots as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s a par 3, par 4, or par 5, all these holes on the finishing stretch can sneak up and take one from you.
The experience at TPC Harding Park was great. The current course setup has a long way to go before next year’s PGA Championship, but I am sure they will have the course immaculate come that time. One thing I don’t think a lot of traveling golfers realize, is there is a certain level of expectations you bring to a public city course like Harding Park. I played Torrey Pines once with my Dad and during the round he said, “man I thought this place would be in a lot better shape.” In reply, I said, “Dad, this is a public city course. Come back Farmer’s or US Open time and I bet it is spotless out here.” To think you are showing up at a public city course and expecting private course conditions is a no-no in my book. Arriving to a golf course with a world of expectations just because the pros play there from time to time will take away from your experience. Yes we want each and every course we play to be in immaculate shape, and most times they are, but not every course you play is going to be in PGA Championship shape, when YOU play it. It’s a great opportunity, as a golfer, to see the bigger picture surrounding the golf course, and to take it all in one shot at a time.
The approach into hole 18