When it opened for play in 1925, Harding Park was by far the greatest municipal course in America. It predated Beth Page Black, Torrey Pines, Brown Deer Park and scores of other great public venues across the country. The course is the City’s true championship layout. Today the course measures 7,169 yards from the championship tees and plays to a par of 72.
The original layout was designed and built by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, who also worked on the Lake Course at The Olympic Club. It was slightly different from today’s course as there was no “Fleming Nine” in the middle of the property, but rather, a series of “practice fairways” where players, including future U.S. Open champion Ken Venturi, regularly shagged balls.
Between 1959 and 1961, the course was rerouted to accommodate the Fleming Nine and then, in 2004, the layout was again remodeled, this time by PGA Tour architect Chris Gray. The result is a stunning revitalization of a true classic.
The course hosted the San Francisco Open in 1944, and that undertaking led to a bit of PGA trivia: the legendary Byron Nelson won the event in January of that year, and again in December 1944, thus making it the only time in the history of the tour that the same person won the same event twice on the same course in the same year.
In 1959, the course hosted the Golden Gate Open, and during the 1960s Harding Park was home to the Lucky International, a regular stop on the tour’s West Coast Swing.
In 2005, the restored course was the site of the AmEx Championship, which not only drew an elite field composed of the 60 top-ranked players in the world but also produced one of the most memorable playoffs in history, in which Tiger Woods bested John Daly.
The course also served as the venue for the Presidents Cup competition in 2009, when the United States (led by Woods) defeated an International Team captained by Greg Norman.
Harding Park’s history is still being written. The course is the host of the 2015 World Golf Championships Match Play and has been selected as the site of the 2020 PGA Championship and the 2025 Presidents Cup.
In 1961, the tight and challenging Fleming nine-hole layout opened for play. It sits in the middle of Harding Park, surrounded by the fairways and greens of the larger course.
The Fleming Nine today measures 2,165 yards and plays to a par of 30. The layout features several difficult dogleg holes and series of three pars that range in distance from 140 up to 235 yards. Needless to say, players are required to use every club in the bag.
The course is a convenient alternative to Harding Park’s full 18 as it offers a true challenge and can be played very quickly.
Location: Harding Park, 99 Harding Road, San Francisco, CA 94132
Opened: July 18, 1925
Architect: Willie Watson and Sam Whiting
Greens Fees: $38 - $176 (Harding)
$17 - $33 (Fleming - 9 holes)