Apr 21, 2020by - San Francisco Public Golf Alliance
“The Speakeasy of Golf Courses”
Quirky, beautiful, difficult, hard-to-find, with “the City’s fastest muni greens,”and one of the country’s great golf bars, the legendary Gleneagles 9-hole golf course in McLaren Park, near the Cow Palace, is in trouble and needs help.
This Spring, the 1-2 punch of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with high City water bills and maintenance costs that did not go away when the City ordered golfers to keep away, has the City’s lessee Tom Hsieh with his back against the wall. So he is conducting a fundraising campaign on “Go Fund Me”, where Tom explains his plight in a heartfelt letter – which we urge you to read in full [*UPDATE: Go Fund Me Campaign is closed. See update at bottom of post] . An excerpt:
"It appears that without financial assistance, I will not be able to continue operating Gleneagles nor will I be able to maintain it, even minimally in the coming weeks or months. So if you have a soft spot for public golf like no other, and hope to one day play another round at a community based golf course, please help. I know there are many more urgent causes out there and I urge you to support them first. If you have any more capacity then please point it towards Gleneagles.
The funds will be used to keep a small crew working on the grounds, watering the property properly through May and helping us meet other fixed financial obligations. I cannot guarantee that even with your support we will make it to the end but it will give us a fighting chance.Your support will mean a great deal to me and the hundreds, if not thousands of people who think a place like Gleneagles is worth preserving."
Count the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, with our Mission to "Nurture and defend affordable, eco-friendly public golf in San Francisco for future generations", among those who strongly believe that Gleneagles is worth preserving and committed to ensuring it survives.
Located in McLaren Park in the San Francisco’s southeastern corner near the Cow Palace, Gleneagles has a colorful history that includes early-1960’s Mayor George Christopher, Lee Trevino, course architect Jack Fleming (who was a construction assistant to Alister MacKenzie at Sharp Park, Cypress Point, and Pasatiempo), Tom Hsieh himself, and Eric DeLambert, a hotel maitre d’ who in the 1980’s saved the course – then called McLaren Park – from closure. These stories are told in the following collection of articles from...
Golf Magazine - "Coronavirus closure leaves this gritty, beloved golf course’s future in doubt":
"With that sudden act of irrationality, Hsieh embraced a life of unpredictability, of lean balance sheets and Byzantine leases, of withering droughts and economic downturns, of rising water bills and dwindling revenues—a business that rarely makes financial sense but which, after 16 years, Hsieh, who is 54, can’t think of anything he’d want to trade it for. “I’ve always tried follow my heart in what I do,” he says. “And my heart is in this place, 100 percent.”
New York Times - "This Gleneagles is a Scruffy Cousin":
“I care a lot about making sure this golf course is here for another generation of golfers,” Hsieh said.“By hook or by crook, we’re going to bootstrap this golf course forward. It’s always been that way.”
The Fried Egg - "Gleneagles Needs Your Help"
"Known for its difficulty, a group of sneaky-good regulars, and a low-key, blue-collar vibe, Gleneagles is decidedly old-school San Francisco. The clubhouse is a step back in time, with dusty old décor, warm lighting, and the type of soft jazz coming through the speakers that only veteran SF cabbies seem to love. You won’t be able to find the latest TaylorMades in the pro shop—because there is no pro shop. But you can help yourself to most any Highland single malt at the bar, which overlooks the course and the San Francisco Bay and is a contender for the best hangout spot in all of golf."
SFPGA - "Visitacion Valley Community to Benefit from New Job-Training Academy at Gleneagles"
"San Francisco's public, nine hole Gleneagles Golf Course is the new site of an innovative Laborers Union pre-apprentice job-training academy, which will provide entry-level job-training for at-risk San Francisco youth, while at the same time providing some TLC and improved playing conditions for the golf course."
Gleneagles 9th Green - Photo Credit; Brad Knipstein Golf
For more information about the course, see the Gleneagles website where you'll find former Managing San Francisco Chronicle Editor Steve Proctor wax eloquently on the course history:
"The rugged little course continued to hold a special place in the hearts of golfing cognoscenti... Author Anthony Pioppi included a chapter on Gleneagles in his book, “To the Nines,” placing it in a pantheon of 9-hole gems alongside Donald Ross’ Rolling Rock Club, Alister MaKenzie’s Northwood and The Dunes Club in Michigan, which Mike Keiser built before taking on the project that would become his legacy, the Bandon Dunes resort in Oregon. Fittingly, Pioppi headlined his chapter, “Wanted: True Golfers.”
The coronavirus lockdown disproportionately impacts small business entrepreneurs like Tom Hsieh at Gleneagles, Jason Yip at State Apparel and Brad Knipstein at Knipstein Photography that are an important part of our Bay Area public golf community. They've been there for us in the struggle to save and restore Sharp Park. Now is the time for the golfing community to support them.
Jason Yip provides us retail space and on-line fulfillment of #SaveSharpPark swag at his San Francisco State Apparel store at no profit to himself. Check out his unique, functional, stylish golf apparel to support him during this retail apocalypse.
Sharp Park 17th Green - Photo Credit; Brad Knipstein Golf
Brad Knipstein is a an extraordinary photographer and graphic designer. If you follow the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance you've enjoyed his work on this web page and in our book Alister MacKenzies's Legacy of Public Golf at Sharp Park. He collaborated on the beautiful illustration of the original Sharp Park routing, manages our popular Instagram account and provides his work gratis to the SFPGA. Sometimes we give him credit, sometimes we forget. During the lockdown, things have slowed down.
If you are among the fortunate few who are not financially impacted by COVID-19, please consider contributing to Tom’s fundraising campaign on “Go Fund Me”, do some on-line shopping at State Apparel and if you need some quality photographic work - golf related or not - give Brad a call. Thank you!
*UPDATE May 15, 2020
San Francisco public golfers stepped up and, thanks to their support, Gleneagles made it through the lockdown. Over $35,000 was raised, and a grateful Tom Hseih posted this note after closing the succesful Go Fund Me effort:
"We are closing the Go Fund Me Page. We want to all express our deep appreciation for the over 300 donors who gave generously in our time of need, especially when there were so many others in more need. The community response to Gleneagles has been amazing and we are booking tee times (twosomes only for now) and the golf course is beginning to feel like a golf course again.
Please listen to this broadcast on May 12th on the BUTCHER SHOP radio show 95.7 THE GAME.
Stay healthy and if you would like to book a tee time, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Hsieh and the Gleneagles Team