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Photo: Golden Gate Golf Course Reopened: Let There be Light, Air, Sand and Fun!

Before and After Renovation: View from the 5th tee (old #9) looking west towards Ocean Beach

Golden Gate Golf Course Reopened: Let There be Light, Air, Sand and Fun!

Feb 25, 2024by - San Francisco Public Golf Alliance

San Francisco and its golfers on February 16-17 celebrated the reopening of the City’s smallest golf course – the Golden Gate Park 9 at the western end of the park near Ocean Beach.  The 20-acre course was closed since February 2023 for a renovation by a public-private partnership of the City’s Rec & Park Department and a philanthropic affiliate of the nonprofit First Tee of San Francisco.  

Clubhouse ribbon cutting, February 16. Mayor London Breed (center, w/ big scissors), Rec-Park Gen. Mgr. Phil Ginsburg (to her left), 
Flanked at far left by Public Utilities Director Dennis Herrera and First Tee CEO Dan Burke at far right.

With completion of a $2.5 Million golf course renovation by a hybrid construction team of Rec & Park gardeners, the First Tee’s architect Jay Blasi, and golf contractors, the spectacular course is now the subject of unanimous rave reviews in the national golfing press.  (See list of press coverage, below.)  The Rec-Park Department contributed a $6 Million reconstruction of its clubhouse which was torched in a 2018 arson fire for which the City was uninsured.   

The 75-year-old course, built in 1949 by the City’s Director of Golf Jack Fleming, had become overgrown with unkempt trees and bushes, which blocked the sun and views, and kept the ground soggy and turf conditions poor.  Like renovations over the past 15 years at Harding Park and neighboring private courses – Olympic, San Francisco, Lake Merced and Cal Club in South San Francisco – the solution at Golden Gate Park was major tree thinning and brush clearance, combined with modern irrigation, drainage and new turf.

Hybrid Rec-Park and private golf contractor crew hydroseeding turf on new Hole 4 (old #8) 

The green fees have now been raised, but the golfers have accepted the new fees as a value proposition for what is already being called among “the finest par-3 courses in America.”  Reservations can only be made online on the golf course webpage --  seven days in advance starting at midnight.  Word from GGP management is  “each day’s times are usually gone in five minutes.”  So set your alarm and check out the latest San Francisco municipal gem!

New Hole #6 (original #1)

Press Coverage:

Golf Magazine, Dec. 11, 2023, “In a Golf World gone mad, this tiny par-3 has a story to celebrate”

On holes that max out at 160 yards, you can play the aerial game, testing the breezes, or bounce it along firmed-up, rumpled ground. The 4th green is now a punchbowl. The 7th has wild fingerlings and flanges that invite creative angles of attack. The tee shot on the 8th can be played with putter. It’s a layout fit for newbies and serious sticks alike. In the nuance of its shapes and the beauty of its surroundings, it is not absurd to rank it among the finest par-3 courses in the country... Reasonable. Refreshing. A real opportunity to ‘grow the game,’ free of any cynicism or spin. That’s Golden Gate Park for you: a bastion of sanity in a golf world gone mad.

Golfweek, Feb. 15, 2023, “Golden Gate Park GC Opens in San Francisco with Fresh Course, Big Plans”: 

"By opening up the property, golfers have more room to play and the turf has far better sunlight and air circulation. Golfers can now enjoy views of the ocean as well as the city at multiple spots throughout the round... We wanted the entire facility to be maintained at fairway height so a ball will roll. Now golfers can play the ball on the ground and make use of exciting contours that dance across the property."

Firepit Collective, The Rebirth of Golden Gate Park Golf Course (3-part video series):

"When you think about the best par-3 courses, whether it’s the Preserve at Bandon or the Sand Box at Sand Valley, more often than not they are at a destination golf course where the clientele is going to be wealthy golfers taking a buddies trips. Here, we feel we have an opportunity to offer an equal caliber of quality and excitement. And yet the folks who play here range from age 5-95, and come from all sorts of economic backgrounds. Many are beginners who will play their first round of golf here. It is truly a municipal golf course for the people of San Francisco, but we feel we can give them something that people will travel around the world to see...

"In all of Burke’s public pitches, the First Tee was front and center. “Our demographics reflect the San Francisco Unified school district,” he says. “It has a high percentage of underserved kids and is a very diverse community.” The renovation at Golden Gate would give these kids the facility they deserve and secure their access for the next 15 years, while also serving the larger golf community and upgrading a city asset… all paid for with donor money. It would be a model of public-private partnership. Who could possibly quibble with such a win-win?"

Firepit Collective, Golden Gate Park Hole-by-Hole (Architect’s) Tour, Matt Ginella, Jay Blasi: