Jan 8, 2024by - San Francisco Public Golf Alliance
2023 was a good year for Bay Area public golf and golfers. A few highlights:
Golden Gate Park Nine Restoration. San Francisco’s smallest golf course – the Golden Gate Park Nine – made news early and late in 2023. In February, the SF Board of Supervisors approved a long-term management agreement for the GGP Nine between the Rec & Park Department and an affiliate of the First Tee of San Francisco. Under terms of that agreement, First Tee was required to complete a $2.5 Million restoration of the 70-year-old golf course, located 300 yards inland from Ocean Beach at the far west end of the Park. The City agreed to renovate the Clubhouse, which burned down in a 2017 arson fire. The parties intended that both the clubhouse and the golf course would be ready for public opening by Fall 2023. The golf course restoration came in on time, under budget and spectacular, and has garnered early rave previews in the golfing press including Josh Sens' Golf.com article "In a golf world gone mad, this tiny par-3 has a story to celebrate":
"Early last week, Blasi was back at Golden Gate GC, grounds he has visited a bunch in recent months as he and his design team were wrapping up a $2.5 renovation that didn’t cost the city a cent... In its reborn form, the course has been stripped to its more rustic beginnings, with layers of soil peeled back to expose sandy wastes. Trees have been removed to open ocean vistas. Fescue has been planted — the turf of classic links. Teeing areas have been expanded. Greens have been enlarged and energized with contour. And new irrigation now underpins it all... 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."
But Rec & Park missed its Clubhouse construction deadline, and as of year-end 2023 the clubhouse remains unfinished and the course remains unopened to public play, with no completion / opening date announced.
A permanent history exhibit was installed in March 2023 at the Sharp Park Clubhouse, with photos plaques and text describing Alister MacKenzie’s architectural career and his construction in the early 1930’s of the landmark Sharp Park Golf Course. The history exhibit is a donation by San Francisco Public Golf Alliance to the SF Rec & Park Department. In addition to MacKenzie, plaques memorialize Sharp Park’s role in the mid-1950’s in the racial integration of public golf, and honor the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee for his contributions to San Francisco public golf, including renovation of Harding Park, championing Women’s Golf, bringing back professional golf tournaments to San Francisco, and saving Sharp Park in 2011 from an ill-begotten attempt to close the course.
The first week in May 2023 brought the top women professional golfers from around the world for a team golf competition – The International Crown Tournament -- presented by Hanwa Life, a Korean financial services company. This was the first professional tournament played in San Francisco since the 2020 Men’s PGA Championship, and the first time Harding has hosted a women’s pro event. Seven of the world’s top 10 woman pros competed in the event, which was won by Team Thailand. There is talk that Hanwa is interested in returning the semi-annual event to San Francisco in the future, at either Harding or the Lake Merced Club.
On a remarkably warm and beautiful late Fall Sunday, the Golf Alliance brought back its annual Alister MacKenzie fundraising tournament, after a 3-year Covid break. A full field, excellent course conditions, and a golf auction stacked with great golf clubs and resorts from Coast to Coast, The Ninth Annual Alister MacKenzie Tournament to Save Sharp Park was by far the strongest ever.
In the Chinese zodiac, 2024 is the Year of the Dragon: a year of prosperity and success. San Francisco Park & Rec’s 2023 long-term management agreement for the Golden Gate Park Nine sets the table for similar long-term agreements for management of the City’s other municipal Courses. The City’s management agreements have expired at Sharp, Lincoln, and McLaren, and all three courses are now being operated month-to-month. This irresponsible management practice has for years been noted and criticized by the Mayor’s Budget Office and every Rec & Park management consultant. The Year of the Dragon, 2024, will be a propitious year for the City to follow-up on its successful GGP Nine lease with similar long-term management agreements at the City’s other public golf courses.