NCGA Golf

FALL 2017

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L ike a dear old friend with whom you may have had a tussle or two through the years, like the family dog who may be limping in his old age, like your favorite vinyl record that may have a scratch, I posit that a scruffy, soggy, imperfect golf course can own your heart. Hello there, San Francisco's Lincoln Park. How ya been, trusted pal o' mine? If golf courses could talk, I'm sure Lincoln Park would answer: "How am I? I'm a little unkempt, I'm 100 years old, I feel a little soft at times, but other than that ... no complaints. It's nice to be alive." And that, fellow duffers, is how you feel when you play Lincoln Park. You feel alive. Tucked into San Francisco's glorious northwest corner, Lincoln Park was born as a three-hole course in 1902, grew to nine holes by 1909, then reached full puberty as an 18-hole track in 1918. For a century, it has afforded golfers spectacular moments of grace — breathe deeply and ponder existence from the vista on the 17th tee, the edge of the North American continent. It also has afforded frustrating moments of molar grinding, like when you can't find your golf ball amid the overgrown dandelions, or when a lack of drainage leaves your golf shoes and trouser cuffs mud-caked, heavy and messy. Golf course architecture, highlighted in this issue in so many glorious forms, can afford pleasures in many ways. It's not always a carefully-crafted A.W. Tillinghast gem, or a classic Alister MacKenzie layout that stirs the golf soul. Sometimes, the disheveled can be beautiful, too. So many easily-noted flaws exist to argue against Lincoln, to say that Lincoln Park's "architecture" leaves you wanting in many respects. MacKenzie wrote his 13 design principles—and Lincoln Park, red-faced, violates a fair few. MacKenzie advocates "no hill climb- ing." By the time you clamber up the 15th fairway at Lincoln, you'll reach for both your putter and an oxygen tank. MacKenzie also advocates "little walking" between holes; and yet at Lincoln, the stroll from No. 2 green to No. 3 tee almost requires a Fitbit to count your steps. So is Lincoln Park the equivalent of a face only a mother could love? The answer to golf course architec- ture questions is a multi-layered and subjective beast. Where some see shortcomings, others see a prepon- derance of good. Love, even of a golf course, is a many splendored thing. Is Lincoln Park strategic? Club choice is a constant question — driver on the 316-yard first? Blast away at the 321-yard fourth? And the tee shot on the fifth, the 359-yard No. 1 handicap, requires finesse and power. Is Lincoln Park playable? At a manageable 5,416 yards from the tips, a resounding yes. Does Lincoln Park require shot-making? Your tee shots on the 239-yard, par-3 16th, and the 203-yard, par-3 12th; your second shot to the raised green on the 268-yard, par-4 10th; your decision off the tee on the 265-yard, par-4 11th prove that the combined works of Jack Neville, Herbert Fowler and Jack Fleming get your brain working. But perhaps most important of all, in terms of sating the soul, does Lincoln Park fit the lay of the land? Is it aesthetically pleasing? To that, I answer: Does the fog creep into San Francisco on little cat feet? Up and down the hills you go, through the cypress trees, into bursts of open space, chilled fog filling the lungs, breeze blasting the face. All around you to the south and east, one of the world's great cities bustles along; to your north, the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge stands sentinel, while the mesmerizing currents of the San Francisco Bay flow out to the Pacific, and the sun melts westward. The Legion of Honor, a world-class art museum, frames the 6th tee box and the backdrop of the 10th green. Only in San Francisco, right? Don't bother searching Golf Digest'slist of America's Top 100 golf course for Lincoln Park. It's not even close. But it's a workingman's paradise, an affordable oasis in an increasingly overpriced city. It has seen The City grow and change for a century—and that matters. Let's go stand on No. 17 tee and toast to another century, to a place where the golf is imperfectly perfect. Brian Murphy hosts the KNBR morning show "Murph and Mac" and was the San Francisco Chronicle's golf writer from 2001–2004. 72 FALL 2017 | NCGA.ORG Our Little Muni by the Bay BY BRIAN MURPHY

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