1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 7 (regular layout) / 4 (Presidents Cup)
Regular routing is a simple counter-clockwise interior loop for the front nine that returns to the clubhouse and a large clockwise exterior loop for the back. Presidents Cup routing is aimed at drama, but requires awkward long walks and doubling back.
2. Quality of feature shaping: 5
Everything from the mounds to the greens and bunkers betray a manufactured look.
3. Natural setting and overall land plan: 6
Set on an isthmus but would benefit from more exposure to the water.
4. Interest of greens and surrounding chipping contours: 7
Bentgrass/Poa surfaces offer low-key contours and slight decks, and every green has at least one tucked hole location.
5. Variety and memorability of par 3s: 6
Visual differentiation is not strong. Tough 164-yard 14th hole plays to a tiny green. The long, downhill 11th is the scariest, as the green falls out sharply on the left.
6. Variety and memorability of par 4s: 5
Good flexibility in length, but fairway bunkers are a minimal hazard on full drives, and there’s no strong incentive for playing sides of fairways to greens.
7. Variety and memorability of par 5s: 5
Demanding tee shots to secure proper position to go for the green in two, but the layup shots are indifferent.
8. Basic conditioning: 6
Dense bluegrass and perennial ryegrass turf, with light rough throughout. A fertilizer burn on several greens in mid-July is healing, but the second and 17th greens still will show damage around the edges.
9. Landscape and tree management: 7
Tall eucalyptus trees are very dramatic, with their high flat canopies looking like a serving tray held aloft in a waiter’s arm. Tall trees everywhere convey maturity, though the effect is also of uniformity rather than angles and variance in playing corridors.
10. “Walk in the park” test: 6
Elegant presentation, even if with too much sameness of feeling throughout. The welcome exception is Nos. 12-15, where doglegs bring the water closer to play and there finally are some angles that count.
Pleasant, functional and a shade below inspiring. But Bay Area public golf is better off with it than without it.
• • •
• 99 Harding Road, San Francisco, CA 94132, 415-664-4690; www.harding-park.com
• Owned and maintained by San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks
• Golf operations managed by Kemper Sports
• San Francisco resident card holders: $46-$59 (optional cart $13 per rider)
• Northern California resident rate: $89-$99 (optional cart included)
• Outside Northern California rate: $135-$155 (optional cart included)