We‚??re on the move again. Day 134 started with us packing all our kit up and into the Dodge van in preparation to leave San Francisco. We bid farewell to our host Fi (and what a host she has been!) and made our way along the freeway to the San Francisco Golf Club.
As we pulled in to this wonderfully traditional club, the Dodge was very much out of place. ¬†Our world is one of huge contrasts at the moment. So we parked on the edge of the carpark..
We were hosted at the club by an old friend of Jamie‚??s family named Peter Gardener. A real gentleman.¬† Peter didn‚??t manage to play but made the trip around the course in a cart giving us various tips and imparting his deep local knowledge (learnt from 35 years of membership) along the way.¬† He proved superb at reading putts and was even kind (or sympathetic) enough to give me a putting lesson.¬†¬† Definitely a man to be listened to, and I dare say he would have given us a lesson on how to play the course had he been able to. We're staying with Pete and his wife Jill tonight after golf which promises to be a fine evening of Scottish and English hospitality.¬†
We were also joined by Mr Tom Klein, another member of SFGC and also the Chairman of the local First Tee chapter.¬† Tommy has various strings to his bow, being a fine golfer, in the wine industry and was part of the inaugural US Eagles Rugby side in the 70's. They beat Canada, and even the NZ Universities side. ¬† Tom played with a caddy and we were told that all senior members take a caddy along for the walk. This is a hugely different experience to what we are used to down-under with a number of caddies hanging around by the first tee waiting for a bag for the day.
It was great to hear from Tom all about The First Tee in San Francisco. ¬†They have set up a satellite base at an urban high school to make the program more accessible for those kids who could really benefit from it. It sounds like the local board of 35 does quite an excellent job at fundraising to support the program here. ¬†The local chapter was initially set up by a gentleman named Sandy Tatum who was once the USGA chairman and from all accounts is another fine man.¬†
Before I get into the golf let me digress. The photograph above with Peter (left) and Tom (right) is taken from a special part of the property. This is a plaque to recognise the last ever Duel in California (and possibly the US). The duel was between a local judge and the town sheriff. Two concrete blocks, 10 paces apart also sit below in the gully to the right of this short par three 7th to mark the exact places where the two men stood. I am not sure who survived, but the first bloke to fire, well, his gun didn't quite work so he was out of luck (and life). ¬†One of the members of SFGC recently salvaged the original gun and it is framed and up in the clubhouse, along with a raft of other amazing memorabilia.¬†
And so we went to the golf on a damp and foggy San Francisco day. With the Olympic Club across Lake Merced we were in the thick of First Rate golfing country. (Below is actually a shot looking down the 10th hole - a strong par four measuring around 400 yards. Jamie and I both just flew over the bunkers on the right leaving a mid iron in.)¬†
Despite being the third layout of the SFGC, the course has a very old feel to it. The grass is settled and lush, the rough is very thick and the bunkers settled. The design is our first experience of the work of Mr Tillinghast, who is a revered golf course designer in these parts. The story goes that when tasked with designing the course back in the 20‚??s he charged the club a fee of 100 pounds per day on top of as much scotch as he could drink. Sounds like he and Dr MacKenzie shared a few things in common!
The golf course is set in natural terrain that is perfect for golf ‚?? hence the 4 clubs within close proximity to here. When designed the course would have been sandy and the holes would have weaved through large sand hills, but over time the water supply has changed and it is now a lush course with deep green grass. The fairways here are as pure as we've encountered in the US.¬†
An example of the atmosphere that the natural sand hills give the course is on the 8th hole. This par four plays through a gully and then sharply uphill to a raised green.¬† As with most long holes on the course fairway bunkers make you really think about your tee shot. And of course each green is craftily protected by sand. But the bush-covered undulations on each side, like a gigantic halfpipe, really give this hole some atmosphere.
The course has recently been amended so that it more reflects its original design which had been tinkered with over the years. In particular a stretch on the back nine from 12 - 14 has been remodelled. This includes number 13 (below) which is called little tilly - a mere flip wedge from 130 yards onto the green but boy you need to be precise!
With the conditions as they were, you must need to strike the ball well to play this course as it plays long and hitting to the greens from the wet long rough is nigh on impossible. And Jamie hit it pure today - about as well as I have seen this year. He finished with a very respectable 77, +6. I had an 85 and came third in the split sixes match a wee way behind Tom.
Jamie's golf was even more impressive as there were no yardages and we were reliant on Tom‚??s caddy (and his friend Jack) to occasionally give us a distance to the pin. He also gave a few reads on the greens which did not always steer Jamie in the right direction! The greens have that traditional feel to them - no huge slopes but just subtle tilts which can make the greens very tricky to play if you are left on the short side, or above the hole. You need to take a second look at some putts or you can be made to look very foolish. The greens were not their speedy self today so the course was in a rather forgiving mood.
It was a real privilege to enjoy a round of golf here today, and a huge thank you to Peter, Tom and the membership for having us.¬†SFGC has a small membership (around 320) and the club seemed to have a very strong sense of camaraderie amongst the members. We were introduced to numerous other golfers in the Friday Gang, and afterwards met a number of them in the clubhouse. ¬†The clubhouse has the most amazing old world charm to it, with dice games left right and centre, shoes that come out waxed and polished and some fine service. But really words will not do it justice and not having the hide (or stupidity) to take the camera in, I will leave you all with a picture of the clubhouse looking up the 18th hole and leave to your imagination as to what it's like on the inside.¬†
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