2300 Jumipero Serra Blvd.,
California (CA) 94015,
- +1 650 755 2239
8 miles SW of downtown San Francisco
Members and Guests
The course at Lake Merced Golf Club has endured plenty of significant architectural input since Willie Lock first constructed it in 1923. Alister MacKenzie carried out work in 1929, Robert Muir Graves re-routed the layout in the 1960s then Rees Jones rebuilt greens and bunkers in 1996.
Highlight holes include the 183-yard 3rd (”Pine Cone”), played to a multi-tiered green; the 545-yard 9th (“Highway”), running alongside Interstate 280; the 335-yard 16th (“Alcatraz”), where the severely canted green is surrounded by four bunkers; and the 547-yard 18th (“Riverbed”), which bends gently right towards the home green.
Lake Merced has hosted two USGA championships: the 1990 U.S. Junior Amateur and the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior. It’s also staged a couple of tournaments on the women’s professional tour in recent years, namely the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic (from 2014 to 2016) and the LPGA Mediheal Championship (2018 and 2019).
In December 2019, the president of Lake Merced informed members that the club had authorized the hiring of Gil Hanse to prepare a master plan which will be presented to the members in the first half of 2021. Course-wise, bunkering will be the most visible focus of attention.
If one does not mind the traffic noise, this is a great place to play. As I exited the parking lot and came around the building to view the golf course, I could tell this was going to be something special. The course did not disappoint and after learning that Gil Hanse is about to get his hands on this place, I can’t wait to play it again. This is a great golf course already. However, I expect that it will shoot further up the rankings, as there is so much potential here and I feel pretty certain Gil and his team will not miss the mark. Renovations are set to commence in November of 2021 and will involve four phases, with a re-opening date scheduled for October 1 of 2022. In reading a bit of literature available near the clubhouse about this upcoming renovation, I noticed there is virtually no length being added to the course. Seems logical, as there is probably no where to go anyway and as we all know, there are many ways to achieve greatness without significant length. I also noted a significant number of references made to the attempt to restore areas of the course back to the original MacKenzie design, particularly green complexes. It seems so many times this is the case nowadays, i.e. Oakmont, Winged Foot, Merion, Los Angeles, Pinehurst, The Country Club. Makes one wonder why tinker with them to begin with.
This course has great bones, but Rees Jones really hurt this course. My playing and partner could see the potential, but left disappointed. I am excited to see what Gil Hanse does to this course because it can be spectacular if he is given freedom to do what he wants. I plan to come back and see the course again after he gets his hands on it.
LMGC is one of the most underrated golf courses in Northern California, which isn't surprising given its proximity to such luminaries as Olympic, Cal Club and SFGC. That being said, LMGC more than holds its own and the sum of its parts leads to a great round of golf.
The routing really maximizes the land in the best San Francisco way possible (meaning lots of great utilization of hills) which leads to intriguing second shots and fantastically maintained greens. The second hole best embodies this concept with a blind tee shot leading to a downhill second shot with great views of the surrounding area. Don't linger too longingly on those views because the green has some crazy undulations to navigate.
There is a bit of similarity between the 9s but I found each side to be very enjoyable, especially in the late afternoon. Do yourself a favor and play this course when the shadows start getting long, it is a visual treat!
Course has been remodelled several times since it’s inception in 1922, most recently by Rees Jones in 1997, a major redo of the green and tees with some fairway shaping. The poor 4th green and 8th greens were recently renovated and completed in February of 2018. LMGC plays from 5000 from the front tees to nearly 6800 yards from the tips. Currently hosts the LPGA Mediheal Championship and having recently hosted a 3-year run of the Swinging Skirts.
Conditioning is superb, much firmer and faster than San Francisco, Olympic or Cal Club (I have played extensively at all of these courses). Had read the previou review on the multiple grasses in the fairways, and this is not true. I’m a member and should know. Fairways and approaches play tight and the conditioning for divots is very good. Super came from LA Country Club, and it shows.
Unlike Harding and some other local tracks, the greens are made to repel approach shots and balls not well struck skip off greens or end up in bunkers. Plays easier in the morning, when the greens are slower due to morning moisture. Generally windy, cold and foggy, but this is the same conditions you would get at Harding Park, SFGC, Olympic or Cal Club(sunnier but windier). Plays much shorter than Harding or Olympic Lake but even with Cal and SFGC for ball flight and shot difficulty.
Shot selection forces right-left and left-right off the tees if you want to place the tee ball in the ideal position in the fairway. Approach shot placement is key for shorter putts (sorry, obvious, but read on). However, front pins here are death, making for downhill putts or tighter misses to green side bunkers.
Greens are kept at 11, 11.5-12.5 for tournament play (LPGA, amateur or club). Smaller in scale but larger than Pebble or SFGC generally. rough is kept to 1.5” ex tournaments, when it’s raised to 2.5-3”.
Bonus? Some of the best private club food in the State.
This is a very pretty piece of land, but not close to the lake, which is misleading by the name. It is surrounded by some of the most famous golf courses on earth, yet this place falls way behind them in terms of architectural prowess.
Before playing the course, I was surprised to read that the Top 100 website ranks it as 69th in the state, but after playing it, I wasn’t as shocked. The conditioning just isn’t up to par and parts of the course feel rough. Many of the fairways feel like they have been seeded with four different grass types which isn’t terribly attractive.
The MacKenzie architecture or influence is nonexistent. Lake Merced has gone through a lot of renovations and changes, which continue today and the course’s identity suffers from being changed by multiple architects each with their own style.