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 redesigned the layout in the 1960s then Rees Jones rebuilt greens and bunkers in 1996.
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.