Presidio is not far from San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. But William Gladstone Merchant and Bernard Maybeck’s striking building is not the only artwork in the neighborhood. Presidio’s bunkers were artfully designed by the firm of Suny Zokol (and shaped, in most cases, by course superintendent Brian Nettz). They have a classic ragged look, accentuated by fescue-like wisps on the edges. At 6481 yards from the longest tees, the course needs some defense and much of that defense is provided by sand.
Though Presidio’s bunkers are indeed, things of beauty, they are challenging and best avoided. Some have claimed that even Harry Houdini would have trouble making an escape from some. While I acknowledge such an argument, its proponents need to understand that there’s no rule that says a bunker escape must be made by striking the ball toward the green. And, of course, strategic thinking about one’s approach shot may dictate that such bunkers are best be avoided at all costs—even if that means directing a shot to the edge—or even off—of the green.
The course dates to 1895 but the current routing is likely the 1921 work of Herbert Fowler—designer of such gems as Eastward Ho!, Walton Heath and Cruden Bay—and his student, Tom Simpson. The course is laid out over typically hilly San Francisco land. Fortunately the uphill holes are short (averaging 362 yards for the par 4s from the back tees). The two longest par 4s average 436 but each benefits from a severely downhill tee shot.
Presidio is an enjoyable course and easily the finest located in an American national park. (This is damning with faint praise as the only other one I’m aware of, Yosemite’s Wawona course, is as close to a bad golf course as there is. My definition of a bad course is rather liberal: It’s one where you’d prefer to be at work than playing.)
Date: November 28, 2019