Golden Gate Park Golf Course, Reborn

San Francisco’s beloved par-3 course is being upgraded to better serve the community’s golfers, including First Tee kids

By Alan Shipnuck
July 13, 2023

Tucked into a corner of one of America’s greatest urban parks, hard by the Pacific Ocean, in the shadow of San Francisco’s celebrated windmills, the Golden Gate Park Golf Course has been a treasured local secret since 1951. The par-3 course is a community gathering place and portal into the game for many beginners. Now, under the stewardship of the First Tee – San Francisco and the city’s Parks and Rec Dept., the course is being reimagined.

Golden Gate Park GC has been shuttered since March for significant maintenance work. Thanks to the generosity of several First Tee – SF supporters, the $2.5 million project includes a new state-of-the-art irrigation system and an improved environmental and agronomic footprint (less water, less mowing). Course architect Jay Blasi (below, middle) is enhancing playability with more teeing areas while making the expanded greens more fun and interesting. With the course situated only a couple of blocks from the beach, Blasi has restored several native sand areas to improve drainage and reduce maintenance costs while amplifying GGP’s sense of place. “As an architect, you dream of finding a site like this with rolling dunes and beautiful cypress trees,” says Blasi. “We think this can be one of the best par-3 courses in the country, but golfers won’t have to travel to an expensive, far-flung destination—it’s right here in the heart of a great city.”

GGP group shot jpg

The First Tee – San Francisco has operated GGP since 2013 as a key program site for underserved youth. The course renovation is part of a new long-term operating lease, securing an important program location for up to 15 years. Just as Sandy Tatum revived nearby Harding Park, the First Tee is giving a tired course a much-needed makeover at no cost to the city or its residents. “It’s a huge win for the community,” says Dan Burke (above, right), the CEO of FTSF. “The spirit of Sandy Tatum lives on as we’re investing in a golf course that everyone will be able to enjoy, particularly the First Tee kids.”

The project is being overseen by Josh Lewis, the former superintendent at Chambers Bay who is now a partner at Gradoville and Hertzing Management Group. Lewis (above, left) is managing the grow-in of the fine fescue turf and will be collaborating with city workers on a long-term maintenance program to ensure optimal playability. 

Here at the Fire Pit Collective, we have been documenting the work on GGP since March. Plenty of content is to come, but for now the grass, and anticipation, continues to grow. “We can’t wait for the golf world to discover this place,” says Blasi. “It’s rare to be able to give everyday golfers a world-class experience that is inexpensive and accessible. We think this is going to be the kind of course where people fall in love with the game.”

GGP sand scaled

6 thoughts on “Golden Gate Park Golf Course, Reborn”

  1. Got to play this course with a random bag of mismatched rental clubs about 15 years ago, you could see a glimpse of the ocean from a couple of holes, couldn’t have cost more than about $20, had a ball.

  2. Very cool to have 2 First Tee chapters leading the way when it comes to accessible municipal golf, with this project on the west coast and the Richmond chapter leading Belmont’s rebirth on the east.

  3. Excellent news for First Tee and people who might want to play a quick round of fun golf and then visit the Beach Chalet for a nice nibble while looking over the beach with a beverage.

  4. Thanks for this article. A great project, for sure, and also worth noting over 5,000 rounds since 2020 have been played on this course for only $5 as this is one of 2,000 Youth on Course partner golf courses!! #yoc

  5. Great project. Congratulations at all involved. Very envious as I have rediscovered an original and untouched Harry Colt layout in Derby city centre in the UK. Forced to close and abandoned by its local authority owners despite a remarkable history and proven provenance. It features a globally unique water feature. Tee box on an island in the centre of a lake accessed by footbridges.The only known example in the world. Developed using the Colt Country Club concept replicated at St Georges hill, Wentworth, Ham Manor and Effingham. Allestree built in 1929 was the 5th.Quite a family golfing pedigree but Allestree is seen as worthless by its current owners! First junior member becomes a Ryder Cup player and Captain.Can be linked DIRECTLY to the creation of Augusta National as its first professional was poached from Cavendish GC and he was present supporting Dr Mackenzie for its first 5 years of life. Many of the holes later copied at Augusta. He was a runner up in the 1926 Open to Bobby Jones.Direct links to Hirono gc and the major Japanese courses created by C H Alison during his visit that led to the rebirth of Japanese golf. Happy to provide more information about this remarkable story.

  6. Raymond H Koobatian Jr

    I learned the game of golf at Golden Gate Park Golf Course. I met my wife at Golden Gate Park Golf Course. It holds a special place in my heart and I will always return to play golf there no matter how many other golf courses I encounter. I remember first playing there and saying to myself I could play this course for the rest of my life. Its a place that is dear to my heart and I look forward to returning there with my wife when it reopens in the fall.

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