Golden Gate Park GC reopens in San Francisco with fresh course, big plans as community asset

Feb, 2024

Editor’s note: Architect Jay Blasi works with Golfweek as a rater ambassador and contributes occasional stories.

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Golden Gate Park Golf Course is what is right about golf. It is accessible, affordable, playable, sustainable and charitable.

Most importantly, it is repeatable. Every city in America, big or small, could have its own version of Golden Gate Park, and our communities and our game would be better off for it.

The course officially reopens Friday, Feb. 16 after The First Tee of San Francisco invested $2.5-million in a 2023 renovation that I had the good fortune to design.

Perched on a small parcel packed with sand dunes and majestic cypress trees just a few hundred yards from the Pacific Ocean, the course is expected to host 40,000+ rounds a year. Highlights and results of the work include each of the following:

Accessible: The course is located in San Francisco, within Golden Gate Park, a few hundred yards from the beach. Golfers can arrive on foot, by bike, by bus or by car. The course is nine holes of par 3s and is an easy walk for all. The clubhouse and practice greens will be open to all and are certain to become a community hub.

Affordable: The course will cost between $20 and $25 for locals or around $40 to $50 for out-of-town guests. Children – including those who participate in First Tee or Youth on Course programs – will pay even less. That’s compared to $75 to $120 at several other top par-3 layouts.

Playable: The tees, fairways and surrounds are all maintained at fairway height, and there are no forced carries. The course plays firm and fast, so balls roll – even topped shots. Players of all skill levels, including first-timers, will be able to enjoy the course. It can be played with just a putter if golfers want to try it.

Sustainable: The smaller footprint and use of fescue turf will make Golden Gate Park Golf Course one of the most efficient users of water and chemicals in the U.S. golf industry. The single height of grass allows the maintenance team to mow the whole facility quickly. The use of only one formal bunker means all raking can be done in one minute.

Charitable: The First Tee makes the course available to its students for practice and play. The kids are learning valuable lessons that will enrich the community for decades to come. By investing in the course and offering an architecturally interesting layout, beginners will get hooked on the game.

Repeatable: Golden Gate Park Golf Course sits on only 20 acres of land. It was designed in a way that the man-hour equivalent of 2.5 employees can maintain the course. The money invested in the course came from wealthy local golfers and corporations that wanted to support underprivileged kids through golf. This formula can work in New York, Dallas, Denver, Seattle and Atlanta. It also can work in smaller towns in every region of the country.

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