The Takeaway: Not just a special golf course, SFGC is like a trip to a museum. The historic club features the country's best locker room, a top shelf front nine, and one of the most universally appealing routings anywhere. An invitation to play SFGC is to be treasured. Grade A
Designer: A.W. Tillinghast in 1915
Phone Number: 415-469-4122
Directions: Get here! - 1310 Junipero Serra Blvd, San Francisco, California 94132 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: San Francisco Golf Club is one of the great and most historic clubs in America. SFGC takes you back to the roots of golf with club-carrying caddies, no carts, and no yardage markers. Don't expect to see your caddie pulling out a rangefinder to check your yardage, those aren't allowed, caddies simply give you the number based on their vast experience at the course. In fact, each time I've played SFGC I've had caddies with over 30 years of taking loops around the course. The locker room is unquestionably one of the most unique experiences in golf with 100 year old lockers and a vibe like no other place I've been. So historic looking is the locker room that upon entering you'd swear you are going to run into Bobby Jones or Walter Hagen. Masterfully designed by A.W. Tillinghast in 1915, SFCC is a beautiful parkland course that tries to be one thing and one thing only; a pure golf experience. The front nine at SFGC is absolutely fantastic with brilliant use of the natural terrain and several standout holes. The back nine isn't near as good as the front, particularly holes 13-17, which holds it back from being an elite layout. Obviously the course is exceptionally good and has long been revered as a top 25 course, but the club's history and vibe carry it to its status more than just the layout itself. The routing is perfect on the front and very good on the back to create one of the easiest walks in golf. Majestic Monterey Cypress and Pine trees line the wide fairways while additional foliage gives beauty and variety to the property. You won't have to encounter any water hazards throughout the day, but numerous large bunkers along with gentle doglegs and soft elevation changes will be the call of the day. The feature that most players will walk away appreciating the most at San Francisco Golf Club are the greensites with top shelf undulations and bunkering. Ultimately, while SFGC is one of the finest old school experiences in all of golf, Cal Club owns the distinction as the best golf course in the Bay Area.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 7th Hole – 189 Yard Par 3 – The most iconic hole at San Francisco Golf Club, the downhill par three 7th plays to a two-tiered green with bunkers surrounding the putting surface everywhere but immediately in front. Made famous due to being the site of the final legal duel in California, a monument marks the spot where Senator David Broderick lost to California Supreme Court Justice David Terry in 1859. At one point Golf Digest recognized this hole as the 7th best one-shotter in the country. This quality offering is the beginning of an exceptional three hole stretch.
Best Par 3: 11th Hole – 160 Yards – A quality one-shotter, the 11th features beautiful bunkering along with towering trees creating the backdrop. Playing dead south, a trio of bunkers surround the putting surface while a fourth bunker sits well short and right of the green and would only come into play on the poorest of tee shots. The putting surface is twice as deep as it is wide with the front third sloping forward and the back third sloping to the back. Length isn't the challenge here, it is accuracy and touch that will be needed to conquer it.
Best Par 4: 8th Hole – 378 Yards – The variety of par fours at SFGC is one of its strong points, however it is this author's opinion that the 378 yard 8th hole, seen in the background of the 7th hole photo above, edges out the strategic 410 yard 10th as the finest two shot hole at the course. Working with the natural terrain, Tillinghast placed the tee box 50 feet below the green on this hole where length isn't the difficult part, it is accuracy and the demanding approach shot to an elevated green that is both slick and undulated. Doglegging to the left off the tee, the fairway is narrow with a steep hill along the left side and thick trees and brush along the right side. A caddie's advice on pin placement is critical when hitting to this green where the majority of the putting surface isn't visible to the golfer and where three putts care certainly more common than birdies.
Best Par 5: 9th Hole – 582 Yards – Capping off a wonderful stretch of holes on the front nine is the long 582 yard 9th hole. Virtually impossible to reach in two, while playing at Stanford Tiger Woods went driver-driver to come within 15 yards of the green, but still short. For the average human, all you should be concerned with is avoiding the 12 bunkers in play throughout the hole. Your tee shot needs to avoid the series of bunkers on either side of the fairway in the landing zone before having to take your second shot over the high-lipped bunkers that encroach the right side of the fairway. The final shot drops down to a green that has to be attacked from the right side of the hole in order to best take the four surrounding bunkers out of play. A beautiful hole on a beautiful course and the perfect way to finish the front nine.
Birdie Time: 1st Hole – 522 Yard Par 5 – Hopefully you visited the range before teeing off on the 1st hole because that is your best chance for a birdie on the day. A modest 522 yards, the hole is reachable in two and also provides one of the widest fairways at SFGC in which to swing away at. Aim at the right side of the bunker that encroaches the middle of the fairway with your tee shot and then keep your approach shot(s) on the right side of the fairway in order to have the best angle of attack at the green and a chance to start your round one under.
Bogey Beware: 17th Hole – 432 Yard Par 4 – Shot shaping is critical on the 17th hole, a 432 yard two-shotter. There is a sharp dogleg right where a bunker rests on the left corner awaiting tee shots that don't work left to right with the hole. Shots that work too far right have a high probability of finding trouble in the grove of mature trees engulfing the right side of the dogleg. Your approach shot will be haunted by a large bunker well short and right of the green, a green length bunker down the right side of the green, a series of three bunkers stalking the left side of the green, and troublesome trees luring behind the green. Scoring par on this hole will be an excellent momentum boost heading into the finishing hole of the day at a wonderful golf course.