Guide to qualifying for the San Francsico City

There is a difference between a 36 hole qualifier and the strategy required to be successful in match play. Today I’ll cover my tips to qualifying at Lincoln Park and Harding Park I’ll cover tomorrow. Today’s featured amateur is Ray Pellegrini who I believe has qualified for match play in the SF City over 30 consecutive times (I believe last year may have broken his incredible streak). Personally I’ve made it through to match play over 25 times, missing just twice. Let’s start by thinking about the task at hand, which is to be in the top 63 in the qualifier. Historically this qualifier has been played under tough conditions, which is reflective in the high qualifying scores. The scores even seem higher relative to par at Lincoln park as opposed to Harding. It’s very simple- YOU MUST HAVE TREMENDOUS PATIENCE AT LINCOLN PARK, and know that you will be rewarded with many horrible lies and putts that will bounce and carom all over the place.

Last year my goal was to AGAIN try to win the medalist honors which has eluded me for 30+ years. It seems I never can quite close the deal, especially with the tough finishing holes at Lincoln Park. Last year I finished at Lincoln in extremely tough conditions (high wind and rain) and was able to card an even par 68 that enabled me to finish in a tie for medalist (after a playoff, I had my 1st medalist position in the city). The approach is to qualify and move on into match play- hence taking undo risk is foolish. Having played with hundreds of other qualifiers, I am always taken aback by some of the foolish strategy I’ve witnessed in a qualifier.

This is how I approach playing Lincoln on an average day, when my body feels average, and the course is in average condition for Lincoln. #1 a straight away uphill par four – 316 yards This may be the toughest 316 yd par four in the world for many reasons- the tee shot is NOT as wide open as it seems from the tee, if you stray to the right you will be blocked out by the daunting tree that protect the right side of the green. There is ample room left off the tee, but some tree limbs stick out a bit that visually steer a player right. STAY left off the tee, and hit whatever club you have the MOST confidence in (hopefully a 3 metal or driver). This is not a hole you want more than 100 yard approach shot into. The green can be very difficult to hit as the approach shot is steeply uphill and it plays a good 10 yards longer than the distance. Sometimes the green is actually firm, which makes going long a possibility. Your goal here is to make a 4 and I’m sure most are quite pleased walking off this green with par. (my personal stroke average on this hole must be at least 4.5)

#2 this hole changed to #2 after originally being #12 but wisely they re-routed the course to eliminate the log jam on the old #2 which is now #12 a par three up the hill. #2 is only 257 yards long, and is a hole I believe should be attacked with a 3 wood or driver. If the wind is not blowing hard in your face, this is easily reachable off the tee with ample room right since the trees have been thinned significantly on the right side. Hard left is the miss, and this two tired green gives players fits- 90%+ of the players don’t get their second shot back to the second tier, which is a big mistake (and can lead to a 3 putt) you want to be aggressive with your shot if you don’t drive the green and get the ball on the back tier (which is usually where the pin is placed). This uphill putt is especially slow and requires a good firm whack to get the ball all the way to the hole.

#3 156 yard par 3 – What a hole….it only takes one time to remember how punishing this little par three is if you lose your shot right and go OB, now looking at a 5 or 6. The green area is actually quite generous which is deceiving from the tee box. Usually this is a 7 or 8 iron to the left center of the green. Be careful as the tee box aims you right, make sure you get properly aligned here. Many shots also get snagged by the large tree guarding the left side of the green.I’d rather challenge the tree than flirt with the OB.Take a par 3 here and move on!!

#4 321 par 4 – the mistake usually made here is players bail out left, and get stuck behind a group of trees that look Innocent off the tee. There is more room right than you can see from the tee. I take dead aim at the green and always hit driver to ensure I’m down the hill with a short shot to the green. This is always a tough fairway to draw a decent lie, so don’t get freaked out if you have a thin muddy lie, with a back left pin sitting on the ridge. This will be a very challenging shot, but focus on getting the ball to the back left level, leaving a more reasonable putt. Come up short and a very tough two putt awaits you. This is historically a VERY slow green. Make a 4 here and happily walk up the hill to the 5th tee!

#5 359 par 4 – a long par four (at Lincoln), but most likely will be a wedge off a steep side hill lie that can create some real challenges. 90% of the time the pin will be middle left (sucker pin) off the side hill lie, I don’t suggest taking dead aim at a left pin that has roughly half the landing area that you’ll have at the middle of the green. OB looms over the green, and a shot short of the green leaves a challenging chip shot. This is a hole to take caution on and get your second shot on the middle of the green for a relatively easy two putt.

#6 285 par 4 – I always suffer over being aggressive on this hole, but the risk doesn’t warrant the potential reward, the more club you choose the more of a cut shot will be required. The safe bet is a 3 or 4 iron off the tee leaving a good yardage to the pin. Again this second shot requires some precision and thought. Usually with a back right pin, a shot to the middle right is the smart play. Going long here can result in a very high score and is not worth the risk. For those taking a more aggressive club off the tee have a better chance to get a ball back to the pin. Again…a 4 is not a bad score here!!

#7 334 par four – this can be a very challenging hole with trouble right and trees left. If you have great confidence in your driver, then a solid drive aimed at the Transamerica Tower is a good line. Any tee shot over the hill is going to leave a tricky downhill shot that is tough to judge. I think this is a good hole for a 3 medal off the tee leaving a 60-80 yard second shot. The pin historically is in the back left of the green, and again I would error on the cautious side and take a solid 4 here and move on. As you can tell I haven’t bothered giving any information on the greens. The greens are all relatively flat and very slow. There are some exceptions, but for the most part your approach shots will not travel far from their pitch marks.

#8 170 yard downhill par 3 – typically this hole plays approx 10-15 yards downhill and requires a solid shot to be aimed at the middle of the green. Historically the pin will be back-middle left which sets up well for a shot aimed at the middle of the green. A poor miss left can lead to a ball OB and mistake that should be avoided. Again, take a 3 here and move to the ninth tee.

#9 309 uphill par 4- You don’t need a driver here- hit your straight club here as a shot left or right will cause problems. I usually hit a 3 wood and have some sort of a sand wedge left. This hole will play 10 yards uphill and most players come up well short here. The pin is typically back left and you will want to attack this pin for a good chance at a 3 to finish off the front nine. If you shoot 3 or 4 over on the front, don’t despair, there will be plenty of opportunities on the back nine to make up some shots.

#10 268 uphill par 4 – here you have an excellent chance to get a shot back, but don’t just wail on a shot, a miss left can lead to disaster and is NOT the place to miss a shot. There is a lot of room right, and actually gives a player a decent angle to a pin that is usually on the left side of the green. If you don’t have the length to reach this green, lay back at the bottom of the hill leaving an easier shot than from the steep sloping hill. Making a 4 here is okay, don’t get inpatient leading to the next tee shot.

#11 265 dogleg left downhill par 4 – I see more bogey 5’s than I see birdie 3’s on this hole. The most common mistake I see will be players being overly aggressive with a big club and not hooking the ball enough. This will lead to trouble and is completely unnecessary. You want to hit a shot about 200 yards leaving a more full second shot to a back left pin. The closer you get to this green, the tougher the shot and lie normally is..remember this is a qualifier, and making a 5 on a 265 yd par 4 is not a good momentum builder.

#12 203 uphill par 3 – this dandy hole will always play tough with the uphill against the wind solid strike that is required here. The pin is ALWAYS back middle, and a shot that’s short will be a very tough par. I usually play the hole at least at 220 if not 230 and usually hit a 19 degree rescue club that is usually enough stick to get the ball to the back tier of the green. This green does have some slope and side slope and tends to break more than what you’ll see. If you have either a left to right or right to left putt, I suggest playing a little more break on your putt. Make a 3 here and enjoy the walk up the hill to the 13th tee.

#13 500 yard downhill par 5 – mentally I play this hole as a par 4 and actually play the course as a par 65 (playing #2 and #10 as long par 3). This hole requires a solid drive down the left center of the fairway. With the damp fairways don’t expect to get down the hill, but you should still only have approx 200 yards to this generous target. Most players come up significantly short here, so make sure you take enough club, and don’t subtract for the downhill…it will play the yardage. Making a solid 4 here will set you up well for the holes to come!

#14 259 dogleg left uphill par 4 – forget about trying to drive this hole, doing so would be foolish. You want to hit a club that you can move right to left, don’t miss long right here. A shot typically over hooked is always better than a miss to the right. You most likely will be left with a sloping hanging hook lie with about 50-80 yards to a back pin. I stopped trying to hit my 60 degree sand wedge a long time ago. I now use my 54 degree wedge which usually allows me to get my shot back to the pin. A shot left way short usually results in a bad bogey. Play smart here and make no worse than a 4.

#15 282 uphill par 4 – most likely you’ll be hitting into a head wind, with the landing area resembling quick sand (be careful). This would be a good time to send your caddie ahead to 4 caddie, as balls can disappear quite easily on this hole. Be careful hitting driver as a ball left or right can find the trouble quick. Why take the risk when this really isn’t a drivable par 4 hit a 3 medal and give yourself a shot at a 3. The pin historically will be positioned in the back of the green.

#16 239 downhill par 3 – this starts one of the best stretches of golf anywhere- if you can finish par,par, par on these three holes, you’ve hit many quality shots. Playing these holes 1 over would be great!! this is some what of a blind tee shot that requires you to aim at something in the distance. It’s amazing how many guys will miss this green right, leaving a very difficult up and in. This is NOT a draw hole off the tee, but a slight faded shot fits best. The downhill shot still requires at least a 225 club which should be fired at the middle of the green. The pin is almost always on the back right flat spot, which makes a right miss even more challenging. Take a 3 here and be thrilled, a four will be the average score on this tough hole.

#17 slightly downhill 240 yard par 3 – this hole actually plays the distance despite appearing to be downhill. But be aware of taking a club that would get you to the back of this green, as that club also brings OB into play both left and right. If you feel you need a par/par finish to qualify then take the bigger club, but if you are in a comfortable position, don’t risk making a 6 here. I have seen just about everything imaginable happen on this hole- { a player hit a practice shot into the ocean and got a two shot penalty, I saw a guy hook a ball and have a jogger kick it back in bounds, I saw a guy hit two consecutive shots that stayed up in the tree on the right, I saw a guy fan a drive right that hit a car and bounced back in play, I saw a guy hit a shot short of the green and have the ball plug so bad that we never found it} take a 4 here and just remember that you probably still played the hole average.

#18 straight away 383 par 4 – this is a great finishing hole, and I always hit driver here. usually a right center drive will roll back left to the middle of the fairway. A 120-140 shot is usually what’s left to this blind green, that usually has a back left pin. This is a generous green and a shot to the middle is all that’s needed. Make a solid 4 here to finish your round. FINAL COMMENTS- I find playing this course in my mind before I tee off to be quite helpful. I enjoy my 1 round a year at Lincoln, and I take the opportunity to look at the spectacular vistas throughout the round. The course plays tough for everyone, everyone will most likely 3 putt and draw a few bad lies…so just enjoy the scenery and take advantage of your opportunities that you WILL have on this fun short course- GOOD LUCK!!

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