I can vividly remember the last significant snow storm that hit sea level in the Bay Area back in 1976 (seems like yesterday) It was such a unique and beautiful sight that the images from it will always be with me. This Saturday morning the weather forecast is for snow showers in San Francisco that may create some interesting conditions at both Harding and Lincoln Park golf courses during round one of the 2011 San Francisco City qualifer.
Fortunately I’ll be playing the shorter Lincoln Park on Saturday, that may or may not be a good break. This storied event for the first time ever will qualify only 32 players into match play after the two qualifying rounds at Harding and Lincoln. The usual qualifying score of about 150 or 10 over par could be quite lower this year if the weather on Saturday isn’t too severe and cold. The whole strategy changes a bit with only half the spots available, which means extra care needs to be exercised when playing the short but tricky Lincoln Park course where a round can be derailed on the last 3 holes. The 16th hole is approx 225 yards downhill to a fairly narrow and small green. The trick here is to make NO more than bogey on this long and tough par three. It’s followed up with an even tougher 240 yard par three the 17th hole which has OB both right and left. The additional difficulty is the back up on these holes where you sometimes witness many poor shots, provision balls being hit, and the occasional player hiking back up the hill to re-tee one after a futile 5 minute hunt for his ball.
I recommend extreme caution while playing these holes and just be pleased with a 3/4 or 4/3 or even 4/4 which won’t destroy your chances. It’s all the horror stories of guys making 6’s and 7 on these holes that will take you out of the event with a poorly executed strategy that should begin with caution. Harding is a completely different strategy with a lot of bogeys lurking, with the exception of 18 which like 16 and 17 at Lincoln will produce its share of double bogeys and higher to ruin many’s chances for making match play. Again the prudent play here is NOT to challenge the left corner and trees, but take a safer line to the right and give yourself a longer shot into this tough green. A bogey here shouldn’t kill your chances unless you are on the bubble (but how will you really know).
Harding Park is primarily a drawers paradise (my personal opinion) as many of the holes force a draw for optimal positioning. I prefer to fade the ball with my driver, thus making Harding a challenging driving course for me. The holes that favor a draw or dead straight tee ball are 4,5,6,12,15,18. the lone fade hole is maybe 13 (which also can be a straight ball. Harding Park requires you to hit solid and accurate tee shost, giving you a good chance at getting a ball within 20 feet of the pin with an iron shot. The par three are challenging as well and are key holes in match play.
Like last year, I will be dissecting Harding Park next week with a hole by hole guide as to how I would play each hole in match play. I’ll have supporting pictures and other information on the greens and other tidbits on this great city course. I bailed on my practice round today with the cold front hitting, but will be back to tell you how Lincoln and Harding played over the weekend, and even perhaps some pictures of snow on these famed courses.