The Olympic Club has been part of the San Francisco scene since 1860. The original golf course there was redesigned, by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, in 1924 because more land was being acquired to make two 18 hole layouts. Both of which were redesigned again in 1927 due to storm damage. Another redesign was undertaken by Robert Trent Jones Senior, just prior to Olympic hosting its first US Open in 1955. There have been 5 US Opens held there 1955, 1966, 1987, 1998 and 2012.
The golf grounds are majestic. So is the experience. I emailed the golf club 3 weeks prior to my trip and was surprised to hear they allowed overseas visitors to play there. The chance to play an exclusive member only 5 time US Open golf course, yes please! I was informed of their policies about just about everything in the email and was also told I would be having a caddy assigned to me for the day. This would be a first for me. Although I have played lots of golf, Australia is just not the land of the paid caddy. I cannot understand why as my caddy was great. This is something that should catch on in Australia and there will be a link on our website for anyone wishing to have this unique experience.
From the moment I stepped onto the 1st tee, I was in golfing heaven. My Caddy, Earl, introduced me properly to my other 2 playing partners who were from Los Angeles. A father and son who were not only great company, but showed such generosity as to drive me back to my hotel that night. We even stopped for a meal and some drinks! That sort of generosity put my faith into American golfers. It is the reason I still think of America as my first destination for overseas golfing. After all, it’s the people that we enjoy sharing this game with that makes for a great day’s golf.
The par 71 course itself was amazing. It truly has US Open rough throughout every hole and if you miss fairways, expect not to be able to make greens. The 1st hole is a par 5 and gives you a great introduction to Olympic golf. The wide fairway and generous landing area for the second shot made me think this course would be a snap. An opening birdie made me feel even better. Special thanks to my caddy for giving me the line of the putt. The 2nd, a par 4 back up the hill was more difficult, as was the par 3 following that you do not miss right or you will struggle to even find your ball.
The dogleg 4th hole looks fantastic. A long drive is needed then as you turn the corner to look towards the green, you see an uphill blind shot that you will need more club than normal for. The 5th back downhill, the 6th a narrow driving hole, the 7th another par 4. Then the par 3 8th hole, which is the signature hole on the course. This 165-meter hole hits from an elevated tee, along a low valley to an elevated green. Don’t be fooled by the bunker short and left, there is plenty of room behind it before the green. The clubhouse stands in the background as you hit off and the caddy suggested we pose for photos in front of the house on the hill after we putted out.
The 9th has the phone where you can call up ahead to the half way café and order things like “a hot dog, hamburger, no cheeseburger, or just get nothing and love it.” The 10th is a sweeping right par 4, the 11th and 12th straight long par 4’s as well. Then the par 3 13th, the par 4 14th and then one of my favourite holes. The short 140 meter 15th. All you see is a bunker. It guards the entire front of the green and hides it from your view. My caddy informed me after I hit my shot that it was “pure Sir” and a birdie did follow.
Olympic is famous for its 16th hole. Until recently, the longest hole in US Open history. It’s a par 5 that is hard to describe. Off the tee it looks straight. Once on the fairway it looks like it doglegs a little left, but the further you go, the more you realise that you have to hug the right hand side to eventually go sharply left at the green. The green itself stays hidden for 90% of the journey along the hole. When it does come into view, you know why the caddy keeps telling you to go right hand side all the way along.
The second par 5 in a row is next at 17. A split raised green that fools you into thinking there is way more room than there actually is. One of my playing partners, Steve, made a great birdie here. After making two 5’s at the par 5’s, I knew the 18th was coming. I also knew after watching Webb Simpson win there in 2012, how difficult the drive and the green were. The left hand side of the fairway is deep rough. The right hand side is blocked by a large tree you can’t go over. The hole itself drops severely down in height, then raises again to a narrow long hard to read green. Left is no good, right is no good and short makes for a no good option too. Luckily my shot just went over the flagstick and I managed a closing birdie. The most satisfying one I had all day.
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Marked low on price because it was $400 US Dollars to play. The 19th hole was incredible. The clubhouse is full of US Open memorabilia in display cases near the locker room. I only marked one point away because they refused to serve us any drinks unless a member bought them for us. Again, the generosity of a nearby member showed as he promptly stepped up and bought us a round. Apparently, the clubhouse does not handle cash, only member accounts. Earl the caddy cost the three players another $60 each. If only he didn’t speak to me in yards, I would have given him more.
An unbelievable day’s golf at an incredible golf course, made better by great company and the caddy that made everything even better. The 74 I shot there still ranks with me as one of the best games of golf I have ever played. I even got to visit the Caddy shack after we finished.
“Pick up that blood!”
If you find yourself in San Francisco with a spare half day, go play it, you will not regret it. Also within a few miles of Olympic you will find Lake Merced and TPC Harding Park. Both of these are definately worth playing. Lake Merced is a staple on the LPGA Tour and TPC Harding Park hosted the World Matchplay in 2015. The Bay area is a fantastic destination for a golfing holiday.