Harding Park makeover journey nears completion

By David R. Holland, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- The long journey is almost over at Harding Park, the historic San Francisco municipal, where a $16-million redesign is nearing completion. Officials hope the course's update will be finished early this summer.

Chris Gray, the PGA Tour on-site course architect, has made many changes, but wanted the new vision to be subtle. And the PGA Tour hopes an event can be staged here by 2005, possibly a Labor Day weekend event benefiting the Tiger Woods Foundation.

The design is also a collaboration of a number of people, including golf veteran Ken Venturi. Prominent San Francisco attorney and former USGA president Sandy Tatum also was also involved in conceiving the project and one of the civic leaders promoting it over many years.

Not since the 1950's has Harding Park, built in 1925, had any major renovation work.

The new course has many of the same characteristics as its world-renowned neighbors, San Francisco Golf Club and Olympic Club, such as Monterey Cypress trees lining fairways.

Tour players will have 7,202 yards to negotiate at the new Harding Park and the blue tees will measure 7,011, an increase over the previous 6,471 yards. Renovation includes a First Tee program, lush new grass, greens in new locations, improved drainage, some elevation changes inserted and a brawny new 18th hole that will be a par-4, 463 yards over Lake Merced.

Harding Park is also negotiating with Kemper Sports Management, the same group that manages world-famous Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes in Oregon. In California, Kemper manages Desert Willow Resort in Palm Desert and Black Gold G.C. in Yorba Linda.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said, "Now that Harding Park has been renovated, I am sure Tour players of today's era will love this historic course as players of past eras have. It will be a tremendous venue for world-class Tour events, as well as an outstanding course for amateurs to play. It will certainly be one of the finest public facilities in the country."

Green fees will remain competitive with other muncipals for local residents. Log on to www.hardingparkgolf.com for more information.

Pebble Beach available?

Old stories have circulated in the past about the golfer calling up Pebble Beach reservations. He gives a date of April 3 and answers the standard reservation questions, tee-times requests, etc. He's hoping for April 3, 2003, a month away, but when his reservation confirmation is read back to him at the end the operator says: "You are all set for April 3, 2004. He thought he was all set for April 3, 2003.

Times have changed. Log on to www.PebbleBeach.com today and you are greeted with the announcement that there's an "Immediate Availability" -- during March and April. Is it the result of Sept. 11 or is it because folks are starting to think $350 for a round of golf, not counting a hefty dollar amount for The Lodge is just too much?

Most likely it is just 9-11 and the threat of the conflict with Iraq. Call 800-654-9300 for your golf trip of a lifetime.

Pebble Beach's new The Forest Course

Tom Fazio's The Forest Course, on the drawing boards for the Pebble Beach Company, is hoping for a 2004 ground-breaking in an area between the par-3 Peter Hay Course and private Cypress Point.

The Equestrian Center will have to be relocated to make room for the new layout. Also in the future for The Lodge at Pebble Beach -- 58 new rooms overlooking the No. 1 fairway. The Inn at Spanish Bay has drawing-board plans for 91 new rooms located at the south end of the current hotel.

The U.S. Open in California

Speaking of Pebble Beach and the announcement that the 2008 U.S. Open will be coming to the Torrey Pines South Course -- did you know the U.S. Open has been staged in California nine times? The last time was 2000 when Tiger Woods dazzled everyone with his 15-stroke margin of victory.

Not since 1948, however, has the U.S. Open been played in Southern California, and that was at Riviera Country Club, where Ben Hogan defeated Jimmy Demaret by two strokes.

San Juan Oaks hoping to grow

Planning is moving forward for a new 18 holes at San Juan Oaks Golf Club, the stunning layout designed by Fred Couples near Hollister. Like with any other golf-course project in the Golden State, things don't move too fast and it may be another couple of years before ground-breaking.

There's a proposed project for 1,993 acres near the existing club, which would include a resort hotel, 156-home subdivision, a commercial center, a public nine-hole, par-3 golf course and an 18-hole private club.

Developers have set aside 1,100 acres for a wildlife habitat, and a 60-acre regional park for trails from the golf club to the San Justo Reservoir. Log on to www.sanjuanoaks.com for current course information or call (800) 453-8337. Don't be surprised if Mr. Couples answers your call.

Dragon's Ochs honored

Matt Ochs, Director of Golf at The Dragon at Gold Mountain has been named 2002 Merchandiser of the Year by the Northern California Golf Association PGA Section.

Ochs was singled out for distinction from among the section's 375 member clubs -- including world-famous Pebble Beach -- for his performance leading he Dragon's Golf Shop, known as the Nakoma Trading Post.

Areas considered by the section in naming Merchandiser of the Year include customer service, sales volume, original sales ideas, and innovative display techniques and presentation.

New public course on Palos Verdes Peninsula

Johnny Miller Design has been chosen to design a new Meritage Rolling Hills Golf, LLC layout on top of the closed Palos Verdes landfill.

If this project happens it will be the first golf course owned by the public to be built in Los Angeles since 1977. It will fall under the Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department.

The Environmental Protection Agency in California has given the go-ahead, but the usual opposition for golf course construction in California is coming from the South Bay Cares organization.

Optimistic completion date is Fall 2004. Log on to www.meritagegolf.com for more information.

Los Lagos in San Jose

San Jose has added an executive-length golf course to its municipal portfolio with Los Lagos Golf Course, a new 18-hole layout minutes from Highway 101 in central San Jose.

Coyote Creek is part of this par-68, 5,393-yard course that includes water features, clubhouse, restaurant and a lighted two-tier driving range. The course is highlighted by a number of water features.

The project was 20 years in the making, surviving thumb's up and thumb's down rulings over the years. For more information log on to www.playloslagos.com.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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