Harding Park GC

San Francisco, CA


Golf Magazine Course Spy: Harding Park Golf Course
Published: December 01, 2009

Harding Park Golf Course
San Francisco, Calif.
6,845 yards, par 72
Green Fees: $135-$165

A friendly starter helped offset the gruff greeting we received at check-in. Kudos, too, for the beverage cart experience: the frequency and personality were both surprisingly solid for such a busy track.

We got lucky: six weeks before the Presidents Cup came to Harding, tee times had been reduced, allowing us to buzz around. Still, even with rangers on patrol, the cheap green fees for locals mean constant crowds on most days.

The poor man's Olympic Club is undeniably great looking, sitting on a bluff surrounded on three sides by Lake Merced. And it's a strong test. However, soft conditions and too many holes that look and play alike are drawbacks.

For residents of the City by the Bay, Harding Park is a great deal at less than $60. For outsiders who have to pay full boat, it's hardly a stickup, but for the mushy fairways and minimal services, it's priced too high for everyday play.

Since we know we're never going to get an invite to play the Olympic Club next door, Harding is definitely the next best thing. Great scenery, an easy walk, and service that is improving make the price tag easier to swallow.

Golf Magazine Course Spy, 4/07
We go undercover to see if you're overpaying
Greens Fee: $135-$155; $46-$99 (for city residents)

For all the prestige of hosting a 2005 PGA Tour event, Harding retains a refreshingly blue-collar feel. High-falutin' types who demand a butt kissing will be disappointed by the disinterest shown them at the bag drop. If you appreciate an on-time starter, you'll love it.

Tee times are nine minutes apart and the marshals actually muster the courage to marshal. Most play comes from locals who know the layout and get around in under four hours. It's the casual golfer on the corporate outing that has you glaring at your watch.

An extensive renovation and a new management team have transformed a soggy cow pasture into one of the Bay Area's best munis. Expect firm fairways, reasonable rough and subtle but slick greens. The course peaks with a stretch of first-rate par 4s on Lake Merced.

Like most good urban munis, Harding is a steal for locals and a worthwhile splurge for out-of-towners like us. We paid $89 on a weekday morning. In the Bay Area, you could pay a lot more for a lot worse.

Forget the frills common at highpriced daily fee courses: Harding Park is proof that plain is better. It is the closest you'll come to a must-play public-access course this side of Monterey and perhaps Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz.

W here To Booze:

Due to its' roots as the origin of the Trader Vic's chain, San Fran is one of the last remaining vestiges of the heyday of old school tiki bars.

The History of the Tiki Bar (from TikiBar.com)

"The origin of tiki bars date back shortly before World War I. Travel by ship and airplane was finally becoming affordable for people other than the extremely wealthy in America and Europe. So began the "Golden Age of Travel." Taking a vacation to an exotic island in the "South Seas" became a status symbol.

Soon, new nightclubs and bars began to open throughout the America, especially in southern California. They all had one thing in common capitalizing on this new trend: a South Seas island theme.

The Beginning of a Trend

The first tiki bar is largely accepted to have been Hollywood's "Don the Beachcomber Restaurant." Donn Beach, who had renamed himself such in 1934 after previously being known as Earnest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, started with the popular beach theme, decorating his restaurant and bar with nets, starfish, and shells.

When Donn Beach decided to add real artifacts to his tiki decor (such as diving masks, spears, and most importantly carved idols from a variety of islands), his restaurant became different from all of the other island-themed establishments. This was the first introduction of the tiki to the bar.

Soon, many other bars began to follow the lead of "Don the Beachcomber." Art and artifacts from almost any tropical island, from Hawaii and New Guinea to New Zealand and Easter Island, was brought in to decorate the tiki bars and create an environment of escapism. Anything exotic and an ocean-themed added to the mood.

The Excitement Grows

World War II led to an even bigger tiki bar craze in the United States. American G.I.s that had actually spent time in the South Pacific headed to Don's and other tiki bars in masses when they returned home from duty.

It was about this time that Hawaii became a state, and this further fueled the trend. Americans fell in love with the romanticized idea of a warm tropical paradise. Almost every city in America had at least one tiki bar.

Tiki becomes a Culture

Not all the proprietors of these new tiki bars could acquire, or afford, authentic artifacts from exotic islands to decorate their establishments. Companies began to open that specialized in carved tikis and other reproduction island artifacts.

Many popular tropical drinks, such as the famous tiki bar Trader Vic's Mai Tai, were originally created in bars as business owners looked for ways to expand on the popular theme. Don Beach was credited with inventing 84 drinks. The many island cultures all were blended and overlapped until they became one fantasy culture that didn'teven exist in reality

Just like that, tiki bars had been formed. Since then, bamboo tiki bars have found a permanent place in American nightlife as a fun escape to paradise, even if only for a night."

Here's a nice 1 minute video history of the tiki bar from the New York Times : http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/dining/20071128_TIKI_FEATURE/ #

There are at least 3 tiki bars in San Fran worth visiting. The Emeryville Trader Vic's location is near the now-gone original Oakland location, and is the company's flagship restaurant. It's positioned near the end of a spit in San Francisco Bay, and has beautiful views. The dining room has tall, elegant stylized artificial palm trees, and tikis are everywhere here. Or try the Tonga Room Tiki Bar in the basement of the upscale Fairmont Hotel. The space has gone through several incarnations over the years, themed initially as a cruise ship (the S.S. Tonga), then a Chinese restaurant, then finally the current theme of a Polynesian paradise. Before becoming a restaurant, the space was the hotel's swimming pool. The room is unusual -- at the center of the restaurant is the remnant of the room's swimming pool past: a water-filled lagoon with a small ship in the middle where bands play. Every thirty minutes a thunderstorm erupts, and rain falls into the pool. The Happy Hour at the Tonga Room, which goes from 5-7pm Monday-Friday, is quite popular and can get very crowded. Or hit Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge on the island of Alameda, a new tiki bar with the look and feel of a classic old tiki lounge. The bartenders are alums of Trader Vic's, and their experience shows. Forbidden Island has a unique commitment to quality, with only fresh-squeezed juices and premium spirits used -- even the maraschino cherries are homemade with natural ingredients. The drink menu features no less than 38 different tropical cocktails -- a mix of classics such as the Sidewinder's Fang and the Zombie, and new creations like the China Clipper and the Fugu for Two. The decor is filled with many layered details, with an abundance of bamboo and thatch, and the walls are lined with wood, giving the appearance of the inside of a ship. There are three hut-like booths, and a long bar with comfortable seating. A rear patio is open until 9 p.m., and has a lush tropical feel. Music on the jukebox is predominantly pre-1964, and was specially selected to fit in the vintage lounge environment, with no shortage of Exotica available. A small selection of snack food is available.

Per both Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives and Golf Channel's Destination Golf , the best golf bar in downtown in Tee Off Bar & Grill ( www.teeoffbarandgrill.com ).  A classic 19th Hole dive.  Order the specialty of the house, Paul's Crafty mac & cheese with pancetta, from the owner's grandmother's recipe.

Maximum Golf (a short-lived golf mag by the guys at Maxim ) recommended Sno Drift , 1830 3rd St.  70's ski lodge decor with circular fireplace, sno-cone machine, and vodka-spiked confections.  Also, Backflip , 601 Eddy St., watery-blue hotel lounge with fountains, rock stars, and good DJs.  Or Dalva , 3121 16th St, local fave with good sangria.  Also, Red Room , 827 Sutter St, everything bathed in red with award-winning Cosmopolitans.  Or check out Harry Denton's Starlight Room , 450 Powell St. at Sir Francis Drake Hotel, with a retro-Vegas vibe.

Where To Grub: Varying legends trace the origins of West Coast pizza to both L.A. and San Fran.  The San Fran version says that the use of fresh, non-traditional, upscale pizza toppings and ingredients began with Alice Waters, a San Fran restauranteur whose chefs made pizzas at Chez Panisse in Berkeley in the late 1970s. More or less simultaneously, Ed LaDou was making pies with unique ingredients at Prego restaurant in the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco. LaDou met Wolfgang Puck when LaDou taught a pizza-making class at Ma Maison, and Puck hired him when he started Spago. Later LaDou designed the original CPK menu, and then started his own Caioti Pizza Cafe in Laurel Canyon near Los Angeles, since moved to Studio City.

Playboy named Oakland's Pizzaiolo (5008 Telegraph Ave) as one of their Top 10 Pizzerias in the country.  "When foodies hear that the former chef of Chez Panisse (the Bay Area’s epicenter of the sustainable/local food movement) has opened a pizzeria, they get more than a little excited. But even if you’re not the type to freak out over pristine ingredients grown within a pepper-toss radius, you will notice the difference in the flavor of this pizza and you will undoubtedly leave a loyal fan. Ultimately, this is textbook Neapolitan pie, made from a simple water-yeast-flour-salt dough and San Marzano tomatoes. But it’s the little tweaks that chef Charlie Hallowell and crew do that elevate Pizzaiolo’s status to remarkable: Instead of pulled mozzarella, pies get mozzarella curd, the cheese in its rawest form that melts like butter once in the oven, avoiding any rubbery pitfalls. So try a classic Margherita to taste the difference in the basics, but whatever you do, don’t leave without a rapini and sausage pie. The bitter Italian broccoli gets a spritz of lemon, perfect to cut through the meaty hunks of pork sausage, made in-house with flecks of chile pepper and fennel to keep you awake after that third beer or into that second bottle of wine. Add an egg to this one—it cooks to a perfect over-easy in the wood-burning oven, coming out to the table mingling with the sausage and greens like the best breakfast for dinner you’ve never had."

MSN.com named BurgerMeister as one of the Top 10 burger joints in the country.  8-ounce hand-formed Niman Ranch beef patties are flame-grilled and served on a soft sesame seed bun.  Multiple exotic toppings available.  Choose a side of crispy fries or cool cole slaw, and wash it down with an old-fashioned milkshake or a beer from the tap.  It is California, so of course there are garden and portobello burgers available too.

Maximum Golf recommends Foreign Cinema , 2534 Mission St, French fare with an avant garde movie thrown in.  Also, Buckeye Roadhouse , 15 Shoreline Hwy, Mill Valley, American BBQ menu with hunting lodge feel.  OR, Moki's Sushi , 830 Cortland Ave.  OR, Pancho Villa Taqueria , 3071 16th St, big space and big burritos.  Or Bruno's , 2389 Mission St, onetime Rat Pack hangout with live jazz and tapas.

The Vagabond Golfer from WorldGolf.com digs Scala's Bistro .  "Just a block off Union Square, Parisian bistro feel, just-off-the-boat seafood, delicate risotto, high ceilings, richly tiled floors, white linen tablecloths, a semi-open kitchen, and a lively good-looking late night Sunday crowd."

FoodNetwork.com Recommendations for San Fran: