Lincoln Park GC

Lincoln Park, CA

Fat Guy Note :  This isn't the best course in San Fran, but it's a good value recommendation with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and far from a torturous round if your game has been failing of late.  If you've got a full day to kill in the Bay City, I could envision a theme day here:  A round at Lincoln Park, tipping nothing but "Lincolns" ($5 bills), a penny for a ball marker (Lincoln's bust on the head's side), nothing but Lincoln Park playing on the rental car CD player, and after the round, a few beers with a good meal at the Tee Off Bar & Grill. Course Review: Lincoln Park Golf Course: Yet Another San Francisco Treat

By F. Richard Allen,
Course Reviewer

SAN FRANCISCO - "High on a headland above the Golden Gate, where the Pacific Ocean spills into San Francisco bay, stands the California palace of the Legion of Honor, the gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels to the City of San Francisco."

So goes the Web page opening statement on the Legion of Honor which is virtually encircled by Lincoln Park Golf Course. It can be a challenge to focus on your golf game in this setting.

Both Johnny Miller and George Archer grew up playing on this course which was designed by Tom Bendelow and built in in 1908. Jack Fleming redesigned the course in the 1960s.

Lincoln Park Golf Course hosts the San Francisco City Golf Championship, the oldest and largest continuous event in U.S. golf history.

Arnold Palmer Golf Management in a joint venture with the City of San Francisco operates the course. San Francisco Parks and Recreation does a barely passable job taking care of the grounds. From the blues Lincoln Park is 5,416 yards, a par 68 with a rating of 66 and a slope of 109.

Our first hour of play was in the rain, but we had the course pretty much to ourselves. As noted above, this is a short 18-hole course and it plays quickly. We were finished in just four hours.

According to golf pro Lance Wong, many tourists play here because of the view and the proximity to the Legion of Honor, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio, just to name a few tourist attractions.

Walking is encouraged here. 18 holes are $26 weekdays and $31 on the weekend. Carts are available to rent.

The 1st hole is 316 yards from the blues, a par 4. Old pine and oak trees line this and most fairways. This fairway is uphill towards the Legion of Honor. The green is relatively flat.

The 2nd hole is a short 257-yard par 4. It drops steeply off to the right. On the approach to the green there is a sand trap on the left, otherwise the left is relatively open.

The 2nd is one of five holes which actually ends near the Legion of Honor or its parking lot. Statues and heroic figures sit atop the building. The Legion of Honor is a unique art museum which is one of the greatest treasures in San Francisco. The setting is made even more dramatic by the imposing French neoclassical building.

For the 3rd hole you cross the parking lot of the Legion and walk down the hill to a par 3, a 156-yard fairway almost parallel to the bay. What a view! But the best is yet to come on the signature 17th hole.

The 5th hole is a 359-yard par 4 which runs back up to the Legion of Honor and as you walk up the fairway a large tree hides the pin which is protected by a sand trap on the right. Beyond that a magnificent statue on horseback gradually becomes apparent.

To get to the 6th hole we walked along the side of the actual building of the Legion of Honor. On the back side as I waited for my playing partner to tee off I noticed six full size historical statues standing on the back of the building in a half circle around the roof dome.

Below them in concave areas was another 15 busts of famous people. All of them face the tee. On this rainy Wednesday morning the Legion parking lot was completely empty. We saw nobody else on the course and on the sixth tee our spectators were eternal. Alas, there was no cheering.

On the 16th, a 239-yard par 3 with a temporary green set up around 220 yards, my playing partner teed the ball off on a drive that came within 50 yards of the pin, downhill and to the left.

These temporary greens were nothing more than regular fairway grass cut close, very rough by most normal green standards. He set up to chip the ball to the pin and chipped it right into the cup!

The 17th hole, another par 3, is the signature hole which runs right along the water for 240 yards. The fairway turns slightly to the right and drops off towards the water on the left. The green slopes to its edges and is bracketed by sand traps.

The disconcerting view from the 17th includes a full shot of both towers of the Golden Gate Bridge plus the Marin Headlands.

Playing Lincoln Park off of 38th street, a couple of blocks from Geary is a huge surprise to the uninitiated. It has some awkward situations, but for the most part its been a wonderful course for over 90 years.

One interesting item is that you return to the club house after eight holes instead of nine. The 9th hole takes you away from the central area.

The club house was built in 1913 and features the recently renovated Lincoln Park Sports Grill . This is a generous facility which Palmer Golf Management has recently taken over. There are accommodations for banquets and special occasions.

In 1915 Alma Spreckels acquired an early cast of The Thinker from Rodin himself. This famous oversized bronze statue of a man deep in thought can be found at the Legion of Honor.

It has special irony in this setting if you believe the claims made by some who say that Rodin conceived of The Thinker after an especially difficult day of golf."

Best Bar Nearby: and Guy Fieri of Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives recommends the Tee Off Bar & Grill ( ), 5 minutes away.  "The Tee Off is a total dive bar near Lincoln Park and the golf course, hence the name. It is a neighborhood sports bar that hasn't been updated since sometime in the Reagan administration, except for the food. There is clutter and memorabilia stuck to the walls and filling the shelves (bobbleheads, toys, etc.). A shuffleboard table is pushed against the wall, a 1980s era juke box is pumping out 20 year old songs, the stools are on their 3rd or 4th round of rips and tears, and astroturf serves as flooring. The place is funky, divey, and has all the "come as you are" casualness of any neighborhood watering hole.

And the food....

The place has new owners (4 years in) who are committed to serving high quality, well executed food. The chef/owner has a fine dining background. It's so good and contemporary, it becomes anachronistic in this place. Their standard menu has around half a dozen comfort food dishes like mac & cheese, double cut pork chop with apricot relish, burger, etc. They also have specials. I ordered a special and got a whole trout over red quinoa and spinach. Fantastic flavors, perfectly prepared and very generous portion all around. My wife ordered the mac & cheese, which was prepared with pancetta and served in a cast iron skillet with a side salad. This was a very rich and creamy M&C, with a nice bite from asiago & parm and it had a crispy top, absolutely fantastic. This food would be worthy of any number of high end restaurants in the area (Zuni quality is a fair comparison IMO). The chef came out to chat with us and when he realized we were into food he prepared a little extra plate of smoked ribs for us to try on the house. Those were also excellent and were made by a pair of visiting bbq cooks from KC.

The portions are big and one entree could be shared. There is no real waitstaff, the place is still a dive bar. The people here are very friendly and super passionate about their business. We did see a couple of parties come in and walk out when they seemed a little put off by the dive bar atmosphere. Yes, the place could stand to be cleaned up a bit. I suspect that some have heard about the food and come in expecting a more structured restaurant experience. But if you are looking for good chow, give the Tee Off a try. You will not be disappointed in the food."

Where To Booze & Grub, San Fran: See