DALY CITY, CALIFORNIA | It’s as gorgeous as everyone remembers it. After a year away from Lake Merced Golf Club (the 2020 LPGA Mediheal Championship was canceled because of COVID-19) the tour moved, quite literally, three blocks south of Olympic Club, where last week’s U.S. Women’s Open was contested, for another edition of the Northern California stop. And, as always, players loved the place.
“The fairways are narrow. There are trees. Obviously, last week was a really good warmup playing an even tougher course coming into this,” said Lucy Li, a Lake Merced junior member who plays the course often when she’s home. “I spend my winters in the desert so I’m not up here as often as I would like to be. But when I’m out here, I’m out here a lot.
“I try to practice at Lake Merced and some other courses (in the area) as much as I can. I know the GM out here. He was always super supportive of me and kind of let me come out and practice. I actually know quite a few members here, too, so it’s nice to be able to come out and practice here and see some people I recognize.
“I think the membership has grown a lot in the last year because of COVID, so it’s nice to see that the golf course is doing really well. And the driving range is super packed, so it’s nice to see that.
“I’m just really excited to be able to play such a beautiful course.”
“This is a really good golf course. Why would you blow up a place like this?”
Sei Young Kim, who won the 2019 Mediheal event, agreed, comparing Lake Merced favorably to Olympic Club.
“Like Olympic, if you miss a tee shot, you will be blocked by a tree,” Kim said. “It’s different because at Olympic, if you miss anywhere, you’re blocked out. But this course is really challenging. The greens have a lot of subtle slopes and you need a good shot off of every tee to set up a second shot. The greens are also fast and in really good shape.”
Why, then, are the club’s members going back to the drawing board for its layout?
Right after the LPGA Tour packs up, Lake Merced Golf Club will close for a complete overhaul – not a refurbishing, but a soup-to-nuts redesign.
The Gil Hanse drawings were on display outside the clubhouse adjacent to the putting green all week, which had a number of players scratching their heads.
“This is a really good golf course,” one tour player told me. “Why would you blow up a place like this?”
Vern Tess, longtime caddie for Katherine Kirk, and an Irishman of impeccable wit, said, “I’m studying these drawings. The place will be unrecognizable. I mean, you look at some of the holes on (Hanse’s) routing compared to what’s out there now ... you’re not going to know you’re on the same piece of ground. And what they have now is not bad. Not bad at all.”
Li, who is 18 and not as well versed in classic golf architecture as some, said, “Oh, it’s going to be great. I mean the driving range (now) is not that good. That’ll be a big improvement.”
Hanse’s work has garnered rave reviews elsewhere. But it seems as though a classic gem is being ripped up in the name of progress. Time will tell how that turns out.