Named after U.S. President Warren G. Harding, Harding Park Golf Course was opened on July 18, 1925 along the shores of Lake Merced, in San Francisco’s southwest corner. The initial 18-hole, 163-acre course was designed by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, who also designed the nearby Olympic Club Lake Course.
Harding Park began hosting major amateur tournaments soon after opening–most notably, the USGA National Public Links Championship, and the San Francisco City Championship, the oldest consecutively played competition in the world.
In 1944, the course began hosting PGA TOUR tournaments with the Victory Open. Shortly after, the course established itself as one of the top golf courses on the West Coast; where it became a regular stop for PGA TOUR events up until the end of the decade, when budgetary cuts caused the course to fall into poor conditions. The course further deteriorated, reaching its lowest point in 1998, when it was used as a parking lot during the U.S. Open at Olympic Club.
At the turn of the century was thus born the roller coaster known as the renovation of Harding Park. In an effort to restore Harding Park to its former glory, Frank “Sandy” Tatum, a respective lawyer, accomplished golfer, and former USGA President, rallied together local businesses and political leaders, the USGA, the San Francisco Recreation and Park, and the PGA TOUR’s Tim Finchem.
Tatum played his game right, thoughtfully utilizing his resources and strategically holding a tournament there to quickly pump some serious cash into the local economy. Finchem enjoyed the idea of re-establishing a presence in the Bay Area market, and also entertained the idea of playing high-profile tournament at a truly public course. Negotiation ensued to gain approval from mayor Willie Brown, allowing Arnold Palmer Golf Management to renovate and operate the park. Further disputes opposed, in fear that Palmer’s involvement would represent privatization of a municipally-owned golf course, later causing Palmer to back out.
Finally, convincing the board that the renovations would generate revenue for the city by attracting the PGA TOUR to host professional golf events, Proposition 12—passing in 2000 to fund parks across California—would alleviate debates over funding.
Combined efforts resulted in a $16 million restoration in 2002-2003 featuring a complete re-design to the course. The result was a highly acclaimed championship course that maintains the character and integrity of the original layout, but incorporates design elements and infrastructure to accommodate today’s players. The 15-month project to expand the course from 6,743 yards to nearly 7,200 yards in length, enhancing the driving range, clubhouse and restaurant, upgrading the nine-hole layout of Fleming, and later establishing the First Tee of San Francisco in 2004, a unique youth development program that uses golf to teach students life skills and values. Harding Park Golf Course officially reopened August 22, 2003. Since its recent renovations, TPC Harding Park is championship-worthy once again, hosting several PGA TOUR events such as, the WGC-American Express Championship, the President’s Cup, and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in 2010 and 2011.
Through it all, Harding Park culminated its remarkable rebound by recently being added to the PGA TOUR’s prestigious TPC Network of clubs in November of 2010. TPC Harding Park became the 32nd club in the TPC Network of courses. Entering a partnership between the PGA TOUR and the City of San Francisco, TPC Harding Park is operating under no management fees; thus, allowing both the city and the TOUR to give back to local communities through charitable donations.
From TPC Harding Park website.