PACIFICA, Calif. -- Sharp Park Golf Course near San Francisco might be the most beloved three-star course in America. Supporters of the historic seaside municipal course -- designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie -- continue to fight for its future.
The 6,382-yard course along the Pacific Ocean has been embroiled in a decade-long dispute involving environmentalists, who want the course closed to protect the threatened California red-legged frogs and San Francisco garter snakes that live and breed in the wetlands and reeds of Laguna Salada, a natural lake along the course's back nine. While the legal battle plays on in the courts, golfers simply play through, enjoying a pleasant walk on a playable collection of doglegs and short par 5s.
If you can overlook the bare spots, the bumpy greens and five-hour rounds, the Sharp Park experience is a pleasant one. Modern design trends involving length and excessive fairway bunkering and shaping don't apply at Sharp Park, run by the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department.
"They don't build them like this anymore," Manager Mark Duane said. "It's such a great layout."
Much of Sharp Park's original routing, dating to 1931, remains intact. The four-hole stretch across the street is spectacular, climbing to an elevated green on the par-3 fifth hole and an elevated tee at no. 6, a strong par 4. Branches hanging over the eighth green defend what should be an easy 99-yard wedge shot. A seawall blocks the views of the ocean at no. 12 and no. 16, the two holes directly on the shore. Flooding plagues the 14th hole, an unfortunate problem that could be addressed if proposed changes ever come to fruition.
Sharp Park Golf Course's potential is aching to be unlocked.