Lake Merced Golf Club has a long and storied history.
Founded in 1922, the club was born in another era, at a time when Babe Ruth was a young star on the rise and Bob Jones had not yet won a major championship.
The club was formed in downtown San Francisco at the Merchant’s Exchange Building when a small group of seven directors met to begin organizational efforts. They agreed to purchase 140 acres from the Spring Valley Water Company on Junipero Serra Boulevard “south of the property owned by the San Francisco Golf & Country Club in San Mateo County.” Within a year, the golf course was under construction. Willie Lock, a transplanted Scot, was the architect. His fee for design work was $750.
Lake Merced Golf Club opened for play in June, 1923 and shortly thereafter Lake Merced hosted an international challenge match between U.S. Open champion Gene Sarazen and the then-reigning British Open champion, Arthur Havers. They battled over 36 holes, through the rain, before Sarazen emerged 3-up.
In the late 1920′s the course was redesigned by the legendary Dr. Alister MacKenzie. His signature “cloud shaped” bunkering style dotted the course as did many intricate strategic choices for every level of player. Naturally, the club was a much-sought out venue for amateur and professional competition.
During the 1930′s the club regularly hosted the San Francisco Open, which was a combination medal play-match play event. Winners included PGA Champion Tom Creavy and Masters Champ Jimmy Demaret.
When Interstate 280 came through in the mid 1960′s the course changed once again. This time it was redesigned by Robert Muir Graves and for thirty more years Lake Merced was home to annual competition of high caliber. For over 70 years, the club has played host to the NCGA junior championship and in 1990, Lake Merced hosted the USGA Junior Amateur. That event marked Tiger Woods’s first USGA championship (and it is the only U.S. Junior he didn’t win). The club has also regularly been the venue for men’s and women’s U.S. Open qualifying.
In 1996, due to an agronomic problem with the greens, the course was renovated yet again, this time by the “U.S. Open Doctor,” Rees Jones. The result is a rejuvenated layout with classic features, including deep bunkering and undulating greens.
As the years have passed, the “new” course has experienced further evolution, primarily as the result of a thoughtful tree program. As older trees have withered and died, they have been removed, and as a result, the club has restored a more open look and feel to many holes. Fewer trees has also meant more light and air which allows for better turf conditioning.
In 2010, the club once again upgraded the course by switching from poa annua to bent grass on the greens. The change will allow for improved year round conditioning of the greens.
The club’s commitment to renovation and improvement goes far beyond the golf course. In 2003, Lake Merced converted to reclaimed water for irrigation and constructed a state of the art water storage and distribution system. In 2004, the members began to enjoy a completely new clubhouse. Completing the renovation of the club’s infrastructure is the Turfcare Center which was also completed in 2004.
Since 1922, Lake Merced Golf Club has endured, evolved and prospered, largely due to a vibrant membership that appreciates quality and camaraderie, that loves to play golf on a world class course and, most importantly, knows how to enjoy a great game with great companions.