Olympic Club claims to be the oldest athletic club in the United States. It was founded on May 6, 1860, under the name San Francisco Olympic Club. In addition to golf, the club is also involved in tennis, basketball, cycling, handball, lacrosse, rugby, running, fitness, skiing, snowboarding, soccer, softball, squash, swimming, triathlon and water polo - either by operating facilities, running programs, or sponsoring teams.
Olympic Club has two clubhouses, one in Downtown San Francisco, and a second - known as the Lakeside Clubhouse - with its golf courses in southwest San Francisco, adjacent to Lake Merced and the Pacific Ocean. The golf course location offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Members at Olympic Club over the decades have included many famous people, such as William Randolph Hearst, Leland Stanford, boxing legend "Gentleman" Jim Corbett, baseball legends Joe DiMaggio and Ty Cobb, and Ken Venturi. Famous golfers who honed their games as juniors at Olympic Club include Bob Rosburg and Johnny Miller.
Address*: Lakeside Clubhouse, 599 Skyline Blvd., San Francisco CA 94132
(*Address listed is for the club's golf clubhouse.)
Can I Play at Olympic Club?Olympic Club is private so, no, you can't play its golf courses unless you are a member or the guest of a member, or playing in a tournament hosted by the club.
Olympic Club's Golf CoursesOlympic Club has two 18-hole courses and one 9-hole course. Those golf courses are:
Lake Course: 18 holes, this is the course that hosts the U.S. Open and other major tournaments. It has been included on "Top 100" course lists compiled by Golf Digest and Golfweek magazines. (More on the Lake Course below.)
Ocean Course: 18 holes, just under 7,000 yards in length from the championship tees, USGA course rating 73.6, USGA slope rating 136.
Cliffs Course: A 9-hole, par-3 course that plays to 1,800 yards.
Olympic Club Course Origins and ArchitectsWhen Olympic Club decided to add a golf course for its members, it purchased the pre-existing Lakeside Golf Club in 1918. In 1922, additional land was acquired, and the existing 18-hole course was replaced with two golf courses. The Lakeside clubhouse was built at that time, too, designed by Arthur Brown Jr., the architect of San Francisco City Hall and San Francisco Opera House.
The two new golf courses opened in 1924, designed by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting. But within a year, winter storms did so much damage to the courses that they had to be rebuilt. Whiting, the club's superintendent, built the two new courses, which opened in 1927. The Lake Course of 1927 is the same one that exists today, although it has undergone extensive renovations and several hole changes since.
The 1927 Ocean Course was redone in 2000 by architect Tom Weiskopf. Weiskopf also designed the par-3 Cliffs Course, which opened in 1994.
The Lake Course at Olympic ClubAll three of Olympic Club's golf courses are situated on rolling hills next to the Pacific Ocean and Lake Merced. The courses provide beautiful water and bridge views.
The Lake Course, the club's championship course, is known for its tall trees lining narrow playing corridors, with fairways approaching small greens well-guarded by bunkers. It finishes at a short par-4 that plays to a deep, narrow green in an amphitheater setting, with the imposing clubhouse overlooking from the hill above.
The hole yardages and pars, as listed on the club's website in advance of the 2012 U.S. Open:
No. 1 - Par 4 - 520 yards
No. 2 - Par 4 - 428 yards
No. 3 - Par 3 - 247 yards
No. 4 - Par 4 - 430 yards
No. 5 - Par 4 - 498 yards
No. 6 - Par 4 - 490 yards
No. 7 - Par 4 - 294 yards
No. 8 - Par 3 - 200 yards
No. 9 - Par 4 - 449 yards
Out - Par 34 - 3556
No. 10 - Par 4 - 424 yards
No. 11 - Par 4 - 430 yards
No. 12 - Par 4 - 451 yards
No. 13 - Par 3 - 199 yards
No. 14 - Par 4 - 419 yards
No. 15 - Par 3 - 154 yards
No. 16 - Par 5 - 670 yards
No. 17 - Par 5 - 505 yards
No. 18 - Par 4 - 355 yards
In - Par 36 - 3607 yards
Total - Par 70 - 7163 yards
The Lake Course has not been USGA rated at the Championship tee yardages listed above. However, from the Black tees (6,934 yards) the course rating is 75.5 and slope 144.
Bentgrass, ryegrass and poa annua are used on tee boxes and fairways; the greens are bentgrass; and the rough is Kentucky bluegrass.
The average green size is 4,400 square feet, and the greens run at 12.5 to 13.5 on the Stimpmeter for tournaments. There are 62 sand bunkers. (Turf and hazard data points from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.)
Significant Tournaments HostedOlympic Club's Lake Course has been the site of U.S. Opens and other important golf tournaments. Here is a list of the biggest such tournaments, with the winners of each (click on the U.S. Open links to view the final scores and a recap of each of those tournaments):
1955 U.S. Open: Jack Fleck
1958 U.S. Amateur: Charlie Coe
1966 U.S. Open: Billy Casper
1981 U.S. Amateur: Nathaniel Crosby
1987 U.S. Open: Scott Simpson
1993 Tour Championship (PGA Tour): Jim Gallagher Jr.
1994 Tour Championship (PGA Tour): Mark McCumber
1998 U.S. Open: Lee Janzen
2004 U.S. Junior Amateur: Sihwan Kim
2007 U.S. Amateur: Colt Knost
2012 U.S. Open: Webb Simpson
More Olympic Club History and Trivia The club refers to its members as "Olympians."
According to a 2004 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the club's motto is "O Realm Where Stalwart Manhood Rules."
The club first began admitting women as members in 1992.
The club's original downtown clubhouse was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but a downtown clubhouse was rebuilt in 1912.
In 1939, future PGA Championship winner Bob Rosburg, age 12, defeated 52-year-old baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, 7 and 6, in a match in the first flight of the club championship.
Johnny Miller grew up playing Olympic Club as a "junior member." At age 19, he qualified to play in the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic Club - Miller's first appearance in a major - and tied for eighth place to finish as low amateur.
The third-round leaders in the first four U.S. Opens played at Olympic Club all not only failed to win, but wound up finishing second: Ben Hogan in 1955, Arnold Palmer in 1966, Tom Watson in 1987 and Payne Stewart in 1998.
After blowing their third-round leads and finishing second in U.S. Opens played at Olympic Club, Hogan, Palmer and Watson never again won a major. Because of that, Olympic Club is sometimes called the "Graveyard of Champions." Stewart broke the streak by winning the 1999 U.S. Open one year after his runner-up finish at Olympic.
Nathaniel Crosby, son of legendary entertainer Bing Crosby, won the 1981 U.S. Amateur Championship at Olympic Club.
The year 1964 was a good one for Olympic Club members. Three of them held USGA championships that year: Venturi was U.S. Open champ; Miller was U.S. Junior Amateur champ; and Bill Higgins won the USGA Senior Amateur championship.
The Olympic Club Foundation is a charitable organization that supports and encourages youth athletics in the Bay Area, with a focus on "disadvantaged youth growing up in challenged neighborhoods."