January 10, 2020 By: Garrett Morrison — Gil Hanse will be spending quite a bit of time in San Francisco in the coming months. According to club sources, both the Olympic Club and Lake Merced Golf Club have hired Hanse Golf Course Design for renovation projects.
In an email sent to members today, the Olympic Club announced that it will bring in Hanse Golf Course Design to develop a master plan for its golf facilities. Gil Hanse will meet with members this summer and begin work in the fall of 2020.
“The master plan is intended to enhance the day-to-day member golf experience for generations to come,” the email reads, “while also ensuring that our iconic courses are positioned to perform and recover as we navigate a busy championship schedule leading up to, and beyond, the 2032 Ryder Cup.”
On December 19, Jeffrey Pero, president of Lake Merced Golf Club, informed members via email that the Board of Directors had authorized the hiring of Hanse to prepare a master plan for the golf course and golf-related facilities. Hanse will begin visiting the club in the fall of 2020, and members are expected to vote on a final plan in the first half of 2021.
Pero’s email identifies Lake Merced’s 35-year-old irrigation system, bunkers, and driving range as potential areas of focus. It goes on to tout Hanse and design partner Jim Wagner’s preference for performing detail work themselves: “They operate the bulldozers and other machinery and personally handcraft bunkers and other landforms to make sure their vision for the golf course is fulfilled.”
Both the Olympic Club and Lake Merced hold significant places in the history of San Francisco golf. Olympic’s Lake Course dates back to 1924. Designed by Willie Watson and built by Sam Whiting, it went on to host five U.S. Opens and three U.S. Amateurs. In addition, the Lake Course is slated to host the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, the 2025 U.S. Amateur, the 2028 PGA Championship, and the 2032 Ryder Cup. Preparing for these tournaments is a key motivating factor in the Olympic Club’s decision to hire Hanse Golf Course Design.
Lake Merced Golf Club, just down the road from Olympic, was founded in 1922 and redesigned by Alister MacKenzie in the late 20s. Over the years, because of a highway expansion and numerous renovations by different architects, the course lost its MacKenzie traits. Since 2018, Lake Merced has hosted the LPGA Mediheal Championship. The club was also connected with a Stephen Curry-affiliated PGA Tour event that never materialized.
Recently, Hanse Golf Course Design has emerged as a common choice for tournament golf course restorations and renovations. Hanse and Wagner have done work at Merion, Southern Hills, Winged Foot, The Country Club (Brookline), Ridgewood, and LACC. Currently they are consulting at Baltusrol and Oakland Hills, and they will design the new East Course at PGA Frisco. Hanse and Wagner’s hiring at the Olympic Club and Lake Merced continues this trend, ensuring that their names will come up frequently in major championship telecasts of the next decade and beyond.