November 12, 2021 By: Golf Course Industry Staff — The Olympic Club’s board of directors approved plans to enhance golf facilities and restore its historic Lake Course in collaboration with golf course architect Gil Hanse. Construction is expected to begin in the second half of 2022.
The plans include improvements to short-game practice facilities, a San Francisco-themed Lombard Putting Course and restoration of the Lake Course. The club will also undertake a clubhouse renovation beginning this winter to add outdoor dining and lounge space as well as increased indoor fitness offerings and improvements to the food and beverage experience.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Gil Hanse on this historic restoration of our famed Lake Course,” said Olympic Club President Marcus Colabianchi. “With a tremendous lineup of championships over the next 12 years, we can’t wait to see this project come to life. For Gil to restore and improve our Lake Course is a fantastic opportunity to enhance our daily member experience while giving the golfing world something new to look forward to at Olympic.”
Founded in 1860, The Olympic Club has enjoyed a storied history in golf. The Lake Course has been home to many tournaments over the years, including five U.S. Opens and, most recently, the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open. The restoration portion of the project will center around adjustments that bring the course back in line with its original vision by designer Sam Whiting.
“We are very excited to work on the restoration of the Lake Course at Olympic Club,” Hanse said. “Working closely with the master plan committee, we feel as if we have identified areas where we can restore some variety to the character of the holes. Taking our cues from the history of the design, we look forward to restoring the features of the course and to capitalize on the advantages provided by the natural lay of the land. With a terrific history of major championships and a strong lineup of events to come in the near future, we are honored to have been selected to lead this restoration project.”
The Olympic Club and the Lake Course, which is maintained by director of golf maintenance Troy Flanagan and team, boast an extensive history.
In 1918, the club assumed operations of the Lakeside Golf Club, including an 18-hole golf course. Famed architect Arthur Brown, designer of the San Francisco City Hall, designed the Lakeside clubhouse, which officially opened in 1925.
By 1922, the club had acquired enough acreage to replace the original golf course with two 18-hole golf courses. Willie Watson and Whiting, the course superintendent, designed the first Lake and Ocean courses in 1924. Storm damage led Whiting to redesign both courses in 1927.
The Lake Course remains true to the 1927 design with minimal renovations in the intervening years. Prior to the 1955 U.S. Open, the Club brought the USGA’s official course architect, Robert Trent Jones Sr., to toughen the Lake Course for competition. In 2009, the club completed the Lake Course greens replacement project. Conversion from Poa annua to bentgrass greens was the primary objective of the project, but the crew also rebuilt and renovated greens. The new eighth hole, the first routing change to the course since 1927, was sculpted into the surrounding hillside with views of the clubhouse. It was played as a 200-yard par 3 for the 2012 U.S. Open. Most recently, the Lake Course underwent a bunker renovation project in 2016.
In 2020, the club hired Hanse to develop a long-term master plan for the Lakeside golf facilities.
The Lake Course is scheduled to host the 2028 PGA Championship and 2033 Ryder Cup. The club has hosted five U.S. Opens since 1955.