Now the bad. Lincoln Park could be so much more. With a little TLC, it would become one the great destination municipal golf courses in America. For now, it's like a rusty old classic American car from the golden age.
At a par of 68 and 5,416 yards, Lincoln is not a full-size course, but big enough to satisfy. It is a hilly, yet walk-able.
It has only one par 5---the 500 yard, downhill 13th. Its longest par 4, the 18th, plays 381 yards. In fact it has eleven holes less than 300 yards. The course has plenty of Cypress and Monterey Pine trees, but leaves lots of room to miss due to few bunkers, and no water in play. The course has few bunkers and no water in play. Wind and fog can be factors, as the course sits atop a bluff on Land's End.
Among those short par 4's, the 355 yard 7TH presents a tight, blind tee shot to, and preferably over, an elevated fairway that then descends to the green. A long iron sets up a mid-iron iron approach. If you pull the driver and hit it well, you could be a simple pitch shot away. Even a slight hook puts you deep into the trees, however. A slice could strike a car or house on Clement Street.
Lincoln has the bones of a great course with skin showing years of neglect. In 1902 Pebble Beach co-designer Jack Neville helped establish the course as SF's first muni. The most recent remodel was in 1960, by Jack Fleming, and the neglect shows.
There are obvious signs of drainage and irrigation problems on several fairways and greens. Two members of my group lost balls in large muddy pools in the middle of the 3rd and 5th fairways. In places, you will find it difficult to distinguish the difference between fairway or rough. The greens are bumpy and slow with brown dead spots. In walking the course, you may get lost due to bad signage. The cart paths have many potholes and cracks. The golf carts have balding tires and scratched windows. The clubhouse has peeling paint and cracked windows.
And yet, on a nice day you may forget all of those frustrations after playing the Par 3, 240 yard, 17th. No other golf hole in the world offers a view of the Marin Headlands, or even closer, the Golden Gate Bridge, seemingly just a hooked shot away.
It's a perfect example of the potential Lincoln Park offers. San Francisco did a marvelous job in remaking Harding Park, just a few miles away. If the city put as much effort into Lincoln, and also the Mackenzie-designed Sharp Park farther south, it could become a pre-eminent golfing tourist destination. At the very least, San Francisco's loyal and patient municipal golfers deserve better.