Men at work -- big greens ahead
It's all dirt now, but Harding make-over is on fast track
Brian Murphy, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, August 11, 2002
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.
Plains of dirt, dust cluttering the air, bulldozers rumbling -- dear old Harding Park has turned into a strange and awesome sight, some golf course version of the planet from "Dune" mixed with the feverish work pace of a financial district sidewalk.
In short, Harding Park is being transformed.
On Golf had not visited in two months, but a trip last week revealed the intense clip at which PGA Tour course architect Chris Gray and Tour project superintendent Leslie Claytor are toiling.
Already, holes 2 through 7 and 11, 12 and half of 13 have been shaped. Already, sprinkler heads have been installed. Already, plans are to start laying grass as early as next month.
Got to beat the rainy season, after all. And got to stay on target with a hectic calendar.
"Typically, this would take eight months, but we're doing it in four," Claytor said, standing on the parking lot behind the 18th tee, where a new tee box will be built. "That's just the way the industry is going now."
As promised, Gray and Claytor are overseeing massive overhauls of the once- small Harding greens. Currently, dirt is carved to shape gigantic, oblong greens with slopes and fingers, enough to tickle the imagination of a Harding Park muni hack. At 17, for example, a 2,800-square-foot green will be doubled. Same thing at 11.
Gray reiterated his premise that the frequent traffic Harding receives necessitates the growth, as does the necessity to create movement for water. All part of a "maintenance reality," to use Gray's words.
All over Harding, dirt is moved to re-grade the fairways, with Gray's intention to create proper drainage. His goal: subtlety, with impact.
"The ultimate compliment will be if somebody says, 'Hey, they didn't do too much,' when in reality, we did," Gray said of fairway gradation, particularly on internal holes like 2, 5, 6 and 7. "The intention is not to make it a modern, rolling golf course. But the reality is, it's so flat, the water doesn't move."
The most noticeable change came from significant tree removal by city cleanup crews. Now, a stroll over the hill on the 13th fairway yields a glorious view across the 14th tee and Lake Merced, including the vista of the Olympic Club clubhouse poking out of the cypress trees, lending a sense of place.
"With the tree removal done," Gray said, "it's sort of like walking out of the barber shop with a new haircut."
The charms of Harding are winning over the lads from PGA Tour headquarters in Florida. Claytor talked of his affection for No. 15, with different strategic possibilities off the tee and into a new, larger green. "Fourteen and 18 are the obvious favorites," he said, "but I think 15 is the best hole on the course."
Yet, standing back on that weed-overrun lot behind the old 18th tee, it was hard to dispute that the signature closing hole would provide its original impact -- and then some, with a 300-yard carry over the lake from the new tournament tees.
"Eighteen is the eye candy," Claytor said, "but the rest of this course is solid, too."
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E-mail Brian Murphy at [email protected].