Course Confidential | PGA Championship Hole-By-Hole at TPC Harding Park

August 3, 2020
The signature 18th hole plays along Lake Merced. All photos courtesy of TPC Harding Park.
The signature 18th hole plays along Lake Merced. All photos courtesy of TPC Harding Park.

For the first time in its 102-year history, the PGA Championship will be played in the Bay Area. TPC Harding Park will serve as a backdrop for this memorable event, which marks the opening major championship a COVID-challenged 2020 golf season.

Located in San Francisco, this is one of the most unique municipal golf experiences in the country. Towering Monterey Cypress trees and the waters of Lake Merced deliver a scenic backdrop, while the 1925-course design of architect Willie Watson has withstood the test of time as a frequent stop on the PGA TOUR.

In preparation for this championship, a series of new tee boxes were installed over the last two years. Furthermore, fairways have been narrowed and shifted to bring more bunkers into play, while shaved edges along those bunkers will result in more balls nestling into the sand.

As we prepare to watch the greatest players in the world put their game to the test, let’s take a closer look at the host course. PGA Associate Ryan Clauzel, a Team TaylorMade staff professional and assistant pro at TPC Harding Park, takes us on a hole-by-hole journey and highlights some of the renovations as well as course set up for the first major of 2020.

“We’ve worked tirelessly to prepare for this championship over the last 2 years. We’ve added new tee boxes for more length, shaved bunker edges so that they capture more shots and by Thursday the rough will be 4 inches high. With narrow chutes and fairways, it will be a major championship test in precision.”
Ryan Clauzel, TPC Harding Park

Hole No. 1 | Par 4 | 393

The first hole is a nice opening handshake. This straight away 393-yard par 4 has no fairway bunkers with its main defense being an extremely tight fairway. We’ll see a lot of players opting for iron off the opening tee leaving them with a 9i or wedge into fairly straight forward green complex. As with the majority of our putting surfaces, the players will have to deal with some very subtle breaks that will require precise reads.

Hole No. 2 | Par 4 | 466 Yards

This 466-yard par 4 boasts two bunker complexes down the left-hand-side. Due to the length of the hole, players will likely take driver off the tee, bringing those bunkers squarely into play (it’s about 300 yards to reach the bunkers and 340 to carry them). If they challenge the right side off the tee, they must contend with a grove of Cypress trees. However, if they’re too cautious and end up in the left-hand rough, they must contend with another tree short left of the green on the approach. Similar to the opening hole, this green features some subtle breaks but be weary, anything long and right will want to funnel off.

Hole No. 3 | Par 3 | 185 Yards

Players will have the chance to come out of the gates strong if they birdie the short first hole and come back with a strong showing on this relatively short par 3. Playing 185 on a slight incline, it typically plays a half club longer depending on the wind with two bunkers guarding the front portion of the green. Because of the 15-30 feet elevation change, players will not be able to see their ball land. This green is more severe than the first two. It slopes heavily from the middle portion down to the front, meaning anything above the hole on a front pin location will require a delicate touch. The greens normally run 10 on the stimp, but will be pushed to 12-13 for the Championship.

Hole No. 4 | Par 5 | 605 Yards

At 605 yards, this big sweeping dogleg left is longest hole on the course. To have any chance to reaching the green in two, players will be forced to cut the corner or produce a strong draw to get the ball into premium position. Adding to the challenge is a particularly narrow fairway. Going deep and staying in the short grass will be tough. I imagine most players will choose to lay back and play it as a true 3-shotter. Things don’t get any easier on the approach, a narrow tree-lined chute dictates the players’ line into the green. The green is sloped from back-to-front with some right-to-left contour, as well. Middle-left is the most challenging pin position.

Hole No. 5 | Par 4 | 440 Yards

No. 5 is the only one on the course without a bunker, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging. We added a new tee box that lets us stretch it to 440 yards – it previously played 395. From back there, the players must navigate a narrow chute created by a grouping of old Cypress trees. It demands a very straight tee shot, which is tough with prevailing winds coming off the right. It’s one of the trickiest tee shots on the course. There won’t be any let up on the approach either. Players will face one of the more severe greens on the course, with extreme slope of the front-left edge as well on the right side of the green – where everything is shaven down. Par is a good score.

Cypress Tree surround the green at the par-4 5th.
Cypress Tree surround the green at the par-4 5th.

Hole No. 6 | Par 4 | 475 Yards

You might notice a theme on this stretch of holes. The tee shot on No. 6 will also require players to fire through a chute of Cypresses. As it plays 475, some of the bombers will be tempted to challenge the left-hand side and fly it over the trees in attempt to have a short iron in hand on the second shot. Otherwise, you’re forced to play a shorter shot (either 3wd, Rescue or utility) out the right, leaving a mid-to-long iron in on this dogleg left par 4. It’s a larger green that’s designed to receive those long-iron shots. It is slopped from back right to front left, with two strategically placed bunkers guarding the front-left portion of the green. For the players who attack and have wedge, a pin placement in that front-left section could spell trouble if they over spin it and the ball rolls down into the bunkers.

Hole No. 7 | Par 4 | 335 Yards

No. 7 is a fun hole, expect to see some fireworks. At 335 yards this par 4 will be drivable for many players in the field – there might even be days where the tee is moved up farther to encourage players to let it rip. There’s a severe false front that may prevent tee shots from rolling up. Players will likely need to fly it on in order to hold the green. The back-left pin location will be among the most daunting, as a small pot bunker guards that section of the green. Up and down from there can be a challenge. I anticipate a lot of tee shots ending up in the front-right bunker. For players of this caliber, there’s a high chance of getting up-and-down for birdie from that location.

The drivable par-4 7th.
The drivable par-4 7th.

Hole No. 8 | Par 3 | 250 Yards

No. 8 features yet another new tee box, allowing us to stretch this already long par 3 to new lengths. It plays slightly downhill with the wind commonly coming off the left. The most interesting feature of this hole is a large grass bunker that protects the left side of the green complex. It’s a nasty place to be under normal circumstances, but with major championship rough players will want to avoid it at all cost. The green has a gradual slope from back right to front left. A tough hole, which means a lot of fun for us as spectators.

Hole No. 9 | Par 4 | 515 Yards

Hole No. 9 plays as a par 5 for us commoners, but when the TOUR rolls into town it transforms into a demanding 515-yard par 4. Long hitters will be tempted to take on a second grouping of fairway bunkers down the right-hand side. Needing 315 yards of carry to clear them comfortably, it’s definitely doable. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if those bunkers see plenty of work throughout the week. The green is fairly subdued, with a gradual slope from back right to front left. The premium will be on distance and a well-placed drive.

Hole No. 10 | Par 5 | 562 Yards

As players make the turn, they’re greeted by a 562-yard par 5 that’s reachable for most players in the field. Bunkers down the right-hand side will be in play for shorter hitters, but they’ll be an afterthought for most. The green is one of the more interesting complexes on the course. A giant false front can produce challenging pin locations. With the green speeds as fast they are, there’s the potential for this to be troublesome. However, since it’s a reachable par 5 on the PGA TOUR you can expect plenty of birdies.

Hole No. 11 | Par 3 | 200 Yards

The par-3 11th can plays upwards of 200 yards if the PGA decides to stretch it out. There’s a backstop in the middle of the green that players to can use to get it close on a front-left pin location. That same slope, in accompaniment with a bunker on the right-hand side, can make for a challenging approach on pins in the back-right corner. Back-left is no walk in Golden Gate Park, either. There’s a slope there that wants to see the ball careen off the back and into the thick rough.

Hole No. 12 | Par 4 | 495 Yards

Another converted par 5, the 12th will play as a long sweeping dogleg left par 4 during the Championship. A blind landing area prevents the players from seeing where their ball comes to rest. Most players will have long irons into this green, which wants to funnel towards the back-right corner. Pins on the left-hand side will force players to contend with a bunker if they want to be aggressive. A steep drop off on the backside can easily gobble up shots that travel too far and leave a challenging up-and-down.

Hole No. 13 | Par 4 | 472

Another new tee box awaits on hole No. 13. This 472-yard par 4 will play as a slight dogleg right. The bunker down the right-hand side requires a 270-yard carry, which is no worry for this field. That bunker will serve as a great target line, because players will need to error towards the right for a legitimate shot at birdie. If they end up down the left, particularly in the left-hand rough, they’ll need to navigate a large tree that protects the green by hitting a swooping draw. Creating the spin required to for that severe of a draw will be a challenge coming out of the rough. The green features yet another false front and a bunker that defends the back-left Sunday pin.

Hole No. 14 | Par 4 | 470 Yards

This begins our signature stretch of holes that sit adjacent to Lake Merced. No. 14 is a long straightaway par 4 that plays slightly uphill. This hole will be defined by its narrow fairway and thick rough, placing a premium on accuracy off the tee. A pulled drive can easily find the penalty area. The second shot will play approximately 15 feet uphill to a green that’s marred by a depression on the right side that will collect any shots that come up short. Overall, it’s a fairly large and subdued putting surface.

Hole No. 15 | Par 4 | 405 Yards

Although this 405-yard par 4 is relatively short by TOUR standards, it features a severely sloped fairway from right-to-left that can make for awkward lies. Players who attempt to aim at the bunker down the right and hit a draw in order to advantage of the slope will find themselves with a challenging second shot from an uneven lie. My guess is that most players will lay back with an iron off the tee and then attack this receptive green from 160-170 yards.

The sun sets on the 15th hole.
The sun sets on the 15th hole.

Hole No. 16 | Par 4 | 330 Yards

No. 16 is one of my favorite holes on the course. At 330 yards, this drivable par 4 should provide some fireworks down the stretch on Sunday. A thick grove of Cypress trees to the right of the green will require golfers to move the ball significantly from left-to-right in order to reach the green from the tee. Lake Merced awaits any golfer who double crosses themselves and leaves a drive out the left. Those electing to lay back will need to play it 200-210 yards towards the bunkers on the left to set up an easy wedge shot. The green complex is home to one of our most challenging pin placements. The middle right portion of this green is highlighted be severe slopes that move from back left to front right.

Hole No. 17 | Par 3 | 175 Yards

The short par-3 17th plays 175 at its max. However, it’s the most exposed area of the golf course which can lead to some strong winds. There’s a tree that sits approximately 75 yards from the green that dictates the shot shape, depending on the location of the pin. A slight false front bottlenecks between the two greenside bunkers. The green itself is relatively flat and welcoming, with only subtle breaks.

Hole No. 18

Our signature 18th hole is one of the most picturesque on the property. This long dogleg left meanders around the edge of Lake Merced with large Cypress trees peppering the terrain. In addition to adding a new tee box that lets us push it back to 480 yards, we also planted another tree down the left-hand side that serves as a nice starting line. It’s about 270 to carry it. Big hitters will take aim at the bunkers on the right-hand side with a slight draw in hopes of catching a speed slot that will propel the ball down the fairway into wedge territory. A 320 carry should suffice on that line. Anything that comes up short and left is trouble, as the player will be blocked out from the green by a large grove of Cypresses. Lake Merced stretches all the way down the left side and can be in play on the second shot, as well. Like many of our greens, players will be greeted by a steep false front and slight undulations on the upper portion. The narrow back area of the green makes for a strong pin placement.

Lake view of the 18th hole.
Lake view of the 18th hole.