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Course Source: Lincoln Park, Sonoma

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IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Lincoln Park Golf Course in San Francisco.

THE LAYOUT: Not only is this classic course, on a site where golf was first played in 1902, a scenic walk on the Pacific Ocean side of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it also is a piece of history.

The western terminus of the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental route for automobile traffic in the United States established in 1913, is located in the park.

A replica of the original stone marker that denoted he end of the line and a plaque are located in the plaza of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, above the golf course.

The Lincoln Highway, much of its original 3,389 miles still intact, starts at Times Square in New York and winds through 14 states to the City by the Bay.

The Legion of Honor, part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, is a three-quarter-scale version of the Palais de la Legion d' Honneur in Paris and was a gift to the city by Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of sugar magnate Adolph B. Spreckels.

A cast replica of Rodin's "The Thinker" is located in the Court of Honor, and statues of El Cid and Joan of Arc on horseback in front of the museum, which opened in 1923, can be seen from parts of the course.

Also on the grounds is the San Francisco Holocaust Memorial, which opened in 1984.

Lincoln Park Golf Course opened as a three-hole layout on the site of an 1880s cemetery, and in 1909 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors turned the land over to the Parks Commission, which increased the course to 14 holes in 1914 and a full 18 three years later.

The San Francisco City Golf Championship, contested since 1917, is played at Lincoln and Harding Park Golf Courses. Names on the champions lists include Ken Venturi, George Archer, Julie Inkster and Bob E. Smith.

Among those who tried but failed to win the title were Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Tony Lema, John Brodie and Bob Rosburg.


LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Jack Neville, co-designer of Pebble Beach, helped with the original design at Lincoln Park, with Jack Fleming handling the most-recent redesign in 1960.

Don't be fooled by the yardage of 5,416 yards from the back tees and the par of 68, especially if you play on one of the windy and foggy days for which San Francisco is known.

Lincoln Park, which has a USGA rating of 65.5 and a slope of 107, can be a very enjoyable walk, but you must be in good shape to go all 18 holes because of the hills on the course.

Many first-timers start out walking and rent a cart at the turn.

The course starts out with two of several reachable par-4s, at 316 and 257 yards respectively, but both are uphill. If the wind is blowing and/or the fog is hovering, it can be a different story.

Lincoln Park is lined by towering eucalyptus trees, plus cypress and Monterey pines, so accuracy is a must, even though the majority of the fairways are not particularly narrow.

There is only one par-5 on the course, the 500-yard 13th, but the approach can be tricky on windy and foggy days, because the hole plays dramatically downhill.

The strength of the course are three par-3s on the back nine, all measuring more than 200 yards. The 203-yard 13th plays dramatically uphill, but it's probably the easiest of the three.

Lincoln Park, like many classic courses, has a daunting finish that begins with the last two of the par 3s, which measure 239 and 240 yards.

Don't get caught looking too long at the magnificent views of the Golden Gate across the water from what is known as Land's End, because the two tee shots demand your undivided attention.

The course finishes with the longest par-4 on the course, which measures 381 yards and is rated No. 2 on the card. However, it is a bit or a breather after the two previous holes.

Lincoln Park can be enjoyable to play for golfers of all abilities because of its length, with very few bunkers and no water in play unless you pull your tee shot over the cliff on either No. 16 or 17.

The relatively small greens give the golfer chances for birdie and even eagle with shots that reach the greens in regulation.

OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: TPC Harding Park, once again one of the outstanding municipal courses in the United States, was restored to its original grandeur after years of neglect by a $16 million renovation that was completed in August 2003.

Culmination of the Harding Park restoration, which was designed by Willie Watson and opened in 1925, was the 2005 World Golf Championships-American Express Championship, in which Tiger Woods outlasted John Daly on the second hole of a playoff.

Harding Park also hosted the 2009 Presidents Cup and is in the rotation for the Charles Schwab Championship, the final event of the Champions Tour season, which is being played there this week.

Also part of San Francisco's public course chain is Presidio Golf Club, which opened in 1895 and once was part of the military base overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Presidio course opened to the public in 1999 and is operated by the Arnold Palmer Golf Co. The second hole is a terrific 528-yard par 5 that features a blind shot to an elevated green.

Also in San Francisco are three fun nine-hole courses -- Golden Gate Park Golf Course, Gleneagles Golf Course and the Fleming Nine at Harding Park.

WHERE TO STAY: The venerable Fairmont San Francisco, flagship of the worldwide chain, has stood sentinel over the City by the Bay for more than 100 years from its perch on Nob Hill.

The Fairmont survived the Great Earthquake of 1906, when it was finished but not yet open, and housed many displaced San Franciscans over the next several years.

The landmark hotel is fully refurbished to its original grandeur, from the 591 guest rooms and suites to the magnificent grand main lobby with marble floors and Corinthian columns trimmed in gold.

Dine at the Fairmont in the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, which offers exotic Asian cuisine and the best Mai Tai in San Francisco in a tropical rainforest setting, or the Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar, a typical Northern California dining experience.

The Fairmont is located at the only crossing of San Francisco's three cable car lines, with Chinatown, the Embarcadero, the Financial District, Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf nearby.

Also in the neighborhood on Nob Hill are the Mark Hopkins InterContinental, the Renaissance Stanford Court, the Huntington Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco.

Other fine hotels in San Francisco include the Mandarin Oriental, Le Meridien San Francisco, the Westin St. Francis, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, the Hilton San Francisco, the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, the Palace Hotel, the Hyatt at Fisherman's Wharf and the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.


THE LAST RESORT: Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn in Sonoma, Calif.

THE LAYOUT: This is not a golf resort, per se, but guests at the Sonoma Mission Inn receive playing privileges at nearby Sonoma Golf Club, which hosted the Champions Tour's season-ending Charles Schwab Championship from 2003-2009.

John Cook captured the title at Sonoma in 2009 and repeated in 2010 at Harding Park.

Designed by Sam Whiting of Olympic Club fame and opened in 1926, Sonoma Golf Club has been ranked as one of the best golf courses in California from the beginning.

Updated by Robert Muir Graves in 1991, this is a traditional golf course of the first order, featuring tall oaks and redwoods, gradual but no drastic elevation changes and subtle greens.

The course plays to 7,103 yards from the back tees, with a par of 72 and a slope of 132, and offers scenic views of the Mayacamas Mountains. The spectacular Spanish-style clubhouse opened in 2005.


LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Despite its storied history, Sonoma Golf Club is something of a secret golfing treasure, perhaps because it is tucked away in a sleepy corner of Northern California's Wine Country.

Sam Snead often claimed it was his favorite course in the world, and he especially enjoyed the par-3, 219-yard seventh hole, which plays through a little hollow of ground surrounded by trees. There is a gully to the right, with oaks and two traps guarding the left side of a green that has several levels.

That's the start of an exceptional three-hole windup to the front nine that includes the downhill 596-yard eighth, which features a hidden bunker on the right side of the driving area, and the 345-yard ninth, which plays uphill to a three-tiered green that is heavily bunkered.

The 557-yard 13th offers a chance for a birdie, but the critical second shot must steer clear of a lake on the right and two bunkers on the left.

Nos. 15 and 18, both doglegs right, are two of the best par 4s on the course.

The first measures 436 yards and requires two well-struck shots to get home, with trees down the right a real problem.

On the finishing hole, a bunker and a line of trees make it problematic to cut the corner. The green, which slopes dramatically from back to front, is guarded by a creek that can't be seen from the fairway.

OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Eagle Vines Vineyards and Golf Club and its neighbor, Chardonnay Golf Club, offer 36 holes that meander through 150 acres of chardonnay and merlot vineyards in nearby Napa.

Silverado Resort in Napa, which hosted the PGA Tour in years past, offers the challenging 6,700-yard South Course, and the more forgiving North Course, which measures 6,500 yards.

Not far away are the Links at Bodega Harbour in Bodega Bay, where Alfred Hitchcock filmed his classic thriller, "The Birds."

WHERE TO STAY: The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, with its elegant Spanish architecture that replicates the California Missions established by Franciscan Father Junipero Serra, has been a favorite of visitors to the Wine Country since it opened in 1927.

Native Americans discovered the natural underground hot mineral waters on the site hundreds of years ago, and Dr. T.M. Leavenworth, an eccentric San Francisco physician, was the first to commercially develop the hot springs in 1840.

In 1895, Captain H.E. Boyes, an enterprising young Englishman, acquired the property and struck 112-degree water at 70 feet while drilling a well. Within five years, he built the Boyes Hot Springs Hotel on the site of the current property.

In 1923, a fire destroyed the hotel and most of Boyes Hot Springs, but out of the ashes rose the Sonoma Mission Inn. In 1980, a major renovation returned the Inn to its 1920s grandeur, and the Spa was added in 1981.

Renovations completed in 2000 included expansion of the Spa to 40,000 square feet. Guests can receive a myriad of body, facial, hair and other beauty treatments.

The Sonoma Mission Inn also offers biking, hiking and a full-service fitness center. Dine just off the lobby in the Sante Restaurant, with its international reputation for the finest cuisine, or at The Big 3, a restaurant owned by the Inn and located right outside the front gate, with its 50-year history of serving fine food in a casual atmosphere.

Several wine tasting rooms are located nearby, including the Mayo Family Winery in the town of Glen Ellen, where they say the ghost of Jack London resides. Also close is Kenwood Vineyards, which produces the unique Jack London series of wines from grapes grown in the red volcanic soil on the famed author's ranch.

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