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San Francisco's Sharp Park to Stay Open


San Francisco Bay-area golfers can keep playing the historic Alister MacKenzie-designed Sharp Park Golf Course for now following a skirmish between environmentalists determined to close the course in favor of a frog and snake preserve and an all-volunteer nonprofit organization set on keeping the course open for play.

The city's recreation and parks department recommended keeping the 18-hole public course open following the review of a five-month study involving a Tucson-based environmental litigation group, Center for Biological Diversity, and the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance. Final approval of the recommendation will be made by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors following an environmental impact report.

The recreation and parks department's 400-page report concluded that closing the golf course, or reducing it to nine holes, would be significantly more expensive than keeping the course in operation. The CBD's proposal to use an environmental "mitigation bank" as a funding device for closing the course would have high up-front costs and questionable revenue-generating prospects, the department's report concluded. Under all alternatives, the frog and snake's primary habitat would be protected and expanded at Sharp Park.

The department's golf plan calls for closing the par-3 12th hole and shortening the par-4 11th and par-5 13th holes to move golfers and maintenance workers away from the two large ponds and a connecting stream on the western part of the course.

"Golfers are environmentalists, and this is important to us, too," said Bo Links, one of the alliance's founders.

A press release from the golf alliance stated that despite its fancy architectural pedigree, the golf course is famous for being the home of a racially and culturally diverse middle-class golfing clientele, featuring large percentages of pensioners, women and beginners.

"This is exactly who Dr. MacKenzie designed this golf course for," Links said.

The story originally appeared in GCM Newsweekly, an e-publication of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (www.gcsaa.org).