Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Working Class Golf at Sharp Park
Pacifica consists of a dozen small coastal hamlets in San Mateo County that incorporated as recently as 1957, and though it's only about 10 miles south of San Francisco, the town almost feels as if it's in another country. A friend who used to teach high school there remarked that the place had something of the ingrown character of an Appalachian valley, with a number of his students never having even visited San Francisco.
Near the center of Pacifica is Sharp Park, a municipal golf course dating from 1932 that was designed by Alister Mackenzie (1870-1934), who was arguably the greatest golf course architect in the history of the game. He summed up his design credo with the following: ""In discussing the need for simplicity of design, the chief object of every golf course architect worth his salt is to imitate the beauties of nature so closely as to make his work indistinguishable from nature itself."
Sharp Park is named after George Sharp, a rich 19th century lawyer whose widow deeded their considerable estate to Reuben Lloyd and Adolph Spreckels in 1905 (click here for an expanded history). The latter were both San Francisco Park Commissioners, which is how Pacifica's downtown municipal golf course ended up in the hands of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. That dysfunctional body has been doing just about everything it can to destroy the place, starving it of money and resources while throwing millions of dollars into the money pit that is Harding Park Golf Course at Lake Merced, where the green fees on the weekend top out at $155 versus $38 at Sharp Park.
The place is well-loved by the town, however, and its old bar and restaurant are like walking into a time bubble, with inexpensive prices and working class people from all over the Bay Area enjoying each other.
They are going to have to put up a serious fight, however, because there are some formidable foes who would like nothing better than to shut the place down. There are the environmentalists who want Pure Nature (click here for "Sharp Park Golf Course Must Close"). Finally, there's Isabel Wade, who hates golf courses, and her Neighborhood Parks Council lobbying group who want to turn San Francisco's municipal courses into nature preserves, complete with dumb visitors' centers.