This iconic U.S. Open venue has a dizzying new attraction

olympic club putting course

The "Lombard Street" putting course at Olympic Club.

Tommy Naccarato

More than 150 years after Old Tom Morris built the first of its kind, golfers can’t seem to get enough of the concept.

Putting courses.

They’re the rage, rollicking attractions found nowadays at properties ranging from Pebble Beach and Pinehurst to Bandon Dunes, Gamble Sands and Big Cedar Lodge.

Streamsong has one. Ditto Erin Hills and Destination Kohler. And then there’s Popstroke, an indoor putting course and entertainment venture with a backer by the name of Tiger Woods.

At a time when no ambitious golf venue seems complete without an ample, rumpled patch upon which to roll your rock, we can add another name to the lengthy ledger: Lombard Street.

As the name suggests to anyone familiar with tourist landmarks, the locale is San Francisco. Specially, the Olympic Club, a five-time U.S. Open host that is coming off a Gil Hanse-Jim Wagner renovation of its championship Lake Course. As part of the redo, which removed trees, opened vistas and returned greens and bunkers to the shape, contour and placement originally conceived by Sam Whiting and Willie Watson, the Hanse team created a nifty little extra (well, not so little; it covers about a half an acre), just astride a side door to the clubhouse, on ground once occupied by a modest practice green.

Like many of today’s headline-making putting courses, this one draws inspiration from the OG of the genre, Old Tom’s project in the game’s ancestral home, which came into being in 1867 as the St. Andrews Ladies Golf Club but is now better known as the Himalayas, a nod to its pronounced peaks and valleys. 

olympic club putting course
The new green covers half an acre. Josh Sens

The Lombard Street course has a lot of ripples, too, but unlike the Himalayas, its entire footprint has a tilt as well, sloping from a highpoint near the clubhouse, with views of San Francisco, and putts as zig-zagging as Lombard Street itself.

Though the Olympic Club is private, its status as a big-time tournament host means it isn’t always shrouded from the public. Next up is the 2025 U.S. Amateur Championship, followed by the PGA Championship in 2028; the 2030 U.S. Women’s Amateur; and the 2033 Ryder Cup.

The Olympic Club also has many members. Maybe one will have you out before then. If you hit the putting course, here’s a tip from Hanse.

“Approach it like Lombard Street. Careful going downhill.”

Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.