Want to play Winged Foot? One way involves a scenic, scruffy muni

Sharp Park is the only true Alister Mackenzie-designed seaside links muni.

Sharp Park is the only true Alister Mackenzie-designed seaside links muni.

San Francisco Public Golf Alliance

It’s not easy being a California muni. Maintenance costs are high. Budgets are short. And there’s pressure to turn fairways into housing. Publicly owned courses make great political punching bags. 

But of all the battered munis in the Golden State, few have weathered more blows than Sharp Park.

Built in 1932, Sharp Park was an exception from the start: a rare public-access design by the Golden Age master Alister Mackenzie, set along the ocean, just south of San Francisco. Mackenzie himself described it “as sporty as the Old Course at St. Andrews and as picturesque a golf course as any in the world.”

In the 1940s, several of the original holes were lost to the construction of a sea wall, and over the years the wall has kept waves off the course. That doesn’t mean it’s held other threats at bay.

For much of the past two decades, Sharp Park became the subject of a tangled legal battle between environmentalists who sought to have the course closed and advocates fighting to preserve it.

Foremost among those advocates has been the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, a nonprofit whose mission is what its name suggests: “to nurture and defend affordable, eco-friendly golf” in the San Francisco area. Since its founding in 2007, the Alliance has supported Sharp Park on multiple fronts. In addition to helping put the lawsuits to bed, it has propelled course clean-ups and capital improvements. Earlier this year, the organization completed and installed in the Sharp Park clubhouse an historical exhibit focused on Mackenzie and the course. 

Ambitions for Sharp Park don’t end there. Plans are in the works for a restoration by the architects Jay Blasi and Tom Doak that would draw on research by Peter Flory, whose digital imagery provided the blueprint for the recent ballyhooed revival of the Lido, in Wisconsin.

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As usual, at Sharp Park, there’s lots going on. And most of it costs money.

Over the years, the Alliance has raised more than $700,000 for the course through an annual scramble tournament, which will take place at Sharp Park on Nov. 12, and an annual auction, which is already underway online. Many of the items on the docket are appropriately Golden Age in pedigree. They include rounds for threesomes and foursomes at architectural gems from coast to coast: Winged Foot, Camargo, Baltusrol, Somerset Hills, the Olympic Club, Monterey Peninsula Country Club, and more. 

Those courses aren’t munis, but if a muni is what you’re after, you can also bid on a tee time at Pacific Grove, the so-called Poor Man’s Pebble, in Monterey. The online phase of the auction will continue through Wed. Nov. 8, and then resume as a live silent auction following the scramble tournament. 

You can check out the online auction here, and learn more about the tournament at this link.

Josh Sens

Golf.com 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.