Golf club tees up $10million renovation

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The California Golf Club, complete with its old-school men’s-only lounge, is returning to its roots — literally, by pulling out the course’s greens, bunkers, trees and fairways for its first major overhaul in decades.

Founded in San Francisco in 1918 before relocating to South San Francisco in 1924, the club’s course had become cramped with diseased trees that suffocated the grass, which itself was infested with root-eating worms, according to General Manager Dennis Mahoney.

“There are disadvantages for a golf course that has too many trees,” San Mateo County planner Pete Bentley said.

The course, although surrounded by South City, was never incorporated and falls within the county’s jurisdiction.

The private course’s greens are 83 years old and the club’s 370 members agreed they needed replacing.

“Overwhelmingly, the members said that if we were going to do [the work], we had to do it once and do it right,” 30-year member and past president Joe Galligan said.

With the course already closed for play except for a couple of chipping and putting greens, he and other members won’t be able to tee off again until next spring, Galligan said.

The $10 million renovation has been discussed, to a greater or lesser extent, for at least 15 years. It will include new greens, the renovation of a handful of fairways, the replacement of 500 trees with 750 new ones and extending the course length from 6,600 yards to 7,200 yards. The improvements will raise the level of play in an era of more powerful golf clubs and longer-flying balls, Mahoney said.

And, of course, there’s competition from area public courses, such as San Francisco’s Harding Park, as they upgrade. But the club’s members aren’t interested in hosting PGA tournaments, Mahoney said.

Underlying the work will be an improved drainage system to extend playability into the winter. The course’s maintenance facility will be relocated to the southeast corner of the property.

“We’re trying to restore it to the way it was in the old days,” Mahoney said, citing a plan to do away with the course’s three water hazards and open the fairways along Westborough Boulevard as they were in the 1920s.

The club has hired Oliphant Golf Construction, a company that has done work at Pebble Beach, and course designer Kyle Phillips for the work, Mahoney said. U.S. Open golf champion and longtime honorary member Ken Venturi has also been consulted on the design, Mahoney said.

At a glance

» $10 million in renovations planned

» 500 trees to be replaced by 750

» Restoration in the style of the club’s 1920s opening

» Course length to be extended from 6,600 yards to 7,200 yards

» Redesign to be handled by Oliphant Golf Construction Inc. and golf club designer Kyle Phillips

– Source: California Golf Club General Manager Dennis Mahoney and San Mateo County planner Pete Bentley

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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