TPC Harding Park Favours Accuracy, Creativity Rather than Distance

PGA Championship
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Sandy Tatum is somewhere beaming with pride.

TPC Harding Park, the course Tatum restored during his tenure as USGA president, is now the host of the 102nd PGA Championship this week. 

California hosts an abundance of professional golf tournaments each year, from Torrey Pines to Pebble Beach. 

While Harding Park doesn’t have the name recognition like other courses in the state, it provides a unique challenge that will test the best golfers in the world. 

Its aesthetics are superb. 

The History 

Situated on Lake Merced in San Francisco, Harding Park was one of America’s first municipal golf courses. Named after the 29th President of the United States, Warren G. Harding, William Watson, and Sam Whiting designed the course. The pair also created Olympic Club, which sits directly across from Harding Park. 

Harding Park debuted in professional golf at the 1944 Victory Open. From the San Francisco City Championship to the Lucky International Open, several major champions won at this course, including Gary Player and Billy Casper. 

Due to irrigation issues and large fissures in the fairways, Harding Park fell apart at the end of the 20th century. It was Tatum’s leadership and foresight that recognized the importance of Harding Park to the city, hence why he lobbied to get the course rejuvenated. 

In the 21st century, Harding Park’s moments are limited yet memorable. 

Tiger Woods defeating John Daly at the WGC Match Play. Or the Big Cat’s club twirl at the 2009 President’s Cup. 

Watson and Whiting’s legacy as golf course designers is alive this week at the PGA Championship, the first major in this bizarre 2020 season. 

The Setup


Par 70
Yardage 7,251
Average Green Size 7,000 sq. ft.
Average Tee Size 1,200 sq. ft.
Acres of Fairway 36
Acres of Rough 70
Number of Sand Bunkers 47
Number of Water Hazards 2


Harding Park is a par-70 with two par-5’s. The course isn’t as long as some other major championship setups. Where the test exists is the narrow fairways and punitive rough.

The fairways are pinched by 90% and the rough is deep, requiring golfers to hit the ball in the fairway.

“The rough is going to be an issue,” said ESPN on-course reporter Andy North to reporters on a conference call. “We’ve seen it there in the past where it’s been thick, and because of the moisture, driving the ball is going to be very important. You know, some of it — if you can put the ball in the fairway there, you’re going to have a great chance because it’s not going to be just a bomber’s paradise, I believe.”

Which Golfer Does Harding Park Prefer?

The short, narrow nature of Harding Park will favour golfers who are accurate and place the ball in the fairway.

Below are the rankings of strokes gained: off-the-tee and strokes gained: tee-to-green.

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Ranking Golfer Average
1. Bryson DeChambeau 1.120
2. Cameron Champ 1.017
3. Sergio Garcia 0.864
4. Rory McIlroy 0.801
5. Jhonattan Vegas 0.752
6. Jon Rahm 0.710
7. Xander Schauffele 0.682
8. Jason Kokrak 0.647
9. Bubba Watson 0.646
10. Scottie Scheffler 0.619


Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green

Ranking Golfer Average
1. Justin Thomas 1.928
2. Hideki Matsuyama 1.619
3. Sergio Garcia 1.532
4. Collin Morikawa 1.507
5. Rory McIlroy 1.499
6. Xander Schauffele 1.362
7. Patrick Cantlay 1.339
8. Jon Rahm 1.209
9. Bryson DeChambeau 1.195
10. Tony Finau 1.098


Four golfers are on both lists: Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Xander Schauffele. DeChambeau won the Rocket Mortage Classic while Rahm survived the difficult test at Muirfield Village to win The Memorial.

While DeChambeau wants to maximize his distance off the tee, Harding Park doesn’t reward the longer hitters, given the thick rough. This is where golfers like McIlroy, Rahm, Schauffele and, Thomas (World No. 1) will benefit, given their affinity to place the ball in the fairway.

382 days ago, the last major championship round took place. Despite no fans in attendance at this year’s PGA Championship, Harding Park will no doubt provide the thrills and drama consistent with a major.