SAN FRANCISCO - The Olympic Club has long been on the USGA's short list of go-to clubs for its championships.
When there's not a pandemic, a USGA Championship at Olympic is sure to attract more interest from spectators and TV viewers and more respect from the players than most venues. Its thick air is rarefied indeed.
The legacy of the club will only grow by hosting its first women's major championship, the U.S. Women's Open, June 3-6. The championship will be televised by Golf Channel, Peacock and NBC.
Limited spectators will also be allowed on the grounds, provided they wear a mask and prove their vaccine status.
The club has long supported the women's game. Golf Channel Announcer Kay Cockerill, a two-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion who played on the LPGA Tour for nine years, is one of the talented women club members who have competed in 75 different USGA championships. "We value women's golf here at The Olympic Club," Cockerill says.
Who better to share all the secrets of @TheOlympicClub than a long-time member and resident of San Francisco?— U.S. Women's Open (USGA) (@uswomensopen) April 21, 2021
@KiraDixon catches up with @GolfChannel's @KayCockerill to discuss all things #USWomensOpen on this week's episode of #TheTapIn. pic.twitter.com/BRIKfPYLGF
The Lake Course itself is familiar to veteran golf fans who tuned in for the 2012 U.S. Open, the most recent of its five U.S. Opens. It also hosted the first U.S. men's Four-Ball in 2015. In an interesting plot twist following the 2025 U.S. Amateur it will host, The Olympic Club features its first PGA Championship in 2028. That locked in the 2033 Ryder Cup, which is also run by the PGA of America.
The reverse-canted fairways at holes 4 and 5 - where the hole bends one way, but the ground kicks balls in the opposition direction - are the layout's signatures. At roughly 6,457 yards on the championship scorecard and lined with juicy rough, it will be more a fight for survival than a shootout. Whoever is playing, men or women, it's the U.S. Open way.
"It's a tough course," said Michelle Wie-West, the 2014 U.S. Women's Open champion who now lives 15 minutes from the course. "You have to be able to shape the ball here. Famously, the course runs opposite from where it's going. You have to be able to be good on uneven lies."
Take a hole-by-hole tour of one of golf's most iconic venues.
Par 5 | 528 yards
The opening hole is gentle compared to the rest of the course. It rolls casually downhill to reveal perhaps the best view of the ocean. The approach should land short and bounce on, otherwise the slope of the green will boot the ball to the back.
Par 4 | 382 yards
No. 2 is first of many holes that play uphill and longer than the yardage. Judging how far to the pin will be a real issue since players can't see the green's surface from the fairway. The green slopes dramatically from right to left, so hitting to the left of the pin will set up an uphill putt.
Par 3 | 209 yards
The elevated tee of the course's first par 3 features perhaps the best view of the city. The green is a narrow target bracketed by bunkers.
Par 4 | 396 yards
The fourth tee shot introduces the biggest strategic element of the feared Lake Course: A fairway that swings left but kicks the ball into the thick right rough.
Par 4 | 432 yards
The fifth, which has been lengthened by 40 yards in recent years, does the opposite, bending right but kicking the ball left. Big hitters can cut the corner of the dogleg to set up a much easier approach.
Par 4 | 420 yards
The sixth features the only fairway bunker in play off the tee. Like many of the other holes on the Lake, it finishes at a well-bunkered, elevated green. Up and down from thick rough or deep bunkers is never easy here.
Par 4 | 263 yards
It will be interesting to see how many days the USGA moves up the tee to make this a drivable par 4. It's so uphill that many players won't try regardless of the tee placement. A par is no guarantee if you're above the hole on the two-tiered green.
Par 3 | 154 yards
The 8th also climbs steeply skyward, adding at least 1-2 clubs. The miss is long or right to make sure a player clears the two front bunkers and the false front that will send the ball careening back to the fairway 30 yards below the green.
Par 4 | 380 yards
The 9th, the second-longest par 4 on the entire routing, starts with a downhill tee shot to a right-to-left sloping fairway.
Par 4 | 392 yards
The 10th hole bends gently right. Several bunkers pinch a relatively flat green, requiring an accurate approach for a chance at birdie.
Par 4 | 411 yards
For amateurs, the most difficult part of playing the 11th is putting down the burger dog they bought from Hot Dog Bills. Since the pros won't be stopping for San Francisco's most famous golf treat, they should be able to concentrate on hitting a quality shot to a demanding two-tiered green.
Par 4 | 398 yards
The 12th has been lengthened by 30 yards in recent years. Tall Monterey pines and cypress trees make it a daunting hole.
Par 3 | 171 yards
I'd argue this is the hardest par 3 on the Lake, although the statistics say it's the 8th. Even the pros should take one more stick than they think. Many will be hitting long irons and hybrids to make sure they carry the front bunkers.
Par 4 | 410 yards
This dogleg left can be trouble for players who hook their shots into the tree line. The second shot to the elevated green is one of the hardest approach shots at the club.
Par 3 | 137 yards
The extremely deep front bunker is like a "Mavericks" wave crashing down on you. I was in it at media day and couldn't see the pin, although I did get out ... barely.
Par 5 | 563 yards
This hard dogleg left became part of major championship lore when Jim Furyk was caught off-guard by a tee box pushed up by the USGA at the 2012 U.S. Open. He hooked his ball into the tall trees, losing a great opportunity to capture his second U.S. Open.
Par 5 | 485 yards
With a fairway that slopes left to right, hitting it in the short grass isn't easy, but it's paramount to giving this uphill par 5 a go in two. The green is heavily armored and hard to get up and down on for those who miss.
Par 4 | 326 yards
One of the great short par 4s in golf, the 18th is no picnic for a player sitting on a lead. The "IOU" bunkers are deep and the green narrow and crooked. Any par is a welcome one.