Founded in 1922, Lake Merced officially became a club when a small group of seven directors met at the Merchant’s Exchange Building in downtown San Francisco to formalize a purchase of 140 acres from the Spring Valley Water Company just south of the property owned by the San Francisco Golf and Country Club. Within a year, a golf course was being designed by transplanted Scot Willie Locke for a fee of $750.
Lake Merced Golf Club opened for play in 1923 and shortly thereafter hosted an exhibition match between U.S. Open champion Gene Sarazen and reigning British Open champion Arthur Havers. Sarazen prevailed in the 36-hole match. Later that decade, the course underwent a redesign by noted architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who utilized his signature “cloud shaped” bunkering style throughout the layout. During the 1930s, the club routinely hosted the San Francisco Open, which produced winners such as Tom Creavy and Masters champion Jimmy Demaret.
When Interstate 280 was constructed in the 1960s, the club underwent another renovation, this time by Robert Muir Graves. Lake Merced continued to be a major player for golf competitions, hosting the Northern California Golf Association Junior and the 1990 U.S. Junior Amateur, which featured a young 14-year-old talent named Tiger Woods. Woods lost in the semifinals before winning the championship three consecutive years from 1991-93.
The club also has been the site for numerous U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifiers.
By hosting the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior, Lake Merced joins Wilmington (Del.) C.C., Pumpkin Ridge G.C. in suburban Portland, Ore., Trump National-Bedminster (N.J.), Echo Lake C.C. in Westfield, N.J., Florence (S.C.) Country Club, Manor C.C. in Rockville, Md., The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., Longmeadow (Mass.) C.C., Brookhaven C.C. in Dallas, Brooklawn C.C. in Bridgeport, Conn., and Hiwan G.C. in Evergreen, Colo., as the only facilities to have hosted the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Junior Amateur championships.
Due to agronomic issues with the greens, the club called in Rees Jones for another major renovation in 1996. And in 2010, the club replaced its Poa annua putting surfaces with bentgrass. The change will allow for improved year-round conditioning of the greens. As another way to protect the environment and practice better water maintenance, Lake Merced, in 2003, converted to reclaimed water for irrigation. It also constructed a state-of-the-art water storage and distribution system. A Turfcare Center was also created in 2004.