Usually a truly great golf course builds to a crescendo, with its 18th hole being a grand summation of all that came before it. Winged Foot, Oakland Hills, Pinehurst No. 2, Pebble Beach – each of those all-world finishing stretches pose a stern challenge.
Sometimes, however, a course can offer a softer finish. Cypress Point, ending on two diminutive par 4s comes to mind, as does Bethpage Black with its awkward closing hole.
The finish at Harding Park is nowhere near as difficult as the holes that precede it. The meat and potatoes of the golf course are Nos. 8-14. But after that, we could see birdies down the stretch, and hopefully that means excitement. Here’s a breakdown of Harding’s getable, but still dangerous closing holes.
15th – Par 4, 401 yards
For these players, 401 yards is nothing, and with a speed slot located in the knee of the dogleg, intrepid-but-accurate players could find themselves with merely a simple chip to the hole location.
16th – Par 4, 334 yards
Watch for the tees to be moved up on championship Sunday to entice the leaders to try for eagle. It’s a narrow entranceway to the green avoiding bunkers on either side, but a simple play up the hill to the hole location for a birdie try. This hole plays the second easiest on the golf course, just behind the short par-5 10th. However a snap hook or a slice into the woods suddenly brings bogey or worse into play, and that means a two-shot swing or more.
17th – Par 3, 190 yards
The target is a small green, so if you hit it, you’ll have a reasonable putt for a birdie -- even to a tucked pin. This hole also plays among the easiest on the course (third easiest during Round 1 and fifth easiest during Round 2).
18th – Par 4, 485 yards
Curving sharply around a corner of Lake Merced, this is more like what a finish is supposed to look like. The 18th requires your two best shots of the day back to back. Water lurks left, cypress trees surround you, but the Wanamaker trophy is right in front of you. Just don’t come here needing a birdie to tie. The 18th has been relatively stingy in that regard doling out a mere 15 birdies during Friday’s round.