About the Olympic Club
More than 160 Years of Fostering Amateur Athletics in a Spirit of Close Harmony
With more than 11,000 members competing in 16 sports, two clubhouses and 45 holes of golf, The Olympic Club has changed, but the camaraderie among members and their devotion to sport has not. The Club is more than a place to work out or play golf and tennis; it is a community that links the past, present and future.
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Brief History of The Olympic Club
On May 6, 1860, 23 charter members founded the San Francisco Olympic Club, turning their informal gymnastics training sessions, held in the backyard of Gold Rush artists Arthur and Charles Christian Nahl, into a lasting institution. In the 1800s, the membership roster included such names as Mark Twain, William Randolph Hearst, Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, James G. Fair and John Mackay, as well as athletes such as “Gentleman Jim” Corbett, winner of the world heavyweight title in 1892.
Pioneering Olympic Club champions include swimmer J. Scott Leary, the first American to swim 100 yards in 60 seconds, and shot-putter Ralph Rose, who won six Olympic medals and held seven national AAU titles. The club sent 23 athletes to the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, the largest delegation from a club. Football was king during the 1920s, and the club celebrated undefeated seasons in 1925 and 1928, even with schedules pitting its squad against local college teams.
The Club’s first permanent clubhouse downtown on Post Street opened in 1893 but was destroyed in the great 1906 earthquake and fire. During this dark hour, President William F. Humphrey emerged as the driving force of the Club, a role he performed for almost half a century. Olympic rebuilt its clubhouse, and the doors on Post Street reopened in 1912.
In 1918, The Olympic Club assumed operations of the financially distressed Lakeside Golf Club, thus gaining a “country home.” By 1922, the Club had purchased enough acreage to replace the original golf course with two 18-hole golf courses, as well as to build a new clubhouse. Willie Watson designed and Superintendent Sam Whiting constructed the first Ocean (Pacific Links) and Lake Courses in 1924. The renovation was necessary after the winter storms of 1925-26; the second Lake and Ocean Courses were designed by Whiting and opened in 1927. The Club added a tennis complex in 1936.
In 1955, the Club hosted its first U.S. Open Championship. In the final round, Jack Fleck, an unknown from Iowa, birdied two of the last four holes to force a playoff with Ben Hogan. Fleck won, and the Lake Course established its reputation as a host to upsets. Billy Casper overcame Arnold Palmer in 1966, Scott Simpson edged Tom Watson in 1987 and Lee Janzen won over Payne Stewart in 1998. During the 2012 U.S. Open, Webb Simpson emerged from four shots back to take the title at 1-over-par 281. The Club’s first U.S. Women’s Open Championship in 2021 continued the well-worn theme of inspired underdog overtakes renowned favorite, as Lexi Thompson shot a back nine 40 to surrender a five-stroke lead with nine to play to 20-year-old Yuka Saso, who defeated Nasa Hatoaka in a three-hole playoff.
The Club remains much more than just a private club. Among many other accomplishments in recent years, members have brought home Olympic medals, international titles, national and world records, and built nationally competitive amateur programs in a number of sports. In a growing variety of ways, Olympians of all ages continue to create memories with their families and friends at the Club.
Athletics at The Olympic Club
The Olympic Club offers the following 16 amateur athletic programs to their members:
- Field Hockey
- Ski + Snowboard
- Water Polo