Olympic Club

San Francisco, California | C.1860

Photo Credit: Luc Chase

On May 6, 1860, while in the backyard of Gold Rush-era artists Arthur and Charles Christian Nahl, 23 members founded the San Francisco Olympic Club. Wishing to take their amateur “gymnastics” sessions to the next level, they had no idea that their small club would one day live up to its Olympian name. 

Presently consisting of two separate campuses, the Olympic Club’s main city clubhouse was constructed in 1912 after the earthquake of 1906 destroyed the original club building, along with much of San Francisco. It was from this headquarters that 23 athletes would be sent to the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, the largest delegation from any club, and beginning a long tradition of accolades. The club fielded football teams that were undefeated from 1925-1928, member Ralph Rose won six Olympic medals between 1904-1912 in throwing events, and recent member Maureen O’Toole won a silver medal in the 2000 Olympic Games for water polo. With a pedigree like this, getting picked last in a pick-up game at this club is not as hurtful as on the school ground.

Acquiring the Lakeside Golf Club in 1918, the Olympic Club would go on to build a second campus consisting of three 18-hole golf courses, which have seen some amazing moments in professional golf history. The difficult “Lake Course” is known as an upset haven for rookies and legends alike, seeing an unknown Jack Fleck going toe to toe with Ben Hogan, Billy Casper defeating Arnold Palmer, and Scott Simpson putting past Tom Watson in its long history. 

The oldest athletic club in the United States, the Olympic Club is primed to see further accolades and achievements in the coming years, with the club set to host the Ryder Cup international golf  tournament in 2033. Knowing its history, there’s a good chance a club member could be a part of the winning side. 

Written By: Seamus McMahon

One thought on “Olympic Club

  1. sea-grape says:
    June 9, 2023

    What a beautiful pool! Without this story, I’d never have guessed the tremendous history and importance of this spot :)

Create an account to comment! Login/Sign Up.


Log in

Need an account? Sign up

Sign up

Already have an account? Log In

Enter your email to reset your password

Enter your new password