The U.S. Open Golf Championship was held in San Francisco for the fifth time on June 11-17 of 2012. Clearly, the United States Golf Association knows where to go to make the U.S. Open “the most rigorous, yet fair and complete examination of golf skills, testing all forms of shotmaking.” Yet San Francisco is perhaps the most unexpected great golf destination in the world. Nestled amongst a population of some 800,000 residents are six unique and outstanding golf courses, ranging in scale from executive to championship.
What’s even more unexpected is the contrast in experiences available off the course. Most golf destinations offer dining, spas and shopping opportunities. San Francisco has famous icons like the Golden Gate Bridge, world class performing arts and museums, and cuisine that is some of the best anywhere.Here are some examples of how far a day – and night – in San Francisco can take you.
The Front Nine: 1. TPC Harding Park – Named after avid-golfer and President Warren Harding and opened in 1925, TPC Harding Park is comprised of Harding Park (18 hole) and Fleming (9 hole) Golf Courses. Designed by golf course architect Willie Watson, who also designed the nearby Olympic Club, the 163-acre course takes advantage of existing topography, contours and vegetation including Monterey Cypress Trees. A frequent PGA TOUR stop in the 1960’s, the newly renovated TPC Harding Park is once again attracting big name tours – host to the 2005 World Golf Championship and the 2009 President’s Cup. http://www.tpc.com/tpc-harding-park 2. Presidio Golf Course – Established in 1895 as part of the former Army base, the Presidio course opened for public play in 1995 and quickly gained a reputation as one of the nation's top public courses. Located just minutes from downtown San Francisco, this 18-hole course plays 6,500 yards of challenging golf winding through beautiful Eucalyptus and Monterey Pine trees in the city’s trademark hills. Originally designed by Robert Wood Johnstone, the course was expanded in 1910 by Johnstone in collaboration with Wiliam McEwan and redesigned and lengthened by the British firm of Fowler & Simpson in 1921. Arnold Palmer Golf Management keeps the course in top form. http://www.presidiogolf.com 3. Gleneagles at McLaren Park – Built in 1962, this challenging course was named one of the 20 Best Nine Hole Courses in the U.S. by Golf World Magazine in 2010. Located on the south side of the city, with 5,860 yards, Gleneagles is home to tough topography, slick greens and one of the most beloved 19th holes anywhere. http://www.gleneaglesgolfsf.com 4. Lincoln Park Golf Course – This par 68, 18-hole course, designed by Tom Bendelow and opened in 1928, is 5,149 yards long. The course is moderately forested with mature cypress and pine trees and native landscaping on rolling and sometimes steep hills. Distant greens disappear into the fog on some days. The course encircles the Legion of Honor museum with its statues on the back side. The 17th hole is famous for its view east to the Golden Gate Bridge and north to the Marin Headlands. http://sfrecpark.org/FindAGolfCourse.aspx 5. Golden Gate Park Golf Course – Built in 1951 on the sand dunes that sit beneath Golden Gate Park, this 9-hole, par three course is where many San Franciscans first learn the game. Still, it remains a challenge even to seasoned golfers. An added treat is the Ironwood BBQ, offering beef brisket, pork, roast, chicken and ribs slow cooked on a Wham Turbo BBQ Pit from Memphis, TN. http://www.goldengateparkgolf.com/golfcourse.html 6. Sharp Park Golf Course – Located in Pacifica, this course is actually owned by the City of San Francisco and over 71% of its players make the short drive down from the city. The course, opened in 1931, was originally designed by famed architect Alister Mackenzie and landscaped by John McLaren. The par 72 course is 6,299 yards long and offers fabulous views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding areas. This is a walkable inland and seaside course lined with Cypress and Pine trees that wraps around Laguna Salada, a natural lake ringed with reeds, cattails and tulles. Living in the marsh are a variety of birds including mallards, coots and red-winged blackbirds. http://sfrecpark.org/FindAGolfCourse.aspx 7. To the North – Legendary Napa Valley, verdant Sonoma County and dramatic north coast seashores beckon golfers and, well, everyone.8. To the East – Play year round from the island of Alameda all the way to the Sierra foothills. Expect lots of blue skies even some vineyards. 9. To the South– How do you get to Pebble Beach? “Practice.” Or head south through the golf-rich communities of Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Carmel.
The Back 9: This whole city is the 19th hole.1. The Icons – The Golden Gate Bridge, the cable cars, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf. You can’t leave without seeing at least one of them. Even the neighborhoods are iconic, like Haight Ashbury, the Castro and the Mission.2. The Performing Arts - Symphony, Opera, Ballet, Theatre. – What other golf destination lets you go play, then go see a play? World premieres, world class companies. Explore at www.sanfrancisco.travel and www.sfarts.org.3. Museums & Attractions – Stretch your mind as well as your backswing at places like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Asian Art Museum, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Museum of the African Diaspora, the Exploratorium and the Walt Disney Family Museum. 4. Dining – San Francisco is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean, a state full of fresh produce, and California’s best wineries. No wonder it tastes so good. Find out what Michelin Guides, the James Beard Foundation and Zagat already know. 5. “Beach Blanket Babylon,” “Teatro Zinzanni” and Comedy clubs – The world’s longest running musical review changes bits practically weekly and still packs them in nightly. “Teatro Zinzanni” promises “Love, Chaos & Dinner,” opening in a new location this fall. 6. Nightlife & Clubs – Speakeasy or dance hall? A couple of each in one night? You’re on! Dive into a classic cocktails at the Redwood Room. Have some Southern cuisine with your tunes at Biscuits & Blues. Rock on at the historic Fillmore. Go for laughs at Cobb’s Comedy Club or the Punch Line. Or catch a classic cabaret act at the Rrazz Room or jazz at Yoshi’s.7. Shopping – A closet full of logoed golf shirts calls for some retail therapy. Find the top designers and truly unique boutiques from Union Square to Union Street and all around the town. For a truly unique memento of San Francisco, look for products from SFMade.8. Spas – Tired muscles and weathered skin are no match for the city’s experts. Influences include European, Asian, Russian, organic and all of the above.9. Hotels – At the end of an amazing day, retire to a luxurious suite, an edgy little boutique hotel or a room above the city lights. Rest up – you can do it all again tomorrow. Book it at www.sanfranciso.travel.
Editor's note: Readers thinking about visiting San Francisco may want to check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it you'll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Northern California wineries and brewpubs.