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San Francisco Golf Courses: The Best of the Bay

The weather in California’s Bay Area is notoriously fickle. The famous quote “The coldest winter I ever saw was a summer in San Francisco” has been attributed to Mark Twain – although it has not been verified. But it is true that the micro-climates of the Bay Area tend to catch visitors off guard. San Francisco spends most of the year being overcast and cool, while Oakland in the East Bay and San Jose in the South Bay bake in the sun. Meaning that you can easily have a 30-degree difference among these three California destinations on the same day, with even more variation once you reach the Central Valley. Thankfully, all of these micro-climates support playing the best San Francisco golf courses year-round.

San Francisco’s best golf courses tend to be private clubs, which are among the some of the finest tracks in America. The San Francisco Golf Club (SFGC) remains one of the most exclusive private country clubs in the game, while the Lake course at nearby Olympic Club has hosted multiple U.S. Opens. The Lake Merced Golf Club, a recent LPGA Tour venue, boasts a few celebrity members, including former 49ers quarterback and football legend Joe Montana. The Tour event at TPC Stonebrae generated buzz in 2017 by giving one of its sponsor’s exemptions to Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.

Speaking of major events, no golf club in California has a brighter future than TPC Harding Park Golf Club (see pictured above). Fresh off the 2015 World Golf Championships-Match Play Championship, TPC Harding Park—a municipal course owned by the San Francisco Parks & Recreation Department—will hold its first major championship, the PGA Championship, in 2020, followed by The Presidents Cup in 2025.

Best Public Golf Courses in San Francisco

The best public golf courses in San Francisco offer tee times for any budget. The most affordable San Francisco golf courses are the two other full-length city municipal courses: the Sharp Park Golf Course, designed by Alister MacKenzie; and the Lincoln Park Golf Course, which affords views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Also near the bridge lies Presidio Golf Course, a short but hilly 6,500-yard track built on an old military base. Tee times can be tough to get, so book early.

The Ocean and the Old courses at Half Moon Bay Golf Links both share ocean cliffs with the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, one of golf’s most luxurious resorts. The more traditional Old course by Arnold Palmer finishes with its signature hole, no. 18, framed by the five-star hotel. The Ocean course, designed by Arthur Hills, offers wide open fairways without trees and expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. At dusk, a bagpiper serenades hotels guests and golfers. Bring your camera for some photos.

Tourists looking for a break from playing golf can find it throughout the city, riding cable cars, visiting Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, walking or riding over the Golden Gate Bridge, touring Alcatraz Island or driving Lombard Street, the most crooked road in the world. Additionally, the Presidio is now a national park site and recreational paradise featuring trails, historic and architectural treasures and the Walt Disney Family Museum.

There’s so much to do around San Francisco, it might be tempting to skip checking out the variety of San Francisco golf courses. But you’ll regret it if you do. Make time for what is certain to be a rewarding and challenging round at one of the bay area’s beautiful courses.

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