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Clubbing: A Guide to the City's Golf Courses and Clubs

Photgraphy by Joseph Schell, Ali Thanawalla & Jeffrey Bowling

Put your Wii controller down, don a pair of vintage 
plaids, and get thee to the links.

Golden Gate
 Park Course
Full round starts at $15; 970 47th Ave., 415-751-8987

CROWD: Casual golfers of all ages tee off in jeans and T-shirts—rarely anything with a collar.

COURSE: This par-27, 9-hole course is just right for beginners. Enter the park’s annual Family Golf Tournament held each fall. Any parent-child team (including foursomes) is welcome in this alternate shot, match-play competition.

PRACTICE: They've got private and group classes to show you the basics, as well as youth programs on the weekends and after school.

CLUBHOUSE: After a laid-back round in the park, visit Ironwood BBQ inside the pro shop to refuel with hot sandwiches, pork ribs, and the Bogie Bowl—scalloped potatoes and beans covered with creamy coleslaw and barbecued meat.

Presidio Golf Course
Full round starts at $18; 300 Finley Road, 415-561-4661

CROWD: Sporty locals in a mix of warm-ups, khakis, and Lululemon hoodies fill up the driving range ($13 for 100 balls). Newbies stick to the right, while those with a killer swing take up the middle and left.

COURSE: Spanning 6,500 yards of rolling hills, this challenging par-72, 18-hole course winds through scenic eucalyptus and Monterey pine trees. So get a cart.

PRACTICE: Putting and chipping greens are open for random practice from sunup to sundown, and there are clubs to rent in the pro shop for $50. Work with PGA instructors to fine-tune your technique, or attend a group clinic to practice the basics.

CLUBHOUSE: Stuck waiting for your friends to finish up a game? Camp out in the handsome Presidio Cafe overlooking the fairways, and tuck into a smoked salmon frittata or saucy meatloaf sandwich. Then sit at the swanky, dark-wood bar—61 different whiskeys, 13 beers, and a sizeable wine list should keep you busy.

TPC Harding Park
Full round starts at $15; 99 Harding Road, 415-664-4690

CROWD: Home to the 2009 President’s Cup, the San Francisco City Golf Championship in February, and several tournaments every month, this public course, built in 1925, attracts Northern California’s most serious amateur and professional golfers (ahem, Tiger).

COURSE: The truly dedicated enjoy a scenic 18 holes on this par-72 course situated on a rolling bluff by Lake Merced. But you don't have to be a diehard. For a faster game without the expansive fairways, there's also the 9-hole Fleming course.

PRACTICE: The driving range is on tall AstroTurf, so you’ll need tees. Also, share your skills with children ages 6–17 by volunteering at the First Tee of San Francisco, a youth golf program.

CLUBHOUSE: Inside the light-filled Cypress Grill, watch groups finish the 18th hole while you fill up on mini burgers, a trio of oyster po’boys, and a pint of something frosty. The kitchen closes at 6 p.m., so it’s more of a late lunch spot, though on the last Tuesday of every month, they offer a special prime rib dinner.

Olympic Club Lake Course
Members only; 599 Skyline Blvd., 415-404-4300

CROWD: Well-heeled types and families that have been in SF for generations are members, taking in the club’s leagues, athletic facilities, and plush country club offerings. Members can bring guests, so if you don’t belong to the club, make a friend.

COURSE: Golf Digest ranked the Lake course 27th on its list of the 100 greatest golf courses in the nation and gave it high scores for ambiance and “difficulty while remaining fair.”

PRACTICE: Next year’s U.S. Open Championship is taking place at the exclusive course, giving nonmembers everywhere a sneak peak of the private grounds. Tickets ($110 and $125) go on sale this month at usga.org.

CLUBHOUSE: Skip the fancy cocktails and delicate salads, and steer your cart toward the snack shack. Go for one of the well-seasoned hamburgers shaped to fit a toasted hot dog bun and topped with melted American cheese.

GOLF ETIQUETTE

Silence is golden. When others are lining up their shot, chitchat and movement can be a distraction. So leave your pom-poms and megaphone at home.

Cover your tracks. Fill in divots immediately, and smooth out any holes or footprints before exiting a bunker.

Stay out of line. Don’t walk across or cast shadows over a player’s putting line.

Move on. If the unthinkable happens and you lose your ball, take the extra stroke and use a backup ball from your bag. Otherwise, let the next group play through while you spend a maximum of five minutes searching.

Keep it classy. Hitting the head of a club into the ground can cause damage to the course, so when frustrated, practice some restraint.