From my place in Oakland, it’s an easy 15 minutes to the most beloved destination in the United States – the romantic, cultured, beautiful city of San Francisco. But I’m not taking you there to play golf.
Of course, the PGA Tour and Champions Tour do play there – at TPC Harding Park, an old but recently renovated gem alongside Lake Merced that offers municipal golf just across the street from the famed Olympic Club, site next year’s U.S. Open. But at almost 5,400 yards from the forward tees and a tourist rate of $150 weekdays, it’s not where I’d send pals from out of town.
Do book a room in the city for this golf getaway, however. Bring your sweetie, and maybe even the kids. Check into the newish, eco-minded Hotel Vitale, just across from the lively Ferry Building on the city’s downtown waterfront, a few blocks from the ballpark that showed so beautifully during the last World Series. Or save money and opt for one of the chain hotels in the cheesier Fisherman’s Wharf district.
Indulge in the culinary delights of this West Coast foodie haven – the famed Slanted Door inside the Ferry Building for contemporary Vietnamese, or the Hog Island Oyster Bar for local seafood. Take the ferry over to Oakland’s Jack London Square or up to charming Sausalito. Savor the latest exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, sip a cocktail atop the Mark Hopkins on Nob Hill, window shop at Union Square. Ride a cable car or two.
Then I’ll come and pick you up, load your clubs in my trunk, and take you away from The City for some unforgettable golf.
On the road to 18
We might head 25 miles south to Half Moon Bay if the weather’s not too bad along the coast. Here, two diverse golf courses make up the Half Moon Bay Golf Links surrounding the Ritz Carlton perched on the cliffs. Women love the Ocean Course for its forward tees of less than 4,800 yards and its views for miles and miles. The last three holes hug the cliffs heading north to the resort and provide a memorable conclusion to a day that may be sunny and breezy, or foggy and eerie, or sometimes even benign. If you forgot your layers, the shop will speak to you kindly – can you say “buy this”?
We might head 25 miles east to Vallejo for some guaranteed sunshine and warmth. In fact, it might be sweat-inducingly hot, something that almost never happens in San Francisco. Here we’ll play Hiddenbrooke, which like Half Moon Bay’s Ocean Course provided a worthy challenge to the LPGA Tour’s very best during a two-year run as host of the Tour Championship. The course meanders through a valley of residences interspersed with ponds, ravines and challenging golf holes that finish on fast, mysterious greens. With front tees at 4,647 yards and a second set at 5,199, Hiddenbrooke speaks to us.
Our third outing will take all day, because we’re heading 50 miles out of town and stopping for some wine tasting in the Livermore Valley on the way to Wente Vineyards. The estate has a tasting room, a destination restaurant and an underrated Greg Norman-designed golf course that has no houses on it and etches its holes into the player’s memory after only a single round. Front tees: 4,866 yards. Try them even if your game usually warrants a step back; the second set are more than 5,600 yards long, with some tricky carries. Be sure to taste the Annika wines when you’re done.