Written By: Sean Leahy
The ‘best public golf course in the country’ isn’t far from the Bay Area. But at $495 for a round of golf at Pebble Beach Golf Links, playing that beautiful course might just be a once-in-a-lifetime moment for many. Fortunately for Bay Area golfers there are a number of excellent public golf courses that can be played for much less than half the cost, while also saving a bit on gas. Here's my list of the best public golf courses in the Bay Area.
1) TPC Harding Park
Widely considered the top public golf course in San Francisco, TPC Harding Park is an ideal alternative to its more exclusive neighbor along Lake Merced, the Olympic Club. Owned by the City of Francisco and managed by the PGA, TPC Harding Park offers the 18-hole Harding Park course and the nine-hole Fleming.
Established in 1925, the original course layout was designed by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, who also worked together in designing the course at the Olympic Club, the oldest athletic club in the country.
The 18-hole Harding Park course hosted the 2020 PGA Championship as well as a number of PGA events, such as the 1937 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship, 2009 President’s Cup and the season-ending Charles Schwab Championship from 2010 to 2013. Harding Park also hosted the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play, which was won by my fellow Irishman, Rory McIlroy. The cool this about being a San Francisco resident is that you are eligible for a reduced rate at one of the best public golf courses in the Bay Area and the entire country. Learn more about TPC Harding Park
2) Presidio Golf Club
“God shaped this land to be a golf course. I simply followed nature.” - John Lawson, designer of first course.
Located within a national park, San Francisco's Presidio Golf Course is renowned for its spectacular forest setting, as well as its challenging play. Once restricted to military officers and private club members, today the 18-hole course is open to the public. It may be only 6,500 yards or so, but there's a lot of Olympic Club in the Presidio Golf Course. The Presidio's elevation changes from tee to green make shot accuracy paramount. Playing from the rough leaves you hitting your ball from deep grass and adding strokes. Aesthetically beautiful, the course is lined with majestic trees on each fairway. Greens are large and tilted and the fairways are wide. Powerful wind, rain, fog, sudden gusts, and sometimes all four on any given round can make it challenging even for the best of golfers. Like Harding, Presidio also offers San Francisco residents and Bay Area counties reduced rates. Learn more about Presidio Golf Club
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3) Half Moon Bay Golf Links
The Half Moon Bay Golf Links is an award-winning golf course on the property of one of the top luxury hotels in the Bay Area – the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. Featuring two championship 18-hole courses and breathtaking views of the Pacific Coast, the resort has received numerous honors over the years, such as America’s Golf Resort of the Year for 2014 by the Global Golf Tourism Organization and listed as one of the World’s Best Golf Resorts by Travel+Leisure. The Old Course, designed by Francis Duane and golf legend Arnold Palmer, is a par-72 course totaling 7,090 yards from the championship tee. The equally acclaimed par-72, 6,712-yard Ocean Course was designed by Arthur Hills, the famed architect whose resume includes Michigan’s Bay Harbor and the Country Club at Mirasol and LPGA International in Florida. Members of the public may book reservations online for either golf course, with rates under $200. Learn more about Half Moon Bay Golf Links
4) Cinnabar Hills Golf Club
Not far from the heart of Silicon Valley, Cinnabar Hills Golf Club is the top-rated club with public access in San Jose. Amid rolling hills and hundreds of oak trees within scenic Coyote Valley, the club features three championship-caliber, nine-hole courses – Canyon, Lake and Mountain. Cinnabar Hills is the course of choice from several South Bay organizations, including Santa Clara University, San Jose State University Athletics, Adobe Systems and the San Jose Sharks. The golf club offers Twilight Specials, with free greens fees to juniors ages 17 and under when accompanied by a paid player and Early Bird Specials on weekdays. Learn more about Cinnabar Hills Golf Club
5) Hiddenbrooke Golf Club
One of a handful of North Bay golf courses honored with 4.5 stars by Golf Digest, Hiddenbrooke Golf Club is another championship golf course designed by Arnold Palmer. Located near the gateway to the world renowned Napa Valley above the City of Vallejo, the golf course has been ranked amongst the top 10 public golf courses by the Golf World Readers’ Choice Awards. The par-72, 6,782-yard course features lush greens and fairways, in addition to varying degrees of elevation changes. Each hole on the course offers at least five sets of tees. Hiddenbrooke Golf Club has also been ranked in the nation’s top five for service and value. Learn more about Hiddenbrooke Golf Club
We hope you enjoyed this article on the best public golf courses in the Bay Area. If you dont have time for a full 18 holes and only have time to practice, you might enjoy this article on the best driving ranges in the Bay Area. If the fog rolls in or you have a rainy day in San Francisco, this article about the best indoor golf in the Bay Area might be helpful.