The Woman’s Golf Guide to San Francisco

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The Woman’s Golf Guide to San Francisco

Get your ticket to one of the world’s most beautiful cities, in one of the world’s most glorious regions
Girls Golf Guide to San Francisco

Written By:

Susan Fornoff

Susan Fornoff, a trailblazing sports journalist and the founder of GottaGoGolf.com, is a Colorado-based writer, editor and golf consultant who endeavors to help women have more fun with the game. Susan will play golf anywhere, anytime, with anyone. But her favorite hole is always the 19th.

OK, so you’re not Lydia Ko and you can’t get into Lake Merced Golf Club except to watch the LPGA play. There’s still plenty of good golf, and even good weather, around the San Francisco Bay for women who want to play.

A few caveats, though. The finest golf courses in what’s known in these parts as “The City,” never Frisco or (Lydia notwithstanding) FrisKO, do not cater to visitors. They’re the private clubs like Lake Merced, the historic Olympic Club, and the ultra-private San Francisco Golf Club. The city’s municipal courses, even Harding Park, host to several PGA Tour events, lack basic on-course facilities—i.e. plumbing—that female golfers have come to expect.

Then there’s the weather. Mark Twain wasn’t kidding: Summer is winter in San Francisco. The fog can stay for days at a time and make golf a cold, damp and windy exercise.

But that weather can feel romantic and exhilarating. Or, you can take a ride and gain 40 degrees in an hour. So toss out the caveats and get your ticket to one of the world’s most beautiful cities, in one of the world’s most glorious regions, Northern California!


San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the United States, so the symbols are for comparative purposes only and bear no resemblance to what you might pay at home. Expect to pay $100 and up for golf, no less than $200 nightly for clean, safe accommodations and at least $60 for a three-course dinner with a glass of wine.


Presidio by Tim Shipley

Presidio Golf Course ($$)

This is THE public course to play in San Francisco, and it’s equally gorgeous with the fog nipping the tops of the cypress, pines, and eucalyptus or with a clear blue backdrop. Built in 1895, it’s undergone many changes as it transitioned from an Army-and-guests course to public play in 1995. Most recently, the forward tees were moved up and a new option was added to compensate for the brisk air, hillside lies, and damp turf (4,068 gold, 4,876 reds). Combine that with an elegant, Spanish-style clubhouse and a quaint turn shack, and the Presidio is more women-welcoming than ever.
HMB Golf

Half Moon Bay Golf Links ($$$)

A lovely, 25-mile drive south along the coast takes the visitor into the charming, seaside town of Half Moon Bay, a left off Highway 1 South. The golfer, though, will turn right into a fancy development of big homes and drive past the almost gothic-looking, Ritz Carlton on the cliffs to the tiny clubhouse for two memorable 18s. With forward tees at about 4,800 yards and ocean views from any hole, the Ocean Course would be the visitor’s choice. But locals love the Old Course for its layout, walkability, and character. Plan for wind and be thankful for the occasional warm, sunny day.

The Course at Wente Vineyards ($$)

Wente family matriarch, Jean, loved golf but, daughter Carolyn’s swing, not so much. Today Carolyn runs the winery and plays golf when time allows on this exquisite course designed around the vineyards by Greg Norman, which has managed to thrive while other courses failed in this region about 50 miles east of San Francisco. Play one time and you’ll remember almost every hole, unless you overdo it in the tasting room or at the destination restaurant across the parking lot. And, the colder the day in San Francisco, the warmer it will feel in the Livermore Valley, where temperatures reach triple digits in summer.



Hotel Vitale ($)

Vitale gets the San Francisco nod for both its location, just across from the lively Ferry Building and along the fun-to-walk Embarcadero, and its coolness. One may have a view of the neighboring Bay Bridge or an entire panorama of the waterfront and ever-changing skyline. Beds are comfy, the spa is serene, and the ground-floor Americano restaurant and bar would be worth staying in for . . . in any other city.

Claremont Club & Spa, Fairmont ($$)

Just twelve miles from San Francisco and with stunning views of The City and Bay, the stately Claremont in the Oakland Hills is enjoying a revival after 2015 renovations to its rather stodgy, old guest rooms. The public spaces, on the other hand, especially the spa, pool, and restaurants, have always been a special-outing destination for locals. Look out for the even bigger and better new spa, coming soon.
Ritz-Carlton HMB

Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay ($$$)

Ritz-Carlton does it up right, and guests here on the bluffs of Half Moon Bay have all that usual luxury along with ocean or golf course views. Walk 18 holes, grab a blanket and toast marshmallows at the firepits, saving room, lots of it, for what might be the world’s most lavish, diet-blowing Sunday brunch. You can stay here without the hassles of San Francisco parking and easily get to The City for a day or an evening.



Slanted Door ($$)

The halls of the Ferry Building can feel cramped and hectic, and then you walk into the Slanted Door for dinner, serenity, and Bay views. The Modern Vietnamese cuisine begs to be sampled, so try a little of this, a little of that, but don’t miss the cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab.

Barbacco ($)

If you love all things Italian, you will love Barbacco, a sleek, modern space in the Financial District modeled after a casual trattoria in Liguria. Tables are crammed together and the best seating for two may be at the counter. Love the wine options, with choices by the glass, mezzo (a little carafe), or liter.
Gary Danko

Gary Danko ($$$)

For your birthday, anniversary, or promotion, this is your San Francisco destination restaurant. You’d never know it from the unobtrusive exterior above Fisherman’s Wharf. There are no views to be had except for the most attentively prepared classic French food, best delivered via five-course tasting menu at $128, then another $95 including wine pairings. Yes, it’s that special.

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