SAN FRANCISCO - Host of its first Presidents Cup this fall, San Francisco is no stranger to the eyes of the golf world. Olympic Club's famous Lake course is a regular U.S. Open venue, set to host the event once again in 2012.
The difference this fall is that the Presidents Cup is at Olympic's underdog municipal neighbor, historic Harding Park Golf Course. After extensive renovations, it's become a venue worthy of the world's top events in its own right.
For golf fans traveling to watch the action, few cities rival San Francisco from a tourist perspective, and Harding Park is close to the heart of all the action of one of America's most diverse and exciting cities.
And the weather is actually better in October than in the summer months, with highs historically in the low 70s. You may actually be able to break out the Bermuda shorts on the golf course and in the city.
Most of San Francisco's best public golf is out of the city. One exception is historic Presidio Golf Course, dating back to the 19th century. It's set on an old army base in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and features holes played up and down steep hills, eucalyptus and cypress trees a sniff away from the bay. Non-resident green fees are $125-$145.
Since you can't play San Francisco's prized muni Harding Park, you can check out the East Bay's: Callippe Preserve Golf Course, which opened in 2005. Recently named one of America's best munis by Golfweek, even non-residents can score a good value at this naturally beautiful course winding through wetlands, endangered species habitats and hiking trails. Green fees are $43-$63 for 18 holes.
If you're not dead set on staying in San Francisco and would prefer a quieter golf retreat on the coast, head about an hour south to Half Moon Bay Golf Links, home to an on-site Ritz-Carlton AAA Five-Diamond hotel and 36 holes set on top of the Pacific Ocean. Stay-and-play packages start at $549.
To the north, the Sonoma coast is about an hour's drive north of the Golden Gate Bridge, where amidst the wine country, the Links at Bodega Harbour offers oceanfront golf on a recently revamped layout and rewards your drive here with affordable green fees, $60-$90.
If this is your first time to San Francisco, you're probably going to want to visit Alcatraz. Be warned, this bay cruise and prison tour is mega-popular, so you'll want to reserve a seat a few weeks in advance to ensure a spot. To do so, visit AlactrazCruises.com.
San Francisco's melting pot of cultures and cool coastal climate has made it a fantastic spot for food. The main reason why Ghiradelli chocolates, which was founded here in 1852, is so prominent is that in the days before air conditioning, you could store chocolate in San Francisco year round without fear of melting.
Beyond just sweets, one company that specializes in food tours is Local Taste of the City Tours, which offer a variety of ways to taste San Francisco. They serve up local samplings of food with a history lesson, from Chinatown and historic North Beach and Little Italy, where you'll visit a bakery that dates back over 130 years and get a strong espresso from a sidewalk cafe that roasts its own beans. For more, check out LocalTastesoftheCityTours.com.
If you plan on visiting a lot of museums, the San Francisco City Pass ($59) is a valuable asset that grants you entry to five of the city's top attractions, from the Museum of Modern Art to Bay Cruises. The pass also gets you seven-day access to the Muni Passport, which gets you on all local buses and cable cars. In total, it's a $115 value. For a full list of participants visit CityPass.com.
You don't have to spend much time in San Francisco to realize they're quite serious about being "eco-friendly" around here. One such green city tour is with GoCar, a tiny, two-seat, open-top car equipped with GPS that talks to you the whole way, offering historical information, and, more importantly, it won't get you lost. Se gocartours.com for more.
If you've got the little ones with you, the Exploratorium in Presidio will keep them busy for a few hours, and they might accidentally learn something in the process at this hands-on science museum.
If you couldn't score the family tickets to the Presidents Cup, drop them off on the way to Harding Park at the nearby San Francisco Zoo, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year and home to over 250 species.
If you don't have tickets to the final round of the Presidents Cup but still have a sporting itch, the San Francisco 49ers host the Atlanta Falcons (the Oakland Raiders are on the road that weekend). And hockey fans, the San Jose Sharks will be at home all week with games on the 8th, 10th and 12th at the "Shark Tank" 40 miles south in San Jose.
September 17, 2009