As a one-time four-year resident of Oakland, I feel that I can assess the state of public golf in the Bay Area with some degree of certainty.
- The pace of play is invariably atrocious. You’re ten times more likely to play a six-hour round than a four-hour round.
- The conditioning of the courses is utter crap even this time of year when the weather is perfect. Massive organizations like American Golf and CourseCo suck all the money they make from greens fees into corporate profits.
- Harding Park is absurdly overpriced for non-San Francisco residents and nearly impossible to get out on.
Which is why I was so surprised to see Golf.com’s latest article recommending Bay Area courses. Granted, there aren’t a lot of choices within a 30-minute drive of Berkeley.
Purists will LOVE the Mickey Mouse astroturf range at Tilden Park and the plug-and-slog condition of the course.
If Metropolitan Golf Links is “fast and firm” (while extremely bland, from a pace-of-play standpoint it’s your best public option in the immediate vicinity), conditions at East Lake last week would have to be called “rock hard and lightning fast.”
If you’re flying up from LA for the Cal game this weekend and can’t have your pro call a private club for you in advance (of which there are numerous fine options in the Bay Area), please do yourself a favor and leave your sticks at home. Save the baggage fee and the inevitable long wait at the OAK or SFO carousel.
If you insist on playing, you’ll have to drive at least 45 minutes (Roddy Ranch) or even an hour-and-a-half (San Juan Oaks) to find a decent course that won’t take an entire day to play.
(At least Golf.com got their bar recommendations right. Jupiter, Bear’s Lair, and Henry’s are all terrific places to grab a pizza and a pint.)