San Francisco: Urban Golf, Redwoods, and the Golden Gate Bridge

By Mary Charlebois

Fog hangs in the cypress and eucalyptus trees bordering the course.  Above, patches of blue are opening to the morning sun. A foghorn sounds, a ship’s horn announces its Golden Gate arrival. Seagulls and sandpipers high-pitched cries punctuate the morning calm. Through the mist, red-tiled roofs and the hills of San Francisco are ghostly silhouettes.

San Francisco’s Presidio is home to a spectacular 18-hole golf club built in 1895. One of the oldest courses on the west coast played exclusively by Army officers and Presidio Golf Club members, the course has hosted folks like Arnold Palmer, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Schulz, and Joe DiMaggio.

The course has seen wartime, peacetime, and natural disaster. In 1906 survivors of the infamous San Francisco Earthquake made camp here until a shelter could be found. Infantry trained on the greens during the Spanish American War.

Today Presidio Golf Club is open and welcoming to all. For over 200 years it was part of a military base. In 1776, the Presidio became a US Army Post. After 219-years of military use, in 1994, the Presidio was transferred to the National Parks Service. Today, the Presidio and the golf club are part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area, a National Park. The course is also designated as a National Historic Landmark.

San Francisco’s most significant urban green space is bordered on the north by San Francisco Bay, on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and on the south and east by San Francisco.

While golf here is sublime, it’s only a small fraction of the experiences San Francisco’s Presidio shares with people of every age and ability.

Presidio Golf Club

The 18-hole course is 6,500-yards on 143-acres. You’ll find forest, rolling hills, big elevation changes, tight fairways, small greens, and cruel bunkers. Some say the 13th hole is the hardest. The flat-topped oak tree standing in the middle of the fairway is challenging. A driving range, pro shop, and lessons are available.

Presidio Golf Course is operated and maintained with environmental sensitivity. Among many programs in practice, they have reduced the use of pesticides, instituted a compost-tea program for turf management, and were named an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary in 2003.

The Presidio Café is one of the stars of the club. California Casual comfort food is served for BL&D. A full bar includes a curated list of California spirits, wine, and beer.


The Presidio has the best-kept accommodation secret in San Francisco. The Lodge has rooms with a view of the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay that is unequaled in the city. California casual luxury with a sharp nod to history makes indulgent and comfortable surroundings.

The Lodge at the Presidio and The Inn at the Presidio are both former barracks. Each has been repurposed as a luxurious boutique hotel. The Lodge has 42-hotel rooms and is the closest San Francisco hotel to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Inn’s spacious twenty-two, 2-room suites are family friendly and close to trailheads.

Both serve morning breakfast and evening wine tasting for guests. Sip the sun down by a firepit on the patio. The Lodge evening fire has a Golden Gate Bridge view, the Inn has a forest view. Rates are exceptional for San Francisco hotels of this quality.

There is a group campground that accommodates 30 people. Bring your tents. A fire ring, cooking grill, food storage cupboard, picnic tables, and restrooms are available for campers. This is the only San Francisco urban group camp.


The Presidio has 16 locations to eat. Everything from grab-n-go picnic fare to fine dining. Each place uses quality, locally sourced ingredients.

The Commissary is a Spanish-influenced restaurant located near The Lodge. Executive Chef Eric Minnich works with traditional Spanish flavors using sustainable and locally-sourced ingredients.  The Commissary is a fine dining experience in a beautifully casual atmosphere. Bar Manager, Tony Stewart, creates with seasonal fruit, veggies, and herbs for his cocktail program. Many come from the organic garden in the park. Book a kitchen counter seat for an up-close view of your meal cooked to order.

Chef Traci Des Jardin pays homage to her Mexican roots at family-friendly Arguello. California-inspired Mexican food and drink are served indoors or outside on the patio. The outdoor comal is used for tortilla-making.

Tequila is the star of the libation menu. Try spirits from all regions of Mexico. Tasting flights, shots, and cocktails are delightful. Your server will guide you through the extensive selections.

On the Presidio Green, there’s a community picnic on Sundays from March to October. Take part in the Presidio Picnic. Bring your own or try the food trucks that join in the celebration that includes food, music, dance, family, and the community.

Activities for all

The park is a multi-generational vacation retreat. All ages and interest can immerse in history, nature, architecture, music, art, food, and learning activities. Letterman’s Digital Arts Center, Walt Disney Family Museum, House of Air, and Batting Cage are favorite pastimes.

Twenty-four miles of hiking trails take you from deep redwood forest to beaches in the shadow of Golden Gate Bridge. Climb to Inspiration Point for a view of the entire bay. Visit sculptures by artist Andy Goldsworthy in a guided art-hike through the woodlands.

You can dig with an archeology team unearthing dwellings and artifacts from pre-European settlers. Join a stargazing party or wildlife talk. Go beachcombing or windsurfing. Visit the organic community garden. Check out the visitor center or wander by the wetlands.

Go cycling; if you don’t bring your own, rent one, or guests may borrow one from their hotel. There is a bowling alley, game room, and yoga studios. The Tunnel Tops are ingenious parks created over the top of a freeway underpass. Guided tours covering history and nature are offered frequently. The hotel porches have rocking chairs and benches for people watching. Bird watching or merely occupying the peaceful urban oasis.

Getting there and getting around

You don’t need a car in San Francisco. Public transit is efficient, frequent, and inexpensive.

From San Francisco or Oakland airports, take BART to Embarcadero. From there catch the free PresidiGo Shuttle to the park.

PresidiGo Shuttle is a free ride to and around the Presidio. It runs on a regular schedule 7-days a week. Shuttles have wheelchair ramps and bike racks. Catch PresidiGo at the Transbay Terminal, Embarcadero BART, and Union Street/Van Ness Avenue. PresidiGo routes serve 40+ ​destinations within the park.

If you decide to drive, you’ll find plenty of Presidio parking at $9 per day.

When you come

The weather will change throughout the day. While heavy coats aren’t needed, layers are. The morning may be foggy and cool with midday sun and chilly evenings. I suggest a knit hat, scarf, and light gloves are stashed in your day-pack. San Francisco and the Presidio are casual, formal wear isn’t required.

You’ll find San Francisco Presidio is open, green, and uncrowded. The park adds new museum exhibits, special events, walks, talks, recreational activities, and new menus frequently. It’s idyllic for people of all ages, interest, and abilities.

For tee time reservations, a fly-over video of each hole, and more information visit –

For lodging details go to –

For general information about San Francisco’s Presidio, visit


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