Lots of great public courses in the San Francisco area

A San Francisco treat: Where to play golf near the Golden Gate

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San Francisco may have a big-city feel, but it's actually quite small when it comes to land. It's only about 100 square miles, which means there isn't a lot of available land to put golf courses.

For the most part, the really great golf courses in and close to San Francisco are private, such as the Olympic Club and San Francisco Golf Club, but there are a few public courses that are fairly easy to get to if you happen to be in the Golden Gate City for pleasure or business.

But because of the scarcity, tee times can be another story, so you should definitely plan ahead. Still, even if you don't have a lot of time, it's worth it to bring your sticks to San Francisco for a quick round.

Here are five places you can play within cab or easy driving distance of your hotel in the city.

TPC Harding Park Golf Course

Overlooking Lake Merced, the TPC Harding Park is the jewel of public golf in San Francisco. This classic Willie Watson/Sam Whiting design opened in 1925.

It's the same course that the late Ken Venturi grew up on and called home. Since its renovation in 2005, it has hosted several big events, including the WGC Championship in 2005, the Presidents Cup in 2009 and the Charles Schwab Cup in 2010, 2011 and 2013.

In addition to 18 holes of championship golf, there's also the nine-hole Fleming Course, definitely worth playing if you have the time.

Ultimate Itinerary: San Francisco
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Lincoln Park Golf Course

The par-68 Lincoln Park Golf Course boasts great views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge, and has a very cool history. Once a cemetery, the course opened as 18 holes in 1917.

Over the years, several well known architects -- including Jack Neville of Pebble Beach fame, Herbert Fowler (Royal Lytham) and years later, Jack Fleming -- had a hand in its design. Lincoln Park is one of the courses used for the annual San Francisco City Golf Championships.

Presidio Golf Course

Presidio Golf Course was first laid out in 1896, making it one of the oldest golf courses west of the Mississippi.

This former military/private course hosted plenty of VIPs over the years, including several U.S. presidents, but after the base was decommissioned in 1995, Presidio became part of the 77,000-acre Golden Gate Recreation Area.

Today, this gem is open to the public, which gets to enjoy its layout, renovated Tudor-style clubhouse and incredible views.

Sharp Park Golf Course

Located in Pacifica, the 18-hole, par-72 Sharp Park Golf Course has been under fire in recent years by conservation groups looking to close this historic venue.

Fortunately for golfers, this 1932 Alister Mackenzie classic is still around and persevering. Venturi called Sharp Park "Alister MacKenzie's great gift to the American public golfer," because of its Scottish seaside links character, distinguished architecture, great natural beauty and modest greens fees.

At $30 or less, this might be the best value in San Francisco-area golf.

Gleneagles Golf Course at McLaren Park

If you're looking for a quick round, then Gleneagles Golf Course at McLaren Park might be the ticket.

Located in the southern part of the city, this 1962 nine-hole course has plenty of majestic trees, a few bunkers, great views and slick greens.

With different sets of tees, you can play nine holes twice for an 18-hole experience.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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A San Francisco treat: Where to play golf near the Golden Gate