Astute travelers with time for golf can hardly do better than to play a public golf course that has Pacific Ocean views and rivals the finest private golf courses in the nation. Check out these four overlooking the stunning coastline, all located in the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, three of these courses are historic ones located within San Francisco city limits, so no travel time is required if you want to squeeze in your 18 holes between meetings or sightseeing.
300 Finley Road, San Francisco, CA
Frequently referred to as San Francisco's favorite 18 holes of golf, this historic Arnold Palmer-managed course has hosted Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Bing Crosby among its famous fans. On tight and hilly expanses of green with strategically placed bunkers and major elevation changes, the 6,500-yard, par-72 course winds through fragrant groves of eucalyptus and pine with sweeping views of both ocean and bay beyond. It hardly feels as though you're 10 minutes from downtown. Founded in 1895 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, there's plenty of history to absorb with the scenery. Get a sunny day, and it's magical sitting on the patio at the clubhouse. Head a couple of miles farther west, and the Pacific Ocean gets up close and personal with golfers at Lincoln Park and Harding.
300 34th Ave., San Francisco, CA
Check out the glorious Golden Gate Bridge views from Lincoln Park's 359-yard, par-4 fifth hole. And that's just a warm-up for the 17th hole scenery. If you cannot abide white dandelions in grass that could use some attention, and if wild turkeys, the occasional coyote, and tourists wandering up to the Legion of Honor fine art museum put you off, consider playing elsewhere. But if you want to experience some of the most spectacular views Northern California has to offer -- just minutes from downtown San Francisco -- check it out. Manage your expectations about a century-old public course in a public park with greens fees of only $21 to $34, and enjoy it for what it is. You may recognize the handicraft of Jack Nevill, designer of Pebble Beach and Bel-Air Country Club.
99 Harding Road, San Francisco, CA
President Warren G. Harding would be tickled pink that this great course was named in tribute to his love of the sport just two years after his untimely passing in 1923 in San Francisco. Many golfers have huge respect for this muni, often called the finest for miles around. You'll benefit from a jacket in this sometimes-windy corner of San Francisco overlooking the Pacific, summer being no exception. Hallmarks include a challenging topography, wide fairways lined with signature Monterey cypress trees, and great ocean views. In impressive recognition of a public course, Harding hosted the 2005 World Golf Championship and the 2009 Presidents Cup, so you're walking in the footsteps of Ken Venturi, Fred Couples, Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, and other champions.
Two Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay, CA
Two courses called the Old and the Ocean make up 36 holes atop majestic bluffs carved over time from Pacific Ocean waves below. Walking the Scottish links design at Ocean is allowed, all the better to slow down and appreciate wide-open ocean views at every hole. While both are award-winning courses, holes 16, 17, and 18 hugging photogenic ledges at the Ocean are the ones you'll read about as being stellar in any class, no less at a public course. Located in under 45 minutes from either San Francisco or San Jose, convenient to both airports and Silicon Valley headquarters, a beautiful Ritz-Carlton Hotel shares this very special patch of land featuring 50 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline views.