While golf has traditionally provided an escape for wealthy elitist types, people in our progressive city may find that land alteration, plant destruction, constant mowing, and excessive watering spoil the purpose of being out in nature. But disc golf, played much the same as traditional golf, successfully coexists with other park uses and doesn’t require intensive landscaping. Perhaps because California is the birth state of disc golf, plenty of free courses dot the Bay Area. All of these use metal target baskets and also have free parking (except at Stafford Lake, where it costs $3 to $8). So grab your long-range, overstable driver and extradistance putt discs, and hit these local fairways. But remember: if you’re a beginner wanting to be taken seriously, don’t call it Frisbee golf.
The Aquatic Park Disc Golf Course (80 Bolivar Drive, Berk. 510-981-6700) at the foot of Bancroft Way is a long and flat 18-hole course that runs alongside Aquatic Park Lake. Players must work the first nine holes with the lake on the right, then turn around and toss their discs through the last nine holes over the same ground with the lake on the left. Though it’s rated an intermediate course, approach strategies on certain holes require throwing discs out over the lake and counting on a good hook to pull them back onto the green. Even seasoned veterans are likely to lose a disc (if not two or three). Short and long tees are provided on most holes. The park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., so break out those glow-in-the-dark discs for a night game.
Perfect for beginners, the Chabot Disc Golf Course (1898 Estudillo, San Leandro. 925-228-0308), situated off Interstate 580 in the Chabot Regional Park, is a short and mostly flat nine-hole course with dirt tees and fixed pin positions. Most holes are fewer than 200 feet, and the park is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Moraga Commons Disc Golf Course (1149 Moraga Road, Moraga. 415-420-5425) is a long and scenic nine-hole course that winds over and around a beautiful hillside. Open from dusk until dawn, the intermediate-level course has mostly dirt tees and fixed pin positions and challenges players with several long uphill and downhill holes. The brick tee on hole six provides an adequate spot to launch your 431-foot shot down the hill and across the pathway.
Lucchesi Park provides a flat and open space for the Petaluma Disc Golf Course (320 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma. 707-836-1170), a nine-hole beginner course that winds around a small lake. The terrain is good for those just starting out or looking for an easier practice course. Playing competitively is challenging, however, as there is no course map and some of the holes aren’t marked. Check it out between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
San Francisco Disc Golf Club founder Greg Quiroga promises city players a world-class 18-hole experience come March 31 with the reopening of the Golden Gate Park Disc Golf Course (Marx Meadow, Golden Gate Park, Fulton and 25th Street, SF. www.sfdiscgolf.org), which has been closed for reconstruction since December 2005. The project marks a unique collaboration between the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and Quiroga’s group, which raised all the money for the course and donated all the labor. Tees are concrete with fixed pins.
The Stafford Lake Disc Golf Course (3549 Novato Blvd., Novato. 707-836-1170) is a huge 18-hole course for advanced players that winds up and over several steep hills, offering several alternate pin and tee positions. The first five holes are particularly long and can be discouraging for novices. Arrive early and bring water and snacks to consume while playing this scenic monster course, which is home to the Bay Area’s longest hole, stretching 1,044 feet. And don’t let your car get locked in when the lot closes at 8 p.m. (5 p.m. during winter months). *