What’s that you say? Your child hasn’t taken up golf yet? Haven’t you heard that Tiger was swinging his clubs by age 2? Michelle by age 4? Well, even if your retirement plan doesn’t hinge on your kid joining the PGA Tour by high school, junior golf can still be a fun and rewarding activity (emphasis on fun). It’s great for working on those math skills, too! Here we bring you the best kid-friendly courses as well as some need-to-know info on turning your little duffer into a pint-sized pro.
If your kid’s only experience with the sport is playing Flappy Golf on your iPad, they’ll need to learn a few things before teeing up on a course (e.g., golf balls don’t have wings). Is there a golfer in the family itching to take on a student? Perfect! Toss the clubs in the trunk and head to one of the many kid-friendly driving ranges in the Bay Area. (Ask ahead if the range has loaner clubs if you don’t own any.) If you’d rather let a licensed professional handle the instruction, most of these places offer weekend classes and summer camps for all ages and levels.
Once they have a few clubs and some skills in the bag—or at least know when to shout “FORE!”—start them out on a par 3 course where the distances from the tee to the hole aren’t so daunting. Plan to tee off later in the day when there won’t be so many grumps tapping their toes behind you, and the cheaper “twilight” rates kick in. If you suspect you might be seeing your shares of greens, save some green by signing up for a Youth on Course membership and get discounted junior rates on area courses. Some as low as $2 per round!
Golden Gate Park Golf Course
Any discussion of kids and golf has to include this 9-hole par 3 course at the ocean end of Golden Gate Park. When The First Tee organization took over management duties in 2013, they spiffed up the outdoor seating and updated the (very) small driving range. A few tidy stalls and net, plus a putting green are perfect for the beginner just learning to make contact with the ball. The staff actively encourages early participation in the sport, with PGA pros specializing in junior instruction offering private and semiprivate lessons. Or sign up for an after-school or summer camp through The First Tee (ages 6 and up), at Golden Gate Park or Harding Park’s Fleming course. Bonus for adults: Beach Chalet brews on tap!
970 47th Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
To sign up for The First Tee classes and camps in other Bay Area regions, see:
Presidio Golf Course
The golfers tend to be a little more serious about the game here; use it as an opportunity to work on golf etiquette on the practice green. The sizable driving range is surrounded by the Presidio’s stately pines and Eucalyptus. It can get fairly windy here in the afternoons, but sunny mornings can’t be beat. And though it looks awfully inviting, don’t plan on taking the kid on the course until their age and scores are close to double digits. Pop into the Presidio cafe for a post-practice beverage or brunch instead. Course pros offer individual instruction for juniors and summer camps for ages 7 and up.
300 Finley Rd.
San Francisco, Ca
San Bruno Golf Center
You may have spied the telltale driving range nets just off 280 on your way to the airport from points North. Two levels of stalls plus a grass tee area means there is always an open spot for you and your student to empty a bucket or two of balls. There is no course on site, but the ginormous practice area is great for working on chip shots, putting and hitting out of the sand. Junior instruction is offered on weekends and throughout the summer through Mr. Peter’s Golf Camp (mrpetersgolfcamp.org).
2101 Sneath Ln.
San Bruno, Ca
Between the air traffic from nearby SFO and the wind off the Bay, you shouldn’t come here expecting tranquility. But you will find lots of other families working on their game at the expansive range and practice area. The 9-hole par 3 course has lovely vistas and very few gotchas, so it’s ideal for beginners. It’s even lighted, in case you want to squeeze in a round before bedtime. They offer club fitting service for juniors, too. Lessons are offered throughout the year, including summer camps for ages 7 to 15.
2401 East 3rd Ave.
Foster City, Ca
From Santa Teresa Golf Club’s Facebook page
Santa Teresa Golf Club
Drive, chip, putt, repeat. And when your young charge is ready, head out on the beginner-friendly “short course.” (There’s an 18-hole course here, too.) Private and group instruction is available, including the Little Linksters program for kids 9 and under. Free clinics and discounted greens fees with a Santa Teresa junior golf club membership.
260 Bernal Rd.
San Jose, Ca
San Jose Municipal Golf Course
The practice area includes lighted (and heated) driving range stalls, chipping green and a practice green with sand bunkers. After school and weekend classes are ongoing, as well as Saturday golf clinics for kids as young as 4 years. The onsite pro shop sells a range of junior clubs, too. There is a regulation-length par 72 course here as well, for when you’re ready to make the leap.
1560 Oakland Rd.
San Jose, Ca
Tilden Park Golf Course
While the long and challenging course isn’t recommended for the younger set, the range and putting green are a fine excuse to spend a few hours in this idyllic setting. You might even see some deer roaming the range (no antelope, though). Their highly regarded Junior Academy is offered on weekends for kids 5 and up. (The Nike Golf Camp also takes place here in the summer; see info below.)
10 Golf Course Dr.
Chuck Corica Golf Complex
This aptly named golf “complex” in Alameda has a lighted driving range (with a special junior rate for range balls!), three practice putting greens, and three courses. The 9-hole par 3 course is perfect for young beginners, with most hole lengths hovering around 100 yards. Golf classes for juniors are held throughout the year.
1 Clubhouse Memorial Rd.
McInnis Park Golf Center
McInnis Park has the requisite practice green and two-level driving range, plus a 9-hole course, full-service restaurant and bar, an 18-hole mini golf course and batting cages. And they serve up a mean slushie, which you and your little golfer will definitely be craving on those sizzling hot summer days. The course is mostly par 3s, with some par 4s to keep it interesting for more experienced golfers. Bring your sunscreen, as there aren’t many trees to throw shade out there. Weekend clinics and summer camps are available for kids as young as 4.
350 Smith Ranch Rd.
San Rafael, Ca
Nike Golf Camp
Nike Junior Golf Camps are held at area courses throughout the summer, both full day and half day. See list of courses and related ages below.
Tilden Park Golf Course, Berkeley (ages 7 to 12)
Monarch Bay Golf Club, San Leandro (ages 7 to 18)
Peacock Gap Golf Club, San Rafael (ages 5 to 15)
Shoreline Golf Links, Mountain View (ages 7 to 17)
Summitpointe Golf Club, Milpitas (ages 7 to 18)
Santa Clara Golf and Tennis Club, Santa Clara (ages 7 to 17)
Good to Know: Many Bay Area Parks & Rec departments offer kids’ golf instruction (generally for ages 7 and up), so check those spring and summer catalogs.
Does your little linkster love to golf? Where does your family go to enjoy a day on the green?
All images courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted.