April Fools! A Quick Round of Golf for Work?


Balboa Golf Course and Driving Range is the only golf course in San Francisco and one of the few left in California that still allow you to do what every golfer dreams about when they step on the first tee: Hit a bucket of balls and then simply walk off the driving range and play nine holes of golf.

The best part? It’s right next to the freeway. So it’s easy to get to, whether you are coming from San Francisco or Marin. If you work in San Francisco or Marin and have an hour free at lunchtime, you can play nine holes and be back at your desk in an hour.

Balboa Golf Course was built in 1925 as a nine-hole “pitch and putt” for working people who wanted to play a quick round at lunch (or before or after work). The course has since been remodeled into an 18-hole par-3.

The course is located on Lake Merced Boulevard just off Highway 280, 1/2 mile north of 19th Avenue. This is near San Francisco State University and Merced Manor, just south of Stonestown Galleria Mall.

The “Balboa Golf Course” is a quick and fun 9 hole golf course built on the rooftops of some buildings in San Francisco. It’s meant to be played in the middle of the workday, and easily accomplished in 45 minutes or so.

The idea is that you can play 9 holes of golf with a few coworkers before lunch, then go out for 18 after if you want. It’s great for team building, and quite possibly the most fun you can have at work. You will feel like a kid again, playing hooky from school, but really it’s all about getting fresh air and exercise during the day.

The nine-hole pitch-and-putt course, set for a soft opening next month near Balboa Park, is part of a fast-growing national trend toward “microgolf” that combines the best of golf and work.

“When I first started hearing about it, I thought it was a joke,” said local golfer Will Brock. “I mean, you can’t really combine golf with work; they’re two totally different things.”

But more businesses are finding ways to do it. The new industry of microgolf emerged in Silicon Valley and has spread nationwide in the past five years.

“It’s all about increasing productivity,” said Stephen Bethel, chief executive of TinyGolf Inc., a national developer of microgolf courses that is opening its first Southern California location in San Diego. “If you give people an activity they like, they’ll work harder.”

The first courses were small enough to be built on rooftops and parking lots. Local companies such as Qualcomm and Callaway Golf have built their own rooftop courses for employees. But interest has grown so much that entrepreneurs such as Bethel are now building larger — but still tiny — courses for multiple companies to use.

With each hole under 100 yards long, the courses are

BALBOA ISLAND, CA – Thanks to the new Balboa Island Golf Course, commuters who have been stuck in traffic can now play a game of golf while waiting.

“I was having some trouble with my commute,” says Island resident Kim Houser. “It was taking me almost an hour to get home from work.”

“Some people read the paper,” says her husband, George. “Kim plays golf.”

The course, which opened last week on Wednesday, allows drivers to pay a small monthly fee and use their cars as golf carts. Golfers can take golf balls out of the trunk and hit them out into the water. The first one there wins.

According to city officials, this is one of many ways that Balboa Island is working to make life easier for its residents.

The rooftop course is the creation of BMW and the U.S. Golf Association, which will host the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, a municipal golf course in University Place, Wash., this summer.

The idea was to stage a one-day event under the theme “play 9 on a rooftop.” The nine-hole course was built on top of a parking garage beside Balboa Park, which is also home to San Diego’s zoo and several museums.

In a video posted online last week, Hennie Bezuidenhout, BMW’s national manager of events and sponsorships, said he wanted to create a buzz that would lead people to visit the U.S. Open website for more information about the event. He didn’t expect the response would be so big so soon.

“We got an overwhelming amount of responses from people who wanted to play,” Mr. Bezuidenhout says in the video. “So we actually had to open up another day.”

On a recent afternoon, one of the four city-owned golf courses was almost completely empty. Five workers stood in a circle by the entrance, chatting and smoking cigarettes. A few more were scattered around the course, sitting in carts. But there were no players to be found.

“We’re not even open,” said a course worker who declined to give his name. “It’s too windy.”

The worker was standing next to a sign that advertised $10 green fees on weekdays and $15 on weekends. The course is Balboa Golf Course – an 18-hole layout in Encino that has been closed since March 1 because of budget cuts.

The city’s Recreation and Parks Department estimates it loses about $100,000 per month on this and two other closed courses. The fourth golf course – Lincoln Park in East Los Angeles – has remained open because it is leased to a private company that manages it for profit. It also charges much higher rates than its municipal counterparts ($60 for 18 holes on weekdays).

City officials said they have been forced to close the courses because of budget cuts imposed by the City Council during the recession. In 2008-09, the department had a budget of about $20 million for golf expenses, including maintenance and

When Balboa Park Golf Course lost its lease, a group of San Diegans fought to keep the course open. Now they’re fighting to keep it open through the construction of a new bridge and major freeway improvements.

The San Diego Zoo has announced it will be building a zoo-themed golf course in the center of Balboa Park in an effort to boost its flagging attendance numbers. The course will be called “Balboa Golf Course.”


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