While idly discussing the prospect of creating a miniature-golf course festooned with elaborate art installations, Michael Taft realized that he couldn’t think of a single putt-putt course in the Bay Area. Fast-forwarding to his retirement plan of owning a small business, Taft snapped up an abandoned video store and enlisted artistic friends and local craftspeople to make his dream a reality. Subpar Miniature Golf’s map of handcrafted holes has players putting their way through Bay Area landmarks, including an Altamont Pass windmill and the Golden Gate Bridge, tricked out with loop-the-loops. A sprawling, hand-drawn mural wraps its way around the room, depicting scenes of NoCal life and tricking gullible coyotes into trying to sprint through the walls.
Subpar Miniature Golf’s ever-growing arcade area keeps button-smashers busy with vintage pinball machines and a pair of air-hockey tables, contributing to Taft's dream of turning the space into a family institution and community fixture. As he told the San Francisco Chronicle, "Every once in a while, you'll hear a giant cheer in the back by a group that sunk a (great) putt. It makes me feel really good, like 'We did that. That's us.'"
Golf legends Johnny Miller and Fred Bliss teamed up to design the course at Metropolitan Golf Links, and were rewarded with numerous accolades, such as the 2010 ELGA Chapter Award for Public Facilities from the GCSA of Northern California and Golf Digest. To achieve their links-style vision, the golf gurus incorporated the natural contours of the land and covered the terrain with omnipresent sand traps and modern turf hybrids. The result whisks golfers around a labyrinthine layout complete with straightaways, doglegs, and double doglegs, each made more difficult by heavy breezes that blow in from San Francisco Bay, which can disrupt shots and ground scorecard paper airplanes.
Course at a Glance:
Though Metropolitan Golf Links sometimes features a discounted price online, this Groupon still offers the best deal available.
• 18 holes of golf for two (up to a $39 value/person) • A cart rental (a $15 value/person) • Two small buckets of driving-range balls (a $5 value each) • Lunch for two, which includes a sandwich or hot dog, a side order, and a fountain drink at the Skywest Bar & Grill (up to a $12.49 value/person)