Relive the City’s Greatest Hits at Mission Bay Mini-Golf Course

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Last summer, Stagecoach Greens, on Fourth Street, joined Urban Putt, which opened on South Van Ness Avenue in 2014, in offering San Franciscans a miniature golf experience created by San Franciscans.

Co-founders Esther Stearns and Jan Cohn Stearns are keeping it local. They can see the course from their house, employ their kids’ friends, and hired 150 Bay Area artists to create the facility, including from Bayview production company One Hat One Hand.

Stagecoach Greens’ brand and marketing lead, Rachel Rapaport, emphasized that the venture isn’t a slick popup, here today, gone tomorrow.  “This is enduring for the community,” she said. “If you want to do something good for the community, choose this over a museum pop-up like Candytopia. These guys are really giving back.”

Stagecoach Greens offers free play to groups staying at Family House, in Mission Bay, which serves as a home-away-from-home for families of children with life-threatening illnesses. Last fall they hosted an event for Braid Mission, a San Francisco-based organization that helps build communities for foster youth.

“Jan and I have a long-standing commitment to Braid and work closely with them so I am sure we will do more events,” said Esther Stearns.

Stagecoach Greens goes beyond minimum American Disability Act (ADA) compliance; all the holes are ADA compliant instead of the required half.

“We have spent many happy years in San Francisco and our three children are spending their teenage years in the City we love,” Esther said. “We have a special passion for City kids and hope to create a golf course where people of all ages can come together and create memories.”

Carlos Muela, creator of urban gathering space, Parklab Gardens, and of food-truck hub, Spark Social, noticed a lack of family-friendly spaces in Mission Bay, and decided that the area needed mini-golf. But he didn’t know who could build it. Meanwhile, on a trip to Truckee, the Stearns were enjoying ice cream when they came up with the idea to develop mini-golf there, purchasing the lot across from the ice cream parlor with intentions to create a course. They then read about Muela’s efforts to develop mini-golf in the Mission Bay Citizen Action Committee agenda and asked the Mission Bay Development Group to introduce them. The Stearns and Muela formed a partnership; Stagecoach Greens was born. The Truckee lot remains unused with no immediate future plans, according to Esther Stearns. 

The name “Stagecoach Greens” nods to California’s history. The stagecoach allowed way finders to travel West; leather straps around the wheels enabled the vehicles to navigate remote places when roads were in short supply.

“The stagecoach represents the West and the spirit of ingenuity and invention,” Rapaport said.

The 10,000 square foot, 18-hole outdoor course pays homage to that history by showcasing saloons and ghost towns, ingenuity and invention. The first hole is the “Rocking Stone,” modeled after a rare, glacial erratic that once tipped with the touch of a finger. It was considered a sacred site by the Washoe tribe in Truckee, used by them to keep their fish and dried meat safe from animals and birds. From the Rocking Stone, mini-golfers cycle through California’s booms and busts: the Gold Rush, the Summer of Love, the tech boom. Holes include the Dragon’s Gate – highlighting Chinatown and the role of Chinese immigrants in the City – Coit Tower, Ocean Beach, and Sutro fog.

“I am impressed by what they’ve built over there,” said Steve Fox, Urban Putt’s founder. “It’s conventional mini-golf, unlike ours, but very well done. I’ve gone and talked to lots of people there. Virtually all of them have been to Urban Putt. The consensus seems to be that Stagecoach Greens is fun, and a completely different experience than what Urban Putt offers.”

Since it opened Stagecoach Greens has been fully booked on weekends; 72 people per hour, with demand half that during the week. Between its August opening and mid-October, 16,107 tickets have been redeemed.

Rapaport recommended that View readers stop by Monday through Friday to beat the crowds. “Get in and explore the course in a luxurious way during the week,” she said.

In addition to the course, a bar, the Watering Hole, is open. And visitors have a choice of five food trucks: Firepie Pizza and Al Pastor Papi, from chef Miguel Escobedo, will be there permanently, with three rotating trucks in the mix.

Stagecoach Greens is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, weather permitting.