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After Crowdfunding Success, McLaren Park's Gleneagles To Install Disc Golf Course

After Crowdfunding Success, McLaren Park's Gleneagles To Install Disc Golf Course
The Gleneagles golf course at McLaren Park. | Photo: Gleneagles Golf SF
By Will Carruthers - Published on February 07, 2017.

Faced with ever-growing water bills and a shrinking population of golfers, San Francisco's Gleneagles golf course is turning to alternative forms of golf to stay afloat.

The nine-hole course, nestled on the southern side of McLaren Park next to the Sunnydale housing projects, installed a footgolf course (which combines soccer and golf) in 2015. Now, it will also be home to the city's second disc golf course, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Disc golf fans have been working for more than 20 years to get a free public course in McLaren Park, to no avail. Instead, Sean Jack, tournament director for the San Francisco Disc Golf Club, launched an Indiegogo campaign last month for the course at Gleneagles, which met its $10,000 goal in just 2.5 hours. The speedy fundraising was due in large part to 25 donors who each gave $500, the campaign's highest tier.

Since Gleneagles is privately operated, the course won't be free to play, unlike Golden Gate Park's. Players at Gleneagles will pay $21 for 18 holes on weekdays or $24.50 on weekends, according to Jack. 

A sign at the Golden Gate Park disc golf course. | Photo: Duluoz Cats/Flickr

Tom Hsieh, Gleneagle's proprietor, lives near the disc golf course in Golden Gate Park, and has often noticed long lines of players waiting for a turn to tee off. But even he was "very surprised" by the level of interest in a paid course on the opposite side of the city.

The numbers back that up: the population of golf players in the U.S. has dropped from 30 million in 2006 to 25 million in 2013, according to The Economist, while the disc golf community grew from 11,302 to 30,454 players between 2006 and 2015. 150 American golf courses added footgolf infrastructure in 2015 alone.

Hsieh compares the growing popularity of these alternative forms of golf to the rise of snowboarding in the 1980s. While there may be some skepticism from golf purists, the newer varietals make use of a lot of the game's infrastructure.

Disc golf players at the Golden Gate Park course. | Flickr User: Jacob T. Meltzer

Hsieh hopes that the new offering will help to draw new, younger players to the struggling course that he has managed since 2004, which the New York Times has described as a "scruffy cousin" of the more famous Gleneagles Golf Course in Scotland.

At the time of its construction in 1962, Gleneagle was “the most expensive 9-hole course ever built,” according to the course’s website. Built after decades of political disagreement, it's been leased by SF Rec & Park to outside managers since 1978, when the city "gave up on [the course]," according to Hsieh.

Gleneagle's lease was back in the news in 2014, when Hsieh threatened to shut down the course after the SF Public Utilities Commission decided to raise water prices by 50 percent. Hsieh eventually signed a nine-year lease extension.

Rec & Park has no problem with the new usage. "At this time, the Department is open to the vendor’s efforts to maximize the usage of the golf course," said spokesperson Joey Kahn.

As for the new course's debut, Hsieh told us he hopes to have "some kind of offering by late spring."