Sports & Recreation

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Best Places to Recreate in Golden Gate Park San Francisco 2010 -

Photograph by Kelly Nicolaisen

The crown jewels of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department are more than just lakes, trees, and world-class museums. Here the urban warrior can indulge in dozens of sports and activities, from soccer, softball, and skateboarding to the less mainstream forms of athletic endeavor. Over the past few years we?ve vouched for the park?s archery, p?tanque, and model yacht?racing facilities. Here are a few more options.

Horeshoe Pits
Corner of Fulton (at Stanyan), off Conservatory
After more than half a century of misuse and neglect, the park?s splendid horseshoe pits were lovingly restored last summer and are once again a bucolic place to pitch, lean, and ring. The 16 sand-and-loam pits are enclosed by low stone walls and a profusion of shade trees, and two WPA?era bas-relief sculptures, ?The Horse? and ?The Horseshoe Pitcher,? are being restored by local artist Thomas Sperow.

Lawn Bowling
Bowling Green (at Martin Luther King Jr.), 487-8787
Nothing says ?summertime? like ladies and gentlemen in white and beige, spinning wooden balls across a manicured lawn. The park?s three 150-square-foot bowling greens date back to 1901 (the S.F. Lawn Bowling Club?s handsome clubhouse was built in 1915) and are beautifully maintained, perfectly graded lawns of closely cropped grass enclosed by veddy British waist-high brass and iron fencing. The club offers free lessons every Wednesday at noon.

Chess Shelter
Between Conservatory and Fulton
Southwest of the park?s Arguello Street entrance is a clearing with an octagonal arbor of iron and weathered wood. Under its radiating spokes are four wooden tables with comfortable benches; supporting the shelter?s superstructure are pillars with bases fashioned into enormous rooks and knights. It?s a marvelously contemplative place to castle, check, and mate, with all that fragrant pine, eucalyptus, cypress, and acacia blooming among the encompass- ing oaks, grasses, and wildflowers.

Handball Courts
Off Middle Drive East, between Bowling Green and Martin Luther King Jr.
Just north of the Big Rec baseball diamonds, the park?s handball courts were erected in 1902 and rebuilt in 1937. They endure as slightly dilapidated temples to this ancient yet vigorous sport. The two enclosed courts feature polished-wood floors, high ceilings with skylights, and spectator benches on four levels; the more casual open-air courts have low walls and chicken-wire roofing.

Fly-Casting Pools
1270 John F. Kennedy (at Chain of Lakes), between the Polo Fields and Middle Lake
One of the park?s more tranquil activities is sitting along one of the three sapphire-blue angling pools and watching a fishing line glide through the air with a fwiiip! as it finds its target. The pools are maintained by the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club, which hosts free lessons and the occasional international tournament. The adjacent Angler?s Lodge is one of the handsomest structures in the park.

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