As anyone who’s ever been thwarted by its hypnotic blades knows, the trickiest part of any mini-golf course is the windmill. You stand there, hovered over the tee, putter in hand, trying to line up your very Circadian rhythm with the metronomic quality of the windmill, and feeling the rising irritation of the group behind you that already finished the previous hole. Don’t let anyone get to you. Be the ball.
At Stagecoach Greens, the 18-hole putt-putt course now open in Mission Bay, there’s not only a windmill but a Salesforce Tower-versus-Transamerica Pyramid boxing match, a Victorian that’s off-kilter as if after a major earthquake, and a truly devilish Sutro Tower hole where serious trigonometry skills may be required when planning your angle of incidence. (SF Weekly may have needed to take more than one mulligan on that one.)
Parklabs’ Old-West-and-New-West-themed course, a new addition to the neighborhood’s strip of open space that’s across Fourth Street from Spark Social, will have five food trucks when it’s fully up and running. Some, like Al Pastor Papi, are already there, although Stagecoach’s eventual bar The Watering Hole hasn’t quite gotten its liquor license sorted out. At present, water and iced tea are complimentary, and overall, it’s a diverting afternoon distraction from whatever life throws at you. Don’t be like the proverbial executive who installs a stress-relieving putting green in one corner of his office; go out and play. Or, if you’re teed off, tee off.
Competitive types might need a course correction or two on a windy afternoon, but Stagecoach is goofy fun, with plenty of opportunities to Instagram yourself pulling stupid faces. Some of the explanatory historical panels, clearly intended for children, are a little cheesy and the “facts” might not always be historically accurate. (No, the 1848 Gold Rush wasn’t the “largest mass migration in U.S. history.”) However easy it is to parody Old West-y parlance — some of the bulletins read like advertising copy for Hendrick’s Gin — the art direction is better than the dyed-blue water hazards of the boardwalk mini-links of one’s youth, and unlike Westworld, there aren’t any robots to achieve self-awareness and murder your entire foursome.
For $16 per adult, you encounter holes of varying levels of difficulty. Some have tempting tubes and channels that look like the fast track to an easy hole-in-one, but you might be better off just playing things straight. Definitely don’t get your ball stuck behind the tombstone for Emperor Norton, though. That was a hard shot.
Easily the most inventive hole is the 16th. The blueprint-clad “Spirit of Invention” is a two-parter that involves putting down the putter and picking up a billiard cue; if you bypass that by sinking the ball in one stroke, you’ll feel like you missed out. The penultimate hole pays homage to the enormous dragon in the Chinese New Year parade, while the 18th and final hole is a fortune teller who promises you a free game if you can land the ball just so. St. Andrews this isn’t, but it sure is more casual than Augusta National, so hidebound that they still make the caddies wear white jumpsuits.
Stagecoach Greens, 1379 Fourth St., 415-310-3246 or stagecoachgreenssf.com