Launch - Hole in One - November 2018


Each of the custom-built mini-golf holes at Stagecoach Greens tells a tale, from the gold rush in the West to the San Francisco experience. (Credit: Stagecoach Greens)

San Francisco’s Stagecoach Greens Has a Story to Tell

by Mike Bederka

Miniature golf course owners Esther and Jan Stearns didn’t want to just sell tickets to a haphazard set of 18 holes. Nor did they want a facility with a token theme. Instead, the couple sought to create a cohesive educational experience keeping guests fully engaged.

Players at their Stagecoach Greens miniature golf course in San Francisco follow the “boom or bust” tale of Northern California, from the gold rush to tech explosion, with heavy theming and sound and motion elements throughout. 

For example, on the second hole—“Barbary Coast Saloon”—people walk past swinging doors into the saloon and hear a 19th-century-style player piano. On the 16th hole—“Spirit of Invention”—guests putt around a glowing light bulb on the blueprint-lined green. Each hole also features signage with historical context, and the facility’s website goes into further detail about all the holes to deepen the overall story.

Attending IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017 inspired Esther and Jan to build an outdoor center located in the city’s Mission Bay section. In particular, they returned home impressed by how museums often effectively meld education and entertainment together.

STAGECOCH GREENSTheir IAAPA Attractions Expo experience also strengthened their belief that Stagecoach Greens should be truly social media-driven. Each hole has its own hashtag, and along the course, they built designated selfie spots to invite visitors to share their experience. Popular locations include a blinged-out gold cart, a 3D recreation of San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade, and the skyscraper-themed “Alpha in the Air” hole, where guests pose inside building cutouts.

Along with creating a unique experience for tourists and locals, Jan and Esther wanted to be true members of the community. Anyone staying at the Family House across the street can play for free. The facility serves as a temporary home for families of critically ill children seeking treatment nearby. Knowing their course would be played by a sizable population of guests in wheelchairs, they carefully thought through Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. Their fabricators constructed an easy-to-open and clearly marked ADA door on each hole. 

In addition, the owners assisted with the founding of Braid Mission, a mentoring program for children in foster care. They support the program with donations and free golf events for the mentors and youth.

Encouraged by the early interest (they had roughly 5,000 golfers in their first 10 days of opening in August), Jan and Esther plan to develop a similar “boom or bust” course across the state in Truckee, California. In addition, they see the potential to build a mobile, compact version of their mini-golf edutainment concept—but still with all the motion and sound. They’re eyeing smaller cities across the United States where they could rent underutilized mall space for several months at a time.

“We have other stories to tell,” Esther shares.