Want to try your hand at archery in San Francisco? Golden Gate Park has a great archery range tucked away in the outer Avenues.
The archery range in Golden Gate Park is the only one in the city. It's free to use and always open, whenever the park is open; just bring your bows and arrows. There are 9 straw bales set up as targets: first come, first served.
The target bales are maintained by a non-profit organization, the Golden Gate Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD). City College SF gives lessons out there, and has a shed where they keep equipment for their students.
There is an archery store conveniently close to the archery range that rents and sells archery equipment. The San Francisco Archery Pro-Shop has been supplying archers for 40 years, and has an excellent reputation. They are very friendly and helpful folks who will give you a free ten minute lesson on using the equipment before you head out.
You can also arrange for individual or group lessons with them for more extensive training.
You'll be fitted out with a bow appropriate for your height and strength, along with 6 carbon arrows. In addition, they give you a forearm shield and a piece of felt to protect your fingers on the bowstring. Included is an arrow stand, and a paper target to attach to the straw bales at the field.
The bows for rent are called recursive bows; easier to draw than a long bow, and mechanically straightforward.
Compound bows are more commonly used for hunting; they have a mechanism that holds the bow string in place while you aim it. The recursive bow is pulled back and released solely by the archer's effort; these are simpler, but require a bit more skill than the compound bows.
The one-day equipment rental and brief lesson are $25, cash or credit card.
Getting serious? They also sell the three main types of bows (long bow, recurve bow and compound bow) and do custom fittings. They also will build custom arrows for you if desired.
San Francisco Archery Pro-Shop
3795 Balboa Street, at 39th Avenue
Open daily, 11:00 to 6:00.
Once you've got your equipment, head over the range just inside the park entrance on Fulton Street at 47th Avenue. There's lots of free parking along the road next to the range.
The 5-Fulton bus stops a block away, at 46th Avenue; you can catch it downtown along Market Street, at Powell Street, or anywhere down to Beale Street (two blocks from the end of Market). There's also a stop at Fulton and 40th, three blocks from the archery store, if you need equipment.
There is no one supervising the range, but the archers are a considerate and responsible lot, from what I've seen. You can use any unoccupied target bale; they are far enough apart so that you don't have to wait until your neighbors are done shooting to go up to your bale and attach your target to it (not like a gun range).
If all the targets are in use, you can wait for one to open up, which usually isn't more than 30 minutes. It's mainly on weekends that the targets fill up; otherwise, you should be able to get a target right away.
The targets are bales of hay with a course cloth covering; you attach the paper targets with the four metal stakes that the archery shop provides you with.
You can choose how close you want to stand; better to start close and work your way back until you get the hang of it. There is a little hill behind the row of targets, so your stray arrows don't get away from you. There are woods behind the hill, but hopefully your aim isn't that bad! Actually, if you follow the instructions the archery shop staff gives you, most, if not all, of your arrows should be hitting the bale. When I missed (a number of times, ho ho), the strays were stuck in the dirt right behind the target bale.
If you want a more formal introduction to archery, there are a number of organizations that give lessons.
I found the ten minute lesson at the SF Archery Pro-Shop sufficient for casual shooting.
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