Lot of qualifiers in that teaser. There're some really nice golf courses in Shanghai, if you're the type of person who doesn't hesitate to consider Fengxian and Binhai "Shanghai." You know, the type of person with a car. However, they're typically members-only affairs, and membership costs are... well.
So here're a couple of places that welcome visitors to the course, don't charge an arm and a leg per year for a chance to thwack the fairway, and are located a reasonable distance from the city center. We've identified three, which is a shame, because it's one short of "fore."
Nearby-ish Golf Courses Without Memberships
Hongqiao Golf Club
9 holes, 400/360rmb (second price if you reserve at least a day before)
18 holes (two rounds), 780/520rmb
9 holes, 600/480rmb
18 holes (two rounds), 1,180/880rmb
Equipment hire: Yes, but they're a very mixed bag. On weekdays/weekends, it's 120rmb/200rmb per 9 holes.
Hongqiao Golf Club is your blue-collar golf course. Located close to the center, a little rough around the edges and with well-worn facilities, the compact 9-hole course isn't immaculate, but it works. There're several sand traps and two water features that complicate at least three of the holes. Oddly, the course is split in half, with a bridge taking you across the nearby highway. Fairly cheap, too, if you reserve the day before. Note, the mostly uninterested staff in the "clubhouse" doesn't speak much English.
Driving range: Two-story affair chipping onto a grass lawn going out to 250 yards, with a good deal: from 7am-2pm on weekdays, pay 160rmb and hit as many balls as you like. From 2-10pm, it's 120rmb per hour.
Shanghai Yintao Golf Club
Weekday - 18 holes, 1,380rmb
Weekend/Holiday - 18 holes, 1,680rmb
Equipment hire: Yep, they say it's a full set with drivers and putter, it'll cost you 200rmb per round. Individual clubs on the driving range cost 20rmb per club for your 4-9 irons, or 30rmb for your 1-3 woods. Putter's 20rmb.
Nice-looking spot, and a full 72 par, 7,100 yard 18-hole course, though it is pricy. It's expensive (they include golf buggies in the course price), and it's got a wetlands sort of feel to it, with a fair amount of water features. Clubhouse is a bit better here, with an indoor pool, billiards and massage service. There're mixed stories about the management, some say they're super friendly, some say they're obnoxious to deal with, we didn't run into any trouble when we went to check it out. Probably worth the trip just for the driving range, which manages to feel like a country club and not a concrete firing range.
Driving range: Two-story thing looking onto a lake with little islands. Good fun to shoot at. Fewer bays than other driving ranges, and the upper floor doesn't have shade. They say they use a specially buoyant ball, so it might behave unusually. Weekdays/weekends it's 150rmb/200rmb per hour.
Grand City Golf Club
Weekdays - 9 holes, 150rmb
Weekends - 9 holes, 250rmb
This little course located pretty much out in Qibao only has 9 holes, at 27 par and under 3,000 yards. This is about the shortest you can get while still technically being a golf course. Pros: it's cheap, and good if you're looking for a quick game. Cons, it's a little cramped; for a good portion you're playing perilously close to a residential area.
Driving Range: Yup, 200 yards, on weekdays/weekends it's 120/150rmb per hour.
Plus Two More Public Courses That're Miles Away
Shanghai Binhai Golf Club
This one's got two fairly well-regarded 18 hole courses, one longer Lake course with some long par 5s and a shorter Forest course. Non-members can only play on one of the courses, though. The prices are pretty reasonable; weekdays will cost you 888rmb per person for 18 holes, while it's 1,480rmb on weekends.
Sino Bay Country Club
This one is miles away in Fengxian. That's basically Ningbo. It's a snaky 72 par, 7,100-ish yard 18-holer. But it's super floodlit at night, so that's something. Prices is 1,080rmb per person per round on weekdays, 1,380rmb per person on weekends.
If You Really Want To Play Member Courses...
So annual membership fees are often phwooaarr-inducing (70,000rmb was one of the cheaper ones we heard), but if you can stomach dropping around 1,500rmb for a round on a weekday, there's this English-language website called Happy Golf where they'll negotiate one-off tee-times for you at members only courses. Take the prices on the site with a pinch of salt, we're in grey market area here, people.