Unless you are a Charger fan in a Raider’s bar, it’s hard to start a bar fight by saying San Diego is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Even from the air, you can tell there is a special flare about this city that very few places can match. From a sky view, the landscape changes from a series of tightly knit box shapes to a wide variety of diverse patterns.
Another thing you may notice about the San Diego landscape is the abundant number of golf courses. There are a few by the Pacific Ocean and the bays. Some are close to the US/Mexican border and others are in the hills. A few end where the desert begins. Their layouts are like the squiggly lines on a Picasso painting.
Eye popping scenery doesn’t lower your golf score, but it does make your golf day more memorable. Although there are a large number of choices, there are at least 20 courses that are really exceptional. Here are five that really shine in every way.
- 1. Torrey Pines Golf Course, 11480 North Torrey Pines Rd. 1-800-905-0272. With the Pacific Ocean to the west and the UCSD campus to the east, this course is a golfer’s dream for several reasons. It was the home of the 2008 US Open. That’s the major that Tiger Woods won on literally one leg. Once a year, the PGA tour golfers come to tackle this pretty but demanding course in the Farmers Insurance Open. Most of the time, this municipal course is available to golfers like us. The North and South courses rank among the most difficult 18 hole courses in California. When I played there, I didn’t need a slope rating to know I was playing a challenging course. The visual cues were enough. Some of the fairways and greens run along the cliffs that tower above Black’s Beach. Sometimes, the ocean breeze can become a key difficulty factor. High above the cliffs, parasail pilots and hang gliders can get a bird’s eye view of the golf action below. Also, you have to watch out for ball stealing sea gulls. On a few of my drives, I cut several balls over the ocean that should have come back. I guess the birds use them for their nests.
- 2. La Costa Golf Resort: 2100 Costa Del Mar Rd. Carlsbad (800) 854-5000. It has been the home of the World Golf Championships, the Mercedes Championship and Accenture Match Play. Also, La Costa has a reputation of being a celebrity playground. This sensually stunning course would give the impression that green fees would be up for bid at Sotheby’s, but they are within the $160 range. Located in the coastal hills of Carlsbad, this course is a 400 acre stretch of scenic vistas, lakes and streams. The course design is a challenge for any handicap. I have not played this course yet, but I have seen a few tournaments there. The impressive little touches remind you of country club golf courses of old. It’s like your father’s golf course, or if your father is my age (55), your grandfather’s course. As part of being a complete vacation destination, La Costa Resort has seven swimming pools, 17 tennis courts, and a spa.
- 3. The Vineyard: 925 San Pasqual Rd. Escondido 1-706-735-9545. Getting one with nature while negotiating through a challenging round of golf is the best way to describe the experience of playing the Vineyard. This Escondido golf course is surrounded by wetlands, grape vineyards, wildlife preserves, five lakes, and citrus/avocado groves. Also, the spectacular mountain views enhance the whole golfing experience. This is one of my favorite courses in San Diego. For some reason, several of the holes play very long. Maybe it’s the wind that whips up between the hills.
- 4. Eastlake Country Club, 2375 Clubhouse Dr., 619-482-5757. Located just south of Downtown San Diego, Eastlake Golf Course stretches along a valley surrounded by hills and the stunning presence of Mount Miguel. When I played there, I was impressed by the waterfalls and the undulating fairways. Even though it is located in the city, this course and the surrounding community have a rural feel. During my round, I saw several red tail hawks flying overhead and a coyote running across the fairway. It’s a quiet, peaceful environment that should help you concentration on your putts.
- 5. Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Resort.17550 Bernardo Oaks Dr., 858-675-8470.This course has hosted PGA and LPGA events. It has a private country club feel with public course access ability. To add more of a challenge for today’s golfers, this championship course has undergone an overhaul. I like the fact that a lot of the holes weave through the Rancho Bernardo community. Despite being a San Diego resident, I felt like I was on vacation. This course will not disappoint.
Despite the economic downturn over the last few years, many people are still managing to get in a round or two on some of these fine San Diego golf courses. As proof, just try to book a tee time at Torrey Pines on any given Saturday. However, when you stand on that first tee and look out over the breathtaking landscapes these courses provide, it will be worth the effort.