Top winter golf destinations: San Diego

So San Diego may not experience the constant all year round warm temperatures of Panama and Barbados. But with lows of 50 degrees Fahrenheit it is definitely possible to play golf in this city all year round.

The beautiful city lies on the South California coast around 120km south of Los Angeles on the border with Mexico. A population of a whopping 1.4 million makes San Diego the 8th largest city in the whole of the United States.

And within the city and surrounding area, America’s love for golf is reflected, with no fewer than 90 courses on all sorts of terrains from coastal settings to valleys to the border of the desert. The most famous course in the area has to be the legendary Torrey Pines.

Here I take a closer look at some of the top courses and give you an idea of price, then I’ll move onto a few hotel ideas, before giving a quick round-up of the best tourist attractions (in my opinion) for you to check out when you aren’t on the course.

Where to play?

The Best Course: Torrey Pines

This course has a special place in my heart, mainly because it was featured in the 90s golf computer game Microsoft Golf 2.0. I used to spend hours if not days on that game and it only had two courses to choose from one of which was Torrey Pines!

Torrey Pines is home to two stunning 18 hole courses right on the California coastline designed by course architect William F. Bell (son of even more famous course architect William P. Bell).  The course remains largely unchanged except the switching of the front nine and back nine on the North course to give the iconic sea views for players returning to the clubhouse at the end of the round.

Many of you probably still remember one of Tiger Woods most famous victories here at the U.S open in 2008. Tiger forced a playoff by tying the scores on the Sunday. And managed to win whilst somehow playing with a broken leg and torn ACL! Ridiculous!

Try and replicate this up and down when you take to the course.

If you are lucky enough to be a San Diego resident then green fees are under $50! But you probably wouldn’t be reading this if you are so for the rest of us you are looking at around $110 for 18 holes.

Torrey Pines is probably the most famous and I think rightly so it is definitely one of the top San Diego golf courses.

Most Challenging Course: Maderas Golf Club

Image: Flickr Maderas Golf Club CC2.0

Located up in the hills approximately 25 miles to the north of San Diego city center is Maderas Golf Club. This beautifully presented course challenges you to 7000 yards of tricky holes for you to try.

As I say, the course is immaculately manicured and this makes for some speedy greens which undulate to test your putting even further. A straight drive is also a must here otherwise you will be cursing your way around and getting through spare balls all day long.

There are plenty of tees to select from at Maderas so pick wisely baring in mind you have been warned about the difficulty of the course now ;). GPS built into the carts is a nice feature to help you when you are scratching your head on the trickier holes.

You may feel like you need to take an extra few shots on each hole though to justify the eye-watering price of $105 even for off-peak. But as with many courses in that price range the quality of the course, the friendliness of the staff and the overall challenge make it money well spent!

Most Memorable Course: Aviara Golf Club

Image: Flickr Tim Buss CC2.0

Holding the title of the only Arnold Palmer designed course in San Diego is the Aviara Golf Club. As I’ve mentioned before I’m a sucker for well-landscaped courses with water features and as much floral color as possible. It just makes me smile that bit more as I’m strolling down the fairway! That is why Aviara is my most memorable course in San Diego. The 3rd hole is a personal favorite bordered by two streams and a shining pond.

This beauty doesn’t make it any less challenging than the two courses mentioned above though, oh no! Greens are huge! Testing even the best of you putting pros, and the 18th hole has been rated the toughest hole in the entire United States of America!

As with any Arnold Palmer course, you pay a premium for a round but reduced rates are available at off-peak times (you are still looking at $130 though, *gulp*). But if money is no object its one for the golf bucket list

Bargain Round: Coronado Golf Course in Coronado

Image: Flickr Jon Lee Clark CC2.0

Coronado is a long strip of land which extends out into the San Diego Bay. If you drive down Highway 75 you will eventually reach the heart of Coronado and here just a stones through from San Diego center is a municipal golf course! And its a pretty good one at that!

Not only do you get nice views of the bay area whilst playing but you get a very well kept 6590-yard par 72 course to enjoy at the same time.

Ok so you don’t quite get the architecture of the championship courses mentioned above. And yes the pace of play can be a ‘holiday stroll’ to say the least. But when you consider that green fees at Coronado come in at just a maximum price of $42 (twilight prices are as low as $22) if you are just looking to squeeze in a quick round whilst visiting the city this is a nice option.

Where to fly to?

San Diego

Flights from the UK are as low as £400 to San Diego if you are flexible with your dates.

Flights from various places in the USA including Chicago, Washington and Orlando are available for under $200.

Where to stay?

Budget: Berkshire Motor Hotel

If you are looking for a cheap (but still very nice) stay in San Diego then the Berkshire Motor Hotel (I think that is fancy speak for a motel) is located just 3.7 miles from the San Diego Convention Center and the same distance from the airport.

Rated the best value hotel in the whole of San Diego on it also gets bonus mentions for friendly and accommodating staff.

Reception is 24 hours, wi-fi is free and each room comes with a flat screen TV. You don’t need much more than that right?

Check it out

Mid-Range: Old Town Inn

Located in the trendy Midway area the Old Town Inn is unsurprisingly a short 10-minute walk from the San Diego Old Town. It is also located a quick 3 mile drive from the airport too so this is an ideal location if you are just heading to San Diego for a long weekend or short trip.

Free parking is available for guests which is always nice and not always provided in these sorts of city center locations.

Check it out

High End: Pantai Inn

Finally, if you are ready to splash the cash in San Diego then there are many amazing places to choose from. The pick of the bunch though in terms of absolute luxury has to be the Pantai Inn.

The hotel is a beachfront resort just 1-minute walk from the sea. Rooms come fitted with everything you could wish for from a kitchen to built-in iPod docking stations. Rooms are inspired by the Indonesian island of Bali with artwork and cool wooden furnishing to match the theme.

The hotel is slightly further away from the city center but doesn’t worry this is a good thing as it is much closer to Torrey Pines and Aviara which are both to the north of San Diego.

Check it out

What to do when you aren’t on the course?

San Diego Zoo

Image: Flickr
coralmoore CC2.0

You may have realized by now there is a nature/ animal theme running through what I recommend on these holidays!

But San Diego zoo is not just any zoo. It is rated as one of the top zoos in the world! And people know this so try and avoid peak times to avoid being crushed by the crowds.

What makes San Diego zoo so good is the huge size and variety of animals to view. So you are going to burn even more calories than you might do on the golf course. Some visitors have been quoted saying they clocked up almost 10 miles of walking going from cage to cage around this giant park.

Petco Park

Petco Park is the home to the San Diego Padres. One of the most stunning looking ball grounds in the whole of the United States. If you are in town when a game is on grab a ticket and soak up the atmosphere!

Do the tour if you get chance for a behind the scenes peek.