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An Expert Guide to Golf Courses in San Diego

If you're planning to go golfing on your next trip to San Diego, check out this comprehensive guide to courses from golf expert, Rob H.


Published on

Welcome to the Mecca of Golf.

Why are San Diego golf courses routinely ranked well year after year and why do most club manufactures call it home for one particular reason? The weather!!! It only rains 30 days out of the year. Most summer days are mild, and wintertime is nice and warm.

In San Diego, there are golf courses to fit any skill level and any budget. And there is plenty to do outside of the golf arena. You can catch a Padres game at Petco Park, explore Coronado, eat in the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego, Skytram over the San Diego Zoo, visit Legoland, and much much more.

In this guide, I’ll be giving you an overview and expert review of five of my favorite courses: Torrey Pines Golf Course, Coronado Golf Course, Encinitas Ranch, Crossings at Carlsbad, and Avira Golf Club.

Torrey Pines Golf Course - Best for the PGA Tour Experience

Torrey Pines Golf Course with the ocean in the background
Torrey Pines Golf Course
  • Location: La Jolla,CA
  • Holes: 36
  • Par: 72 South / 72 North
  • Rating: 78.2 South / 73.6 North
  • Slope: 144 South / 129 North
  • Yardage: 7051 South / 6781 North

Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla is host to the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open and a site for the 2008 United States Open (where a guy named Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate in a Monday Playoff to win). Yes, you can play where the pros play.

You can also pick what challenge level you want. The South Course is the harder side. It features tight fairways, thick rough, and ocean views that distract even the most concentrated golfers. If you want a more relaxing time, play the North Course. It has the same thick rough, but fairways are more generous and the greens are more forgiving. The North Course still has dazzling views of the ocean.

Tee time reservations fill up fast here so call well in advance. If you are a single player, you can line up early with the starter to get on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information, go to http://www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com.

Expert Review

These golf courses are classics. I have played them both on days when I was playing well and when I was playing badly. If you are not playing well, especially on the South Course, you will have a hard time making par on any of the holes. On the North Course, you can miss a lot of shots and still have a chance to make a par. I still have not broken a 90 on the South, but I have shot 2 rounds in the low 80 on the North. If you play the South, ask the pro shop if you can play from the PGA Tour tee boxes. My favorite hole is the downhill par 3 3rd hole on the North Course (pictured above). The view is so stunning you will forget you are playing golf.

A man driving a golf cart smiles at the camera
Good times at Torrey Pines. Photo by Rob H.

Expert's Secret: Play a few weeks before the Farmers and the course will be playable in tournament conditions. This is very rare in golf as most PGA Tour tournaments are not held at municipal golf courses.

Coronado Golf Course - Best Value

Coronado Golf Course with trees and a bridge in the background
Coronado Golf Course
  • Location: Coronado,CA
  • Holes: 18
  • Par: 72
  • Rating: 71.6
  • Slope: 120
  • Yardage: 6590

This is a great municipal course for the whole family. It is built right on the water's edge of San Diego Bay. You have to get there by going over the famous Coronado Bridge….do not look down if you are scared of heights.

This course is great for walking, as it is one of the flattest courses in the region. It is also on the shorter side; the back tees max out a little over 6,500 yards. This is also the best value in the area - prime time green’s fees are only $49. Bring your swim gear for after as there are a lot of sandy beaches nearby and plenty of great spots to eat, shop, and relax. For more information, please go to https://www.golfcoronado.com.

Expert Review

This a fun enjoyable course - easy to go low. I have scored low 80s rounds the few times I have played it. 13 is a fun hole. You can hit 3 huge slices and have a shot for a birdie.

I always try to make it a day down in Coronado when I go play there. It is easy to catch a ferry to get to downtown, go to the beach, stay at Hotel Del, or go to Coronado Brewery. Once in a while, you can catch some Navy Seals assaulting the beach next to the golf course!

Encinitas Ranch Golf Course - Best for Relaxing Golf

A man walks across Encintas Ranch Golf Course
Encinatas Ranch Golf Course. Photo by Rob H.
  • Location: Encinitas, CA
  • Holes: 18
  • Par: 72
  • Rating: 71.4
  • Slope: 129
  • Yardage: 6582

Welcome to the home of laid-back golf in the San Diego area. Everyone at Encinitas Ranch is extremely relaxed and very pleasant to deal with. This course offers plenty of vistas of the Pacific Ocean. There are some challenging blind shots but it offers a very enjoyable round of golf. On your way from 9 to 10 you get to drive over a bridge well elevated over Leucadia Blvd. After you are done, unwind on a nice patio with a view of the ocean and outdoor fireplace. For more information, go visit their website at https://www.jcgolf.com.

Expert Review

This is one of the best courses for everyday golf. I have had lots of fun on this course, and it’s the first place I broke 80 at. The greens are easy to play and receptive all year long. Hole 7 is a kick. They have a video camera (of the landing area) for the blind tee shot so you know when it is safe for you to hit.

If you will be in the area for an extended vacation or looking for great golf deals, you should look at getting the JC Golf player’s card to help reduce the cost of playing golf here and at their other properties they have in the San Diego Area.

Crossings At Carlsbad - Best for Spotting New Equipment

Crossings at Carlsbad Golf Course green and waterfall
Crossings at Carlsbad Golf Course. Photo by Rob H.
  • Location: Carlsbad, CA
  • Holes: 18
  • Par: 72
  • Rating: 72.6
  • Slope: 132
  • Yardage: 6835

This is the closest full-length golf course to the major golf manufacturers. And it’s one of the best laid out golf courses in the area, as it flows well with the land. It contains many elevated tee boxes to entice you to hit the driver, but beware - most fairways drain off into environmentally-protected areas.

The course’s main defense is the greens. If you are not on the same quadrant of the green with the pin 3, putts await you. Crossings also features a great driving range and short game practice area. Keep an eye out on the range, and you may spot some people testing prototype clubs!!!!

Legoland is right next door to this golf course and with many nearby hotels, you can play here and still enjoy a great family vacation. If you would like more information please visit them at https://www.jcgolf.com/san-diego-golf-courses/the-crossings-at-carlsbad.

Expert Review

I have played many of my rounds here. I always enjoy finding the little bumps, ridges, and slopes in the fairway to get an extra 20 yards off of my drive. My favorite hole is number 16. I have always believed if you hit this fairway, it is a guaranteed 330 yard drive. The tee box is 100 feet above the fairway and the fairway slopes towards the green. This hole gives all golfers a shot at eagle.

A cloudy day at the Crossings at Carlsbad golf course
A cloudy day at Crossings. Photo by Rob H.

The greens are the main defenses here and can be unfair. Hole 7 is a great par 5 and has a pretty backdrop with the waterfall. However, this green will make you feel like you are at Boomer’s off of the 78 freeway playing minigolf. This is a great place to practice. It has a great range, a good sized short game area with a couple of bunkers, and multiple greens. There is also a gigantic putting green near the 1st tee. And I always enjoy a pint at Karl Strauss Brewery, especially if I had a bad round here.

Aviara Golf Club - Best Resort Golf

Aviara Golf Club
Aviara Golf Club
  • Location: Carlsbad,CA
  • Holes: 18
  • Par: 72
  • Rating: 75
  • Slope: 144
  • Yardage: 7007

There are a few courses attached to resorts in the San Diego Area, and Aviara is the best of them. This is the host site for the LPGA KIA Classic. Located next to a lagoon in the city of Carlsbad, this course can challenge the best golfers in the world or provide a carefree experience for those seeking an enjoyable round.

You need to pick the correct tees for the experience you want. The farther-back tees will challenge you with many risk-reward shots compared to the forward tees, which will make the course play straightforward.

The hospitality cart is a shining star here, as all adult beverages can be mixed with top shelf options. For more information, please visit their website at http://www.golfaviara.com.

Birds of Paradise and other flora
Some of the flora at Aviara. Photo by Rob H.

Expert Review

I love this course because it has always challenged me. I am the guy who will hit his driver and try to cut as many corners as I can on the golf course. I have lost many tournaments here being too aggressive off the tee. The trick here is to play what you see. It is better to play for position off the tee then to cut off what you cannot see. 10 is a great example of this. You can easily see the landing area roughly 200 yards off the tee. There is a chance if you cut off the huge dogleg to the left, over water to have a small wedge into the green, but most of the time you will lose your ball. 18 is a great finishing hole. The second shot comes in over water, usually with people sitting at the restaurant. You can hear everyone boo when you mishit your shot into the water and the cheers when you hit the green.

Closing Thoughts

San Diego is a great destination for golf. There are numerous options to fit any budget and any golfer. If you feel like a nine hole course or a short course, Tecolote Canyon or Lomas Santa Fe Executive are great options. Omni La Costa resort is another great stay and play option. If you want a great walking challenge, head to Balboa Park Golf Course. To the locals, the 18th hole is known as “heart attack hill” due to its uphill grade from tee box to green.

If you do not live in San Diego, getting here is easy. Most major airlines fly into San Diego International Airport, or you can look to go through John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA as it is only 45 minutes north of San Diego County.

No matter where you end up playing in San Diego, you are going to have great weather, great times, and memories that will last a lifetime.

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Written By
I have spent 15 years in the golf club industry, most with TaylorMade golf. I have vast knowledge of all brands, components and fittings techniques. ​ My grandmother started me when I was 10, but I didn't pick my sticks up again till my shoulder was blownout from colliegiate Water Polo. I became a g...

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