With the U.S. Open headed to Torrey Pines Golf Course this June 17-20, the eyes of the golf world turn to San Diego. And what they see will be pretty special. Hang gliders riding the thermals along Pacific Ocean cliffs; surfers catching picture-perfect waves offshore; and golfers doing everything they can to avoid the shin-high rough of an Open-toughened South Course.
Perennially ranked at the top of the best municipal facilities in the country, the 36 holes at Torrey Pines are among the must-play tracks in the region. Not only are the ocean views inspiring, but the test of golf is awesome. Ball-gobbling arroyos and canyons line many fairways, putting surfaces are fast demanding, and breezes often dictate club selection. To say you need your ‘A’ game at Torrey Pines is as much an understatement as saying San Diego — tucked into the far southwest corner of the country, just above the Mexican border — is a great place to visit.
Slight correction: the greater San Diego region is a great place to visit, especially for golfers. Because while Torrey Pines is just north of San Diego proper, you’ll want to rent your Avis vehicle at the airport to visit many of the area’s other gems.
Roughly 30 miles north of downtown San Diego and a bit inland in Poway is Maderas Golf Club, perhaps Johnny Miller’s best design and the region’s top-ranked daily fee course. The 18 holes here are set amidst golden-brown boulder-strewn hills, with mature trees dotting the landscape, three lakes, five waterfalls, and enough elevation change to keep you on your toes with club selection. Better players will find a good test of skills from 6,670 to greater than 7,100 yards, while the rest of us will enjoy the course from 4,967 to 6,368 yards.
A stately Mission-style clubhouse overlooks the course, and is renowned for its food and beverage offerings and full event calendar. At The Grille (check ahead to make sure of hours of operation) breakfast and brunch (acai smoothies, breakfast burritos) will fuel you properly for the round, while the lunch and snack bar menu (steak nachos, Caesar salad, short rib grilled cheese) satisfy during or after a round. A strong selection of local beers (including Stone, Ballast Point, and Karl Strauss) are also served.
Also 30-ish miles north of downtown San Diego is Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad. This scenic resort course is a crowd-pleaser with its abundance of flowers and lakes, as well as its ocean adjacent setting. Renowned for superior course conditions, the greens are like putting on velvet (ok, faster than velvet, but smooth).
Home of the LPGA Tour’s Kia Classic, Aviara is the only coastal California course designed by Arnold Palmer. It can stretch out to 7,007 yards, but at the end of the day this is a course to be enjoyed rather than battled.
The clubhouse at Aviara features Argyle Steakhouse. Known as one of the best steakhouses in San Diego, Argyle spotlights modern California cuisine, including pasta, fresh seafood, and a variety of fresh salads and sandwiches. It’s easy to make a full day of golf and dinner at Aviara Golf Club.
Whether before, during, or after the U.S. Open, you should seriously consider San Diego’s open invitation to visit.