San Diego is a golfer’s paradise where the hottest days rarely register above the mid-70s year-round. With over 90 golf courses scattered across San Diego County, many of which are high-end resort courses and private clubs, we consulted San Diego junior golf instructor Adam Lee to pick three of the best public courses. We also asked him what he likes best about the three courses, what his favorite holes are, and what his advice is for playing each course. Golfers of all levels will enjoy playing these three San Diego public golf courses, as there are tee options for all abilities.
Mt. Woodson Golf Club
Mt. Woodson Golf Club is a privately-owned public course in Ramona, about a 35 minute drive from Hotel Circle in Mission Valley. This scenic course, seemingly carved into the rugged canyon, was laid out by world renowned course designers Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley. At just under 6,000 yards, it’s a par 70 course.
The picturesque canyon setting and undulating course are a nature lover’s dream. Each hole has its own unique personality as canyons stretch all around the course and holes seem to be carved in among them. Between holes two and three, players will be surprised by the 450-foot wooden bridge that winds through the canyon and trees. Views of the rolling hills and mountains are spectacular with expansive looks eastward from a lot of the holes. The canyon’s quiet is peppered with the rich sounds of singing birds and windblown trees, making this a fun course to play and a great getaway.
“My favorite hole is number 14,” says Adam Lee, “it’s a par five and is usually downwind from the tee, which helps boost the drive. It’s a shorter par five even without the wind support, so if you hit a big drive here you can have a mid to short iron into the green for your second, setting up possibly an eagle or easy birdie if you play your cards right – good scoring hole.”
Lee’s advice is to play irons off most of the tees. “This course is not very long, but it has a lot of slope, and the slope tends to lean toward the canyons. The fairways are firm, so you want the higher trajectory and spin that irons produce from the tees to help keep you in play. Accuracy is the name of the game here.”
Two other great perks about playing Mt. Woodson are the Southern California weather that is beautiful year-round – no coastal May gray or June gloom at this inland course, and they’ve given Go San Diego readers a special discount. Just click this link and enter the code: gosandiego for your discounted round.
16422 North Woodson Drive, Ramona, CA, +760 788 3555
Torrey Pines Golf Course
Torrey Pines Golf Course is a 36-hole municipal course owned by the city of San Diego. Nestled atop the coastal cliffs of La Jolla and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it is recognized as one of the premier golf courses in the country, often hosting important PGA tournaments like the annual Farmers Insurance Open, and the 2008 U.S. Open Championship (set again for 2021). Its two championship 18-hole courses, the North Course and the South Course, are among the most recognizable courses in the world, as well as the most picturesque.
When asked what he likes about the course, Lee said, “What I love the most about Torrey Pines is that there are two courses that offer very different experiences; I also love that the two courses are set on spectacular, near vertical sandstone cliffs along the ocean. Throughout the round you can hear waves below crashing onshore, and you can take a Zen moment to gaze out at the beautiful Pacific Ocean.”
Adam Lee’s favorite hole on the South course is number three; it’s a par three that faces toward the ocean and angles toward downtown La Jolla, “You really need a good shot here,” he says, “because there is canyon surrounding the entire left side of the hole that wraps around to the back of the green. You get marvelous views of the ocean and downtown La Jolla. It’s the signature hole on the South course.”
On the North course, Adam favors hole number 15. It’s another par three, although a little shorter than the one on the South course. This hole faces the ocean and has a large, beautiful Torrey Pine behind the green; it also offers picturesque views of downtown La Jolla and the shimmering Pacific Ocean. It is the signature hole on the North Course.
Lee’s best tip for playing Torrey Pines is to keep the ball in the fairway. “Whatever club you can hit off the tee that will keep you in the fairway, go with that. The rough at this course is particularly thick, and it can be very difficult to advance the ball from…if you can find it.”
11480 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA, +858 581 7171
Coronado Golf Course
Coronado Golf Course is an 18-hole municipal course owned by the city of Coronado. The par 72 course is 6,590 yards and is situated on picturesque Coronado Island. The energy of this busy course is completely unlike coastal Torrey Pines, or quiet Mt. Woodson. Because the city of Coronado shares the island with the U.S. Navy, players can expect a few distractions from navy helicopters and planes – not to mention the epic views. This course is a little flatter and probably the easiest of the three courses in terms of slope and length.
Adam finds the urban coastal ambiance of this course particularly appealing. “I love the views you get the entire way around the course – beautiful palm trees everywhere, views of San Diego Bay, Coronado Bridge, parts of Downtown and the Marina District – it’s great. In terms of play, the greens are always in great shape here, and they keep speed up, which makes the putts roll a little truer.”
“I like the 18th hole the most here,” Lee says, “it’s set along the bay facing the Coronado Bridge and downtown San Diego, so the view is amazing. It’s a par five hole that is reachable in two with solid shots, which gives you an opportunity for eagle, or at the very least, hopefully a birdie to end the day.”
When we asked for a pro tip from Adam, he said, “You really want to play target golf here. You don’t necessarily need to pull out the driver on every tee. This course puts an emphasis on accuracy both from the tee and in the approach shots. There are out-of-bounds hazards, as well as lateral hazards on quite a few holes.”
2000 Visalia Row, Coronado, CA, +619 522 6590
Consider adding one of these public golf courses to your next San Diego vacation itinerary. Whether you seek the natural tranquility of an inland course, the tropical ambiance of an island course, or the bragging rights of a PGA tournament course, we’ve got you covered.
Which one sounds like your favorite?