Spectacular golf in Carlsbad, California.
Because I live in Southern California – and write about golf for a living – people often ask me where to play in San Diego while on vacation. And I usually direct them to Carlsbad, an upscale suburb half an hour north of the airport. There are three courses in town that are worth playing, especially if you’re on a short trip, don’t want to drive a lot, and want plenty of activities and great food beyond golf at your arrangement. And you can almost always count on warm sunshine while touring, no matter when you visit. Perhaps that’s why it’s also the capital of golf equipment, home to Callaway, Titleist, Cobra/Puma Golf, adidas Golf, Fujikura, Full Swing Golf, TaylorMade and Aldila. Regardless of the sun, golf is always in the air here.
Omni La Costa Resort & Spa is a world famous destination in the southeast part of Carlsbad. It has two courses – Legends and Champions – but from the end of this month you can only play Legends. And that is if you stay at the hotel. The Champions are undergoing a major renovation by the famous Gil Hanse, so it will be closed for about a year. So everyone will be moved to legends to play. This includes resort members and guests. The course will be closed to the public for the interim. Personally, I prefer the Legends because it’s a more player-friendly layout that plays 6,996 yards from the spikes. It is a park-style course that features mature trees, soft dog paws, and water features. But he also attaches great importance to driving precision. The back nine – combined with the Champions nine holes – was once a PGA Tour stop. Either way, it’s a fun layout that’s a locals favorite. And the hotel is really worth the detour, to have access to the course. Expect a very lively atmosphere, with plenty of activities on the property. And it’s less than two miles from the beach.
Just a mile to the northeast is Aviara Golf Club. The 7,007-yard Arnold Palmer design has just completed a six-month refurbishment. And the results are breathtaking. Many greens have been leveled to make them more playable – the top course is built on hilly terrain – and much of the penal rough has either been removed, tightened up or made easier to hit the ball. As a result, I have noticed that the course now plays faster. Also, since this is primarily a resort course, beginners will tend to get good results. It can be extremely difficult if you miss shots, and because of elevation changes it can also play a long time. But in its 31-year history, it has consistently been recognized as one of the best conditioned courses in San Diego County. As at La Costa, the staff are extremely friendly and helpful. And you’ll probably want to come back for more.
The third course in town to play is Railroad crossings in Carlsbad, a 6,835-yard public development that is rumored to be America’s most expensive municipal course ever built at around $80 million. But that’s not to say all the money went into the course: some of it went to the California Coastal Commission, to help define how the course could be designed on the ground to avoid affecting wildlife. As a result, it’s a rather funky layout – there’s a 1.25 mile course from the 11th green to the 12th tee. And there are huge elevation changes. Still, the greens and tee boxes are generally in pretty impressive condition. And I noticed the fairways looked a lot nicer for about a year. Plus, it’s fun to play and is in a great location about a mile inland. After your game, enjoy a drink on the clubhouse’s wraparound deck with panoramic views of the Pacific. For traveling families, it is conveniently located next to Legoland California.
After golf, there are also plenty of great restaurants in town, including more upscale spots like 264 Fresco in downtown Carlsbad (a bustling village to walk around in) and Ponto Lago at the Park Hyatt. Avira. For more subdued options for families, consider Black Rail Kitchen and 7 Mile Kitchen – both located in the southern part of town and very popular among Carlsbad residents.