the best golf courses in Southern California
Torrey Pines hosts one of the best golf courses in Southern California. Credit: Torrey Pines

Southern California is a region in the US state that lies in 2nd place when it comes to golf courses. This means that the golfing possibilities in SoCal and the rest of California are endless. In no particular order, here is a list of some of Southern California’s best golf courses: 

CourseGreen FeeBook
South Course at Torrey Pines$272Book
Rustic Canyon Golf Course$15-$81Book
Ocean North at Pelican Hill Golf Club$305Book
Firecliff Course at Desert Willow Golf Resort$40-$185Book
Aviara Golf Club$275Book
Champions Course at Omni La Costa$120-$205Book
Players Course at Indian Wells$72-$199Book
Mountain Course at La Quinta$69 – $169Book
TPC Stadium Course at PGA West$99 – $259Book
Pete Dye Resort Course at Westin Rancho Mirage$110-$165Book

1. South Course at Torrey Pines 

Torrey Pines 
Credit: Torrey Pines 

Access: Open to the public
Site: torreypines.com
Green fee: $272
Stay-and-Play Package: They offer stay-and-play packages in partnership with the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. 

Designed in 1957 by William Bell Sr. and renovated in 2001 and again in 2019 by Rees Jones, the South Course at Torrey Pines in San Diego is first on our list. The course is named after the rare Californian tree, the Torrey Pine. If you’ve heard about the course before but the origin is vague, it’s probably because of Tiger Woods’ famed victory at the 2008 US Open, which is only one of the many Opens hosted here. 

This par 72 municipal course features 18 holes of Kikuyu grass and 7707 yards of pure bliss with a gorgeous view of the Pacific. It’s an extremely challenging course, despite the greens being similar, which gives you a chance to get used to the course as you progress. 

Torrey Pines aside, San Diego has more fantastic courses to check. We’ve compiled a list of the top golf courses in San Diego for you, check it out.

2. Rustic Canyon Golf Course

Rustic Canyon Golf
Credit: Rustic Canyon Golf

Access: Open to the public
Site: rusticcanyongolfcourse.com
Green fee: $15-$81
Stay-and-Play Package: There are no on-site accommodations available, which means that they don’t offer any stay-and-play packages. 

Rustic Canyon, a public 18-hole championship golf course in Moorpark, opened back in 2002. The course was designed and shaped by Hanse Golf Design without using any blueprints or drawings! The course is as natural as it gets because the design incorporates the natural landscape, with the bunkers formed and sculpted to embrace the terrain. The fairways are wide and open but you’d have to play very strategically to get through all 7044 yards. 

3. Ocean North at Pelican Hill Golf Club

Pelican Hill Golf
Credit: Pelican Hill Golf

Access: Open to the public
Site: pelicanhill.com
Green fee: $305
Stay-and-Play Package: The resort offers various stay-and-play golf packages that include golf at any of their two courses. 

Pelican Hill Golf Club is home to two fantastic golf courses, known as the Ocean South Course and the Ocean North Course. However, the latter stands out to us, which is why it deserves a place on our list. This par 71 course features gorgeous panoramic views of the ocean from every single tee. You’ll be fully surrounded by nature with canyons and elevated plateaus forming the basis of this course. 

The Tom Fazio-designed Ocean North features 6,945 yards of natural beauty with elevated Hybrid Bermuda Grass fairways and sloping Poa Annua greens. The course was built in 1993, in the sunny Pelican Hill that gets around 300 days of sun each year. 

4. Firecliff Course at Desert Willow Golf Resort

Desert Willow Golf
Credit: Desert Willow Golf

Access: Open to the public
Site: desertwillow.com
Green fee: $40-$185
Stay-and-Play Package: There are no stay-and-play packages available as the resort doesn’t have any accommodation options. 

The Desert Willow Golf Resort is home to two magnificent courses, known as the Firecliff Course and the Mountain View Course. Both have their own unique qualities and in the end, the course that you choose as your favorite depends on your likes. However, we’ve chosen the Firecliff Course to feature in our list because it recently ranked in the 2nd position by GolfPass Golfer’s Choice 2022 Best Courses in California. 

The par 72 course is 7,056 yards of Bermuda Grass and natural beauty with a challenging layout. It incorporates the natural terrain with various water features and more than 100 bunkers between the first and 18th holes. The course was built in 1997 by a trio of designers consisting of Dr. Michael Hurdzan, John Cook, and Dana Fry. 

5. Aviara Golf Club

Aviara Golf
Credit: Park Hyatt Aviara Golf

Access: Open to the public
Site: parkhyattaviara.com
Green fee: $275
Stay-and-Play Package: Aviara has a stay-and-play package, known as the Aviara Golf Club Package. It includes two rounds of golf per night booked. 

The Aviara Golf Club at Park Hyatt Aviara is San Diego’s only Arnold Palmer course. The par 72 course was designed back in 1991 and it features 7,007 yards of challenging greens, lush fairways, water features, and bunkers. The course merges with the natural environment by incorporating rolling hillsides and spectacular views. You’ll see plenty of native Southern California wildflowers on your way to the 18th hole on this Carlsbad course.  

Interested in more options? Check here for our list of the best golf resorts in San Diego.

6. Champions Course at Omni La Costa

Omni La Costa golf
Credit: Omni La Costa resort

Access: Open to the public
Site: omnihotels.com
Green fee: $120-$205
Stay and Play Package: They have a stay-and-play package, known as the PGA Tour Golf Package. The package includes golf, accommodation, resort credit, and a PGA Tour welcome amenity.

The Omni La Costa Resort & Spa is home to two legendary golf courses, known as the Champions Course and the Legends Course. The Champions Course was designed and built by Joe Lee and Dick Wilson in 1965. In 2011, the course underwent renovations done by Damian Pascuzzo, Steve Pate, and Jeff Brauer. It is currently (from 2022) closed for renovations by Gil Hanse to prepare for the 2024 NCAA Division I Golf Championships. 

The course with its Bermuda Grass fairways and Bent Grass greens has hosted 37 elite PGA Tour events. It features 7,151 yards of rolling hills, peaceful wetlands, landscaped bridges, and gorgeous views; everything you need for the perfect golf getaway in nature. 

7. Players Course at Indian Wells

Indian Wells Golf
Credit: Indian Wells Golf

Access: Open to the public
Site: indianwellsgolfresort.com
Green fee: $72-$199
Stay-and-Play Package: The Indian Wells Golf Resort offers a stay-and-play golf package that can be customized according to your needs. 

There are two 18-hole courses to choose from at the Indian Wells Golf Resort, known as the Celebrity Course and Players Course. Both courses have been ranked in Golfweek Magazine’s Top 25 Municipal Courses in the US. However, our favorite is the 7,376-yard Players Course, which was designed and opened by John Fought in 2007. The par 72 course incorporates stately trees to give it an older feel while maintaining a modern approach. 

8. Mountain Course at La Quinta

La Quinta Resort
Credit: La Quinta Resort

Access: Open to the public
Site: laquintaresort.com
Green fee:  $69 – $169
Stay-and-Play Package: La Quinta offers a stay-and-play package that includes golf at any of its five courses, including the Mountain Course. 

La Quinta is home to a total of five legendary golf courses. Here, you’ll find the Stadium Course at PGA West, The Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort, the Greg Norman Course at PGA West, the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, and the Dunes Course at La Quinta Resort. Each of these courses is unique and very popular. Nevertheless, we chose only the best courses for our list, which includes two of these. 

With Pete Dye at the helm of the design, the picturesque view of the Santa Rosa Mountains adds to the natural beauty of this course. You’d have to look far and wide to find a course as challenging as this one, with its collection of pot bunkers, elevated tees, and rock formations from the first to the last hole. 

9. TPC Stadium Course at PGA West

PGA West Stadium
Credit: PGA West

Access: Open to the public
Site: pgawest.com
Green fee: $99 – $259
Stay-and-Play Package: PGA West does not offer any stay-and-play packages. 

The second La Quinta course on our list is the most popular PGA West course, known as the TPC Stadium Course. This course is challenging to even the most seasoned players and you’ll find new obstacles each time you play it. The course is so challenging that the 17th hole is named Alcatraz. Pete Dye designed the course with a slope rating of 150 and 7,300 yards of lush greens. 

The name Stadium comes from Pete Dye’s idea to sculpt seating for spectators into the natural terrain. The par 72 course was built in 1987 and it has Bermuda Grass all through the greens and fairways. 

PGA West is also on our list of the best golf courses in Palm Springs. Check it out to see other recommendations.

10. Pete Dye Resort Course at Westin Rancho Mirage

Westin Rancho Mirage Golf
Credit: Marriott

Access: Open to the public 
Site: marriott.com
Green fee: $110-$165
Stay-and-Play Package: The resort offers two distinct stay-and-play golf packages. 

The Pete Dye Resort Course features panoramic views of Rancho Mirage and it has been described as potentially diabolical, yet indescribably playable. This could only be due to Pete Dye’s incorporation of the natural rolling hills and water features. The course was built back in 1987 and the greens are made of bright green Bermuda Grass. As if the desert mountain scenery surrounding you isn’t enough to make this par 70 course legendary and challenging, the course has Pete Dye’s classic railroad tie borders around the tee boxes and ponds.

FAQ

Are there any major golf tournaments hosted in Southern California? 

Yes, the 2023 US Open was hosted on the Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course. The Southern California PGA Championship has also been played in SoCal since 1924. 

Which season is best for golfing in Southern California?

With a year-round golfing season, you’d struggle to find a time of year that isn’t suited for golf in Southern California. Nevertheless, the best season for golfing is definitely Spring, which is between early March and early May. 

How many golf courses are in Southern California?

Southern California is home to no less than 600 public and private golf courses. That means you can find around 65% of California’s golf courses in this region. 

Can I book a stay-and-play package at any of Southern California’s golf courses? 

Yes! Many of the golf courses in SoCal offer stay-and-play packages at affordable rates. Have a look at our list of the best stay-and-play packages in Southern California to get some inspiration for your next trip. 

If a package is not mandatory, you can always check some of the most recommended golf resorts in Southern California and weigh your options.

Where else can I play golf if I don’t want to play in Southern California? 

With 15,500 golf courses in the US, you never have to settle for a single region or state. Have a look at our list of cities with the best golf courses for a better idea of exactly what the country has to offer. It includes the likes of popular golfing cities like Orlando and some that you’d never expect to be great golfing spots, like Maui.

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