San Diego muni guide: where to play *other* than Torrey Pines

An aerial view of Coronado Golf Course

Minutes from downtown San Diego, Coronado Golf Course has old-school charm and harbor views.

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To what length would you go to land a tee time?

In San Diego, hardcore local golfers have been known to sleep in their cars overnight at Torrey Pines, the better to slip out on the South Course in the window between sunrise and the day’s first official bookings. An extreme — but effective —strategy. 

This week, though, not even that approach will work as Torrey hosts the Farmers Insurance Open on its two courses, the South and North.

What’s a San Diego golf junkie to do?

The author playing the Nullarbor Links
The world’s longest golf course? It’s not Torrey Pines. Not even close
By: Josh Sens

If you’re in the area for the Farmers and hope to play some golf when you aren’t watching it, high-end resort options abound, including the Four Seasons Aviara, the Fairmont Grand del Mar and the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa (be advised, though, the Champions course, one of two 18-holers at La Costa, is closed for renovations). 

Upscale daily-fee courses are plentiful, too.

But given that Torrey is, technically, a muni (at $292, the weekend green fees for non-residents on the South course aren’t exactly muni-like), we’ll focus here on four city and county-owned courses within easy striking distance of this week’s Tour event.

(Green fees listed are non-resident rates)

Coronado Golf Course ($50-$59)

Some like it hot. But pretty much everyone loves this muni on the island city of Coronado, where that famed comedy starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marylin Monroe was filmed. Built in 1957, two years before the making of Some Like it Hot, the course, like the movie, has a laidback, old-school charm, along with views of San Diego and downtown.

Balboa Park Golf Course ($51-$64.50)

More widely recognized as home of the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park also provides a well-groomed habitat for the curious creature known as golfer municipalicus. There are two beautifully-kept courses here, a 9-holer and 18-holer, and while both are worth playing, the latter is more compelling, with holes that buck and roll through through a scenic canyon. If you’re into history, it’s worth noting that this is the oldest course in San Diego (vintage: 1915) and that Sam Snead shot a course record 60 in 1943 that, technically, will never be broken, since the layout was renovated a couple of decades ago.

Oceanside Municipal Course ($38-$47)

Roughly 30 minutes north of Torrey Pines, this welcoming muni sits adjacent to the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton, and it lets you get away with a bit of army golf. Left, right, left. There’s some room to miss it on this Ted Robinson routing that tips out at an easy-going 6,480 yards and is less concerned with punishment than it is with showing you a good time. Oh, and there’s a grass practice area as well.

Goat Hill Park ($45-$60)

If you see a bearded guy on a mower here, looking like a time-warp Old Tom Morris, give a friendly wave. That’s John Ashworth, founder of the fashion line that still bears his name and current president of Linksoul. In 2015, he took over management at this then-struggling Oceanside short course and transformed it into a darling of the Instagram set. Not that it’s just for influencers. With splendid views, a nice variety of strategic challenge and a surfer vibe that carries over to the decor in the pro shop, this par-65, 4,582-yard facility is a come-one, come-all kind of place that lives up Ashworth’s own populist talk with terrific junior programs and other cool offerings for kids.

Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.