Swing Into Sunshine in Evergreen San Diego

Sunshine and balmy temperatures greet travellers year-round in San Diego. But for Canadian golfers, a wintertime visit to Southern California’s evergreen fairways is both a revelation and a renewal of hope.

Torrey Pines Golf Course (Image: San Diego Tourism Authority)

Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla hosted the 2021 U.S. Open. (Image: San Diego Tourism Authority)

(Last updated February 2023.)

For winter-weary Canadian golfers, a visit to San Diego is like a first glimpse of paradise.

California’s most southerly metropolis offers abundant sunshine, idyllic year-round temperatures and is home to more than 90 golf courses in every imaginable setting—from oceanfront to desert to mountains.

Once an uninspiring Navy town, today’s San Diego features a glittering skyline, world-class shopping and dining, and is recognized as an ideal family destination, with top attractions such as SeaWorld, LEGOLAND and the USS Midway Museum.

San Diego waterfront (Image: San Diego Tourism Authority)

A skyline view of California’s southernmost city. (Image: San Diego Tourism Authority)

Perhaps most impressive is Balboa Park, a verdant oasis in the heart of the city that is home to 15 museums and the renowned San Diego Zoo.

Golfers find themselves almost overwhelmed with choices. But at the top of any must-play list are the world-famous South and North Courses at municipally owned Torrey Pines Golf Course, host of the PGA Tour’s annual Farmers Insurance Open.

Set on seaside bluffs just north of the tony suburb of La Jolla, the South Course is also where Tiger Woods clinched an epic come-from-behind victory over Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open. On the same course, Jon Rahm birdied the final two holes to win the 2021 U.S. Open, the Spaniard’s first major championship.

And looming over this spectacular setting is the Lodge at Torrey Pines, a popular resort where the golf theme extends to the Scottish kilts worn by the bellboys.

Almost as famous as Torrey Pines is Omni La Costa Resort and Spa, nestled in coastal foothills about a 25-minute drive north of downtown San Diego. The luxury resort’s two parkland-style layouts, Champions and Legends, have together hosted 37 PGA Tour events. (Note: The Champions Course closed in November 2022 for a major renovation by star architect Gil Hanse. Upon completion of the renovation in 2024, the course will start a three-year run as host of the NCAA Championships for both men and women.)

It was on the Champions Course in 2005 that Woods memorably trounced Canadian Stephen Ames 9 and 8 during the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, the most one-sided match in the history of the tourney.

San Diego’s golf roster runs the gamut from bare-bones municipal tracks to bucket-list courses with palatial clubhouses and sky-high green fees.

Grand Del Mar Golf Club (Image: The Grand Del Mar)

Tom Fazio-designed Grand Del Mar Golf Club. (Image: The Grand Del Mar)

Unmatched in its elegance is Fairmont Grand Del Mar resort, tucked in the scenic Sorrento Valley north of the city. The Mediterranean-inspired retreat includes Grand Del Mar Golf Club, a Tom Fazio design punctuated by dramatic shifts in elevation.

Another of Grand del Mar’s headline attractions is Addison, one of California’s premier fine dining restaurants.

Golf reviewers also rave about Maderas Golf Club. Co-designers Johnny Miller and Robert Muir Graves artfully carved this upscale beauty into the mountains north of the city.

Fortunately, memorable golf doesn’t have to bust the budget in San Diego. Just across soaring Coronado Bay Bridge from downtown is one of the state’s most popular municipal courses. More than 100,000 rounds a year are played at Coronado Golf Course, an affordable jewel that winds past the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, where the Marilyn Monroe classic Some Like it Hot was filmed in the late 1950s.

Even more unforgettable are the views of the San Diego skyline glittering in the California sunshine across the bay.

Essential Balboa Park

The largest urban cultural park in the United States offers meticulously maintained gardens, hiking trails and 15 museums, including the San Diego Air and Space Museum, and the San Diego Natural History Museum. But Balboa Park’s most popular attraction is the world-famous San Diego Zoo, home to more than 4,000 animals. Thanks to an extraordinarily successful breeding program, the zoo’s menagerie includes the largest population of giant pandas in the U.S.