Top 10 San Diego golf courses

Outstanding, major championship-worthy municipal courses paired with lavish resorts make San Diego a legendary SoCal getaway.
The par-4 16th hole at Torrey Pines North has a bailout area left of the green.

Best year-round golf city in America? San Diego certainly makes a compelling case.

A temperate climate, beautiful mountain and coastal scenery and a deep roster of courses of all styles and prices make it paradise for local golfers and tourists alike. Throw in all sorts of off-course activities from beaches to a Padres game, a fabulous dining scene, microbrews galore, and luxurious accommodations and spas, San Diego delivers on all fronts. In our GolfPass World Top 100 Destinations, it's no surprise San Diego ranks highly.

There is a collection of reputable San Diego golf resorts, but the municipal roster is also one of the best in the country. The walking culture is quite strong as long as the property isn't too mountainous. The destination is headlined, of course, by U.S. Open and PGA Tour host Torrey Pines, while San Diego munis Balboa Park and Mission Bay, lit for nighttime play, also serve locals well. Neighboring municipalities like Carlsbad, Coronado and Oceanside also deliver affordable, fun munis for all.

Narrowing down ten of the best San Diego golf courses, not to mention sorting them into any order, isn't easy. Our course guide has 109 golf courses within 30 miles of Carlsbad. There is sharp disparity in green fees from the resident muni rates to high-end resort golf. A plethora of semi-private clubs from San Diego up through Oceanside await those willing to put on a few miles. Some golfers love the busy and affordable munis, while others would prefer to pay the premium resort green fee for better conditions and quieter round. I've ranked these courses by considering not just architecture but the total package: the design, conditions, green fee, facilities, and convenience of location.

10 Best San Diego Golf Courses

  1. Looking back from the 13th green at the South Course at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course.

    One of the ultimate municipal golf experiences in the United States, Torrey Pines South is a big and brawny PGA Tour and U.S. Open venue. For many golfers, the fact it was the stage for the incredible Tiger-Rocco duel of 2008 is reason enough to make the trip to San Diego (I have a relative who had to book a round on the South while in town despite hardly ever playing golf before. I shudder to think about how ugly that score got). Enjoy the ambiance because the golf shots in front of you are always demanding. This is a course full of long par 4s, meaty par 3s and hang-on-for-dear-life par 5s. Healthy rough and narrow fairways put a premium on a long, straight tee ball. If you're not awestruck by major championship courses, or aren't in the mood for a supreme ball-striking examination, you may not feel compelled to pay the non-resident, advanced tee time premium for a round, but enough golfers are, and wage battle with the South gladly. Licking your wounds on the patio of the Lodge at Torrey Pines with dinner and drinks at sunset is a worthy consolation prize no matter your score. Are you game? How to book a Torrey Pines tee time

    Honorable mentions: San Diego's short course scene

    Mission Bay Golf Course features 18 lit holes minutes from downtown San Diego.

    San Diego rivals Orlando as having the best short course metro area in the U.S. You can play La Loma, a par-3 course right near the airport, or night golf at Mission Bay, a par 58 near downtown. Or cruise north and visit stops like the great vibe at Goat Hill Park in Oceanside or 27-hole Oaks North (near Maderas). Tecolote Canyon is a centrally-located, 18-hole short course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. For buddies trips, these abbreviated layouts make for a great, casual afternoon round or a place to stretch your legs if you're cruising up or down the coastline.

    Military golf in San Diego

    There is a strong military presence in San Diego of active personnel, retirees and vacationing veterans. There are also a handful of highly reputable military golf courses. Admiral Baker features 36 holes and is open to civilians. Marine Memorial features a regulation 18 holes and a 9-hole par-3 course. Sea n' Air Golf Course, meanwhile, is located on Coronado at the North Island Navy Base and open only to DoD personnel who have gate clearance.

    The Rams Hill experience

    The mountains form a flawless backdrop on Rams Hill Golf Club's par-5 18th hole.

    Though technically in San Diego County, Rams Hill Golf Club in Borrego Springs is in no man's land: about two hours from San Diego airport and about 90 minutes from Palm Springs. (We left it out of this Top 10 to avoid any confusion with those not familiar with the lay of the land). But it's earned high praise on GolfPass over the years from golfers who make the drive and find great value and tranquility on a sublime desert design by Tom Fazio. If your group is coming to San Diego in the rainier winter months, you may want to tack on an overnight here to ensure warmth & sunshine for a round or two.

    3 Min Read
    June 16, 2021
    San Diego is a sublime year-round golf season, but course conditions and overall ratings vary greatly month to month.

  2. Maderas Golf Club offers all the beauty of the hills surrounding San Diego.

    Located in the hills of Poway northeast of San Diego, Maderas Golf Club features a steely, tumbling layout and exceptional conditioning that can hold its own with any course in town. It's relatively off-the-beaten-path location also keeps its green fees a little lower compared to the top resorts and Torrey Pines in the market. There are no homes in play on the course, the practice facility is top notch and the clubhouse is efficiently sized compared to some of the more opulent area clubs but has a solid restaurant menu for lunch or dinner with many local beers. Operated by Troon, Maderas is one of the great member-for-a-day experiences in the west. Green fees: Dynamic, $159-229

  3. San Diego's Aviara Golf Club is one of the best resort courses in southern California.

    Set in the luxurious confines of Carlsbad, Aviara Golf Club presents one of the most beautifully landscaped courses in the west (you'll never look at your yard the same). Generous, often times bowled fairways designed by Arnold Palmer wind up and down hillsides full of colorful flora. A handful of elevated tees prod golfers to swing for the mountainsides. A longtime host of the LPGA's Kia Classic, it's a favorite stay-and-play experience for couples when combined with the newly renovated Park Hyatt Aviara Resort. Green fees: $250-275

    FROM $617 (USD)
    SAN DIEGO, CA | Enjoy 2 nights' accommodations at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa and 2 rounds of golf at Aviara Golf Club.

  4. A view of Torrey Pines North's par-3 15th hole, which can play 202 yards from the black tees.

    Torrey Pines North, extensively renovated in 2016 by Tom Weiskopf, co-hosts the first two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open with the South Course. But aside from a similar bluffside setting and its championship tee yardage, the North is very dissimilar from its notorious next door neighbor. It's one of the most playable and enjoyable PGA Tour venues on the schedule. The North is just as scenic as its neighbor but wider, shorter and its greens are more receptive to all playing abilities. When I brought my buddies trip with wide-ranging handicaps to San Diego, we played here and not the South. It's immensely popular and can host over 80,000 rounds annually, so its conditions might be a step below top resort courses, but the setting and enjoyable layout more than make up for it. Green fees: $128-160 non-resident plus $45 advanced booking fee per player.

  5. The bold bunkering is a signature of the Barona Creek golf course.

    The best golf and casino experience in San Diego, hands down, is found at the Barona Resort & Casino. Northwest of downtown in Lakeside on Barona tribal reservation, the Barona Creek golf course, designed in 2001 by Todd Eckenrode, made Golf Magazine's most recent Top 100 North American Public Courses thanks in part to wide and firm fairways that are tougher to find closer to the coast. Boulders and rock outcroppings along with impressive bunkering and a surprisingly low green fee for this premium market make it worth the drive.

    Green fees: $120-160

  6. Coronado features a classic and delightful routing that winds along the harbor.

    As great as San Diego's munis are, the neighboring island of Coronado, its own municipality, has a stellar harborfont course loyalists might call better than anything else in the county. Coronado is just a 6,500-yard layout tightly squeezed onto the eastern side of the island beside the Coronado Bridge. It has earned a reputation as arguably the best value golf course in America, but scoring a tee time here isn't easy. Green fees: $42-49 non-resident walking (plus $18 booking fee 3-14 days out)

    "Somehow despite the overall flatness of the terrain Coronado is carved up to still be a fun and challenging course. Beautiful area and superb maintenance make it great place to play."
    - stanholden, 2020 review of Coronado Golf Course

  7. Flowering lily pads decorate the par-3 17th hole at The Grand Golf Club.

    The most exclusive resort course in San Diego, typically only Fairmont Grand Del Mar members and guests of the hotel or on a partner golf package can access the sparkling Tom Fazio design that tumbles through the hillsides of Carlsbad. The total package here, highlighted by Fazio's delightful shaping of rugged terrain and generous playing corridors, along with lots of beautification on the perimeter, sets the standard for San Diego resort golf. Rounds also include a forecaddie. Couples in the mood to splurge would probably put a peaceful stay-and-play here at the top of this list. Hotel guest green fees: $250-275 (includes forecaddie, twilight and replay rates available)

    FROM $467 (USD)
    SAN DIEGO, CA | Enjoy 3 nights' accommodations at the OMNI La Costa Resort & Spa and 3 rounds of golf at the OMNI La Costa Golf Club - Legends Course, Aviara Golf Club & The Grand Golf Club.

  8. Here's a course that is poised for a huge upgrade and could vault up this list. The iconic Omni La Costa Resort features two championship 18s, the Champions and Legends Courses. The Champions, with lots of huge bunkers and plenty of water holes like the exciting par-3 16th beside the hotel grounds, has long been considered the more reputable and hosted past PGA Tour events and has some Tiger Woods history here to boot. The pros have moved on but it nevertheless has a bright future. Gil Hanse has been tapped to extensively renovate the property prior to the 2024 NCAA Men's and Women's National Championships. Green fees: $165-175

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  9. The fourth hole is one of the signature moments on the Willow Glen Course at Sycuan Golf Resort near San Diego.

    The 54-hole Singing Hills Golf Resort at Sycuan features a really neat setting in El Cajon. It's a traditional golf design from the 1960s on a generally flat parcel of land surrounded by steep hills, so its subtly is great for all ages and abilities. The good resort value, homes-free setting and option to add an 18-hole par-3 course afterwards makes this a top-10 area pick. The Willow Glen and Oak Glen courses are fairly similar in quality and style, but if you only have time for one round, Willow Glen has a few more standout, picturesque holes. Green fees: $119-149

  10. Steele Canyon Golf Club, east of San Diego in Jamul, features some dramatic holes cut alongside hillsides.

    Highly scenic and relatively affordable golf awaits east of San Diego in Jamul. Steele Canyon is a 27-hole facility designed by Gary Player that has a mix of low-lying holes around a vineyard and some that play dramatically high up into the hillsides and offer some marvelous scenery. The Canyon-Ranch nines have the most appeal to visitors, so try and get that routing when you book (the Vineyard nine is dominated by housing corridors). Green fees: $129-149 non-resident

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
Commented on

Nonsense. Torrey south is nowhere near the #1 course in San Diego. The average player today shoots 10 plus over their handicap and takes almost 6 hours to play. Probably the most overrated course in the country. Played there for 40 years. A whopping 2 holes near the ocean.

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Top 10 San Diego golf courses