What is the best year-round golf destination in North America?
It probably comes down to SoCal, NorCal and Hawaii. In the winter, snowbirds find warmth and sunshine on the fairways of San Diego. In the summer, southerners come to the coast and bask in a world void of high humidity and mosquitoes.
San Diego has an idyllic, temperate climate to play golf, but residents will tell you that not every month is the same, even if it might seem that way from afar, save for the "June Gloom." In the winter, this sun-drenched destination gets its best chance at much-needed precipitation (Jan-March receive on average just over 2 inches - and they'll take every drop). A few years ago during a trip in January, I encountered a rainy couple days at Omni La Costa. I ended up playing 18 holes in a steady rain one morning. I had the course to myself, and actually recall the experience in solitude quite fondly. I'm glad I packed my rain gear.
On my buddies trip in May a few years ago, it was raining when I landed, but the skies cleared up by the time we were off the course and it was sunny the rest of the way. Talk about ideal timing! By summertime, rain around here is a long shot. From April-October, less than one inch is recorded on average. June-August get virtually nothing. Fairways are baked out and the public courses are quite busy with no days off. That leads to some trampled turf.
I took a sample of reviews from the past five years of 24 top destination courses and sorted them by month. We took the Overall, Conditions and Value ratings from each review as those are the categories that will have the greatest correlation to seasonality. The results show that the golf experience from San Diego to Oceanside can change quite significantly from month-to-month.
San Diego ratings by month:
The best golf season in San Diego
Based on your reviews, April-May is the best season to play golf in San Diego. The courses have benefited from (hopefully) some modest winter rainfall and they aren't too beat up given the shorter amount of daylight. As the area dries out and tee sheets get more crowded, conditions appear to slowly deteriorate throughout the summer and into the winter months. They don't recover until more sunshine and warmth shows up in April.
The other observation here is that reviewers tend to rate the course conditions lower than the overall experience in every month. That's understandable considering the rising expense of maintenance and ongoing drought in California.
Our three categories - Overall, Conditions, and Value - all correlate closely throughout the calendar year. That's in contrast to more seasonal destinations like Phoenix-Scottsdale and Orlando, which see large seasonal swings in green fees and weather. San Diego's resort courses have very little to no seasonal rates and rely more on dynamic pricing, though you may find better golf package deals for periods of time when hotels are less occupied.
Overseeding isn't has prevalent or as thorough on the courses around San Diego compared to Palm Springs in the desert, but some courses will overseed greens and tees. Torrey Pines, for example overseeds with rye grass in the fall. A glimpse at some past resort course maintenance calendars reveals that a wall-to-wall course aerification can also occur in September, a more thorough process than smaller aerification procedures in the spring.
So for those southerners seeking a respite from the summer heat, pointing your compass north to the Pacific Northwest or Midwest, where courses are in peak shape, may be a more fulfilling option if optimal course conditions are essential.
Have you teed it up in San Diego? Tell us when and how the experience was in the comments below!