CHALLENGING COURSES FOR THE BUDGET-MINDED GOLFER


Watching the final round of the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach this past Sunday (February 14th) was amazing. The spectacular scenery and rugged ocean landscape almost inspired me to grab my clubs out of the garage and take a road trip to the Monterey peninsula. 

What many folks don’t realize is that Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and other championship courses up there are open to the public if you dig deep into your wallet. Green fees at Pebble start at $575! But not to worry. I have compiled a list of top regional courses in SoCal and Arizona that will give you a mini rush of golfing bliss…and without breaking the bank. They are not in any particular order, but meet the criteria in terms of price and degree of difficulty. All green fees are well under $100.

Torrey Pines

South11480 N. Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, Ca
858 552-1662

San Diego’s own gem on the Pacific is the best bargain on earth for city residents starting at $63, depending on the tee time and day of the week. It is also the venue of the U.S. Open early this summer, so there could be some periodic renovation. Call the pro shop for more info.

The Vineyard

925 San Pascual Rd., Escondido, Ca
760 735-9545

A beautiful layout with five lakes and lots of interesting terrain. Although relatively short (6,301 total yards), the par 71 track will present lots of challenging approach shots. Hence, your iron game will be tested. Green fees range from $52-$65.

Cross Creek Golf Club

43860 Glen Meadows Rd., Temecula, Ca
951 506-3402

A bit of a drive from San Diego, but well worth it. This challenging par 72 layout in the countryside zig zags its way along a canyon setting. You’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere with Mother Nature. Afterwards, do some wine tasting in the area or hit one of the casinos and make a day of it. Rates are a very reasonable $54-$74.

Mt. Woodson Golf Club

16422 N. Woodson Dr., Ramona, Ca
760 788-3555

A really fun  par 70 course that will put your skill level to the test. Each hole has its own name, and a quaint little bridge adds to the charm of the place. Rugged terrain and elevated greens add to this unique golfing experience. The Stony Mountain Bar and Grill on the property is a great place to enjoy a late lunch. Green fees range from $58-$75.

For your convenience, you can book tee times for all the above sites through San Diego Golf Reservations. The number is 800 867-7397. It’s your best shot at getting a chance to play at North or South Torrey and if not available, they will book you at any of the other listed venues at no extra charge, and ensure that you get the best rate. Or, you can call each course directly. Your choice.

Coronado Golf Club

2000 Visalia Row, Coronado, Ca
619 522-6590

As you’re headed into town on the bridge, Tidelands Park is on your right and the golf course on your left. This is a “muni” facility owned by the city, but it’s always in excellent shape and never overly crowded. The track is par 72, fairly long but flat and easy to walk. The layout is challenging but not demanding, with great views of the bay. The best part are the green fees…$42-49 and $21 for an electric cart. The junior rate is a dirt cheap $27. So pack up the cooler, grab some extra towels and relax on the beach after your round. There’s also a great restaurant on the property.

The Palm Springs Experience

Esena Golf Club

1100 Clubhouse View Dr., Palm Springs, Ca
760 778-2737

Ranked by PGATOUR.com as the sixth best public golf club in California, this Jack Nicklaus designed desert oasis stretches 7,200 yards with an abundance of bunkers and well placed ponds. A beautiful patio restaurant serves outdoor diners with the best in surf and turf, including a full bar. The green fees are an incredible $70 per player including a cart.

Tahquitz Creek Resort

1885 Golf Club Dr., Palm Springs, Ca
760 328-1005

Two championship courses on the same property. Spectacular mountain backdrop and tight fairways highlight the “Legends” course, the tougher of the two layouts. The “Resort” track is equally long but a bit more forgiving for the Average Joe or Jill. Either way, the rates are a bargain at $60 per player after 1PM weekdays.

Want to make your visit a two day adventure? The Palm Springs Best Western Inn has some good high season rates at $97 per night. It’s not the Ritz, but not a Motel 6 either. You’ll feel almost like home, and each room has a fridge and microwave. You can call the hotel directly at 760 328-1005. You can also get 4% off your stay with Rakuten. 

Make It A Combo Road Trip To Phoenix

Baseball is back, so why not treat yourself to a Cactus League/golf getaway? MLB spring training is about to get started and tickets to watch your favorite team are quite reasonable. So why not sneak a bargain round of golf while you’re in the Valley of the Sun?

Legacy Golf Club

6808 S. 32nd St., Phoenix, Az
602 305-5550

Dubbed the #1 public golf course in Phoenix by ESPN.com/travel. Beautifully maintained desert landscape with three challenging water holes to navigate, plus bunkers are dotted everywhere. The track measures 6,966 from the back tee markers. Rates are $75 after 2PM, and they also have a nine hole option at $45.

Raven Golf Club

3636 E. Baseline Rd., Phoenix, Az
602 243-3636

This is another really superb public course, worthy of 4.5 stars by Golf Digest. Lush landscape stretching 7,078 yards is unlike most area layouts. Tons of trees line both sides of the fairways to give you that intimate feeling. But don’t get too cozy or you’ll need a calculator to tally up your scorecard. Probably the best deal for the money in Phoenix with a weekday rate of $65 per player with no tee time restrictions.

When I was a kid, my parents and I would take some mini golf vacations to some of the great desert courses like La Quinta and Bermuda Dunes, cream of the crop venues in the 1960’s. But my family couldn’t afford the peak season rates, so we always went in the summer and endured 110 degree heat. There’s no need to do that these days if you’re willing to compromise a bit and do your homework. See you on the links!

About Steve Randel

Steve Randel, former MLB scout and high school coach. Freelance journalist for 47 years covering all things Latino. Managing editor for HispanicHorizons.com.

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