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A San Diego golfer's happy place: Willow Glen at Sycuan Resort in El Cajon, California

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Willow Glen golf course - Sycuan Resort - No. 4
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Considered the signature hole at Sycuan Resort, the fourth hole at Willow Glen heads downhill from an elevated tee box. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)

EL CAJON, Calif. -- It's a sunny, busy February morning at Sycuan Resort in San Diego County.

But that's nothing new at this retreat just northeast of San Diego. That's the case when you're the home club to three college golf teams plus three high school teams, a small membership, guests of the on-site hotel, and the occasional local golfers playing through.

But Sycuan Resort handles it all without a blink of the eye. Dating back to the 1950s, this is one of San Diego's most complete golf facilities, with a little something for everyone.

Formerly a private club, Singing Hills Country Club, Sycuan is nestled into 425 acres encircled by sharp, boulder-topped mountains. The golf resort features two full-length 18-hole courses, an 18-hole executive course, a driving range, short game area and a couple of practice holes, where academy users and college teams hone their games.

Willow Glen golf course at Sycuan Resort

The golf is headlined by the Willow Glen course, an 18-hole championship layout that blends a few dramatic signature holes with more classically designed holes set through old oaks and willows.

The setting for the course is one of the more unique in San Diego. Surrounded by mountains with few homes in view, it makes you feel like you're in your own green little world.

The course was originally laid out in the 1950s before receiving a redesign from Ted Robinson in 1980. There are four sets of tees, playing between 6,687 and 5,555 yards. It's a wonderfully walkable design with just a few small hills to head up and down. But it's otherwise a pleasant, traditionally styled golf course with narrow fairways winding through trees, requiring the occasional shaped shot off the tee.

The first three holes on the Willow Glen course play right along steep hillsides. Then the fourth hole welcomes golfers with the best view of all the tee boxes. It plays from a high tee down to a drivable green (maybe for the college kids) tucked behind water.

But there is competition with the fourth for most memorable hole. The par-3 12th hole features the most beautification, playing over a pond featuring rock formations around it. The 15th hole is the last spot to drink in the views from an elevated tee before finishing up . This hole is longer, so you can let a driver rip from here and chew off most of the 406 yards.

Traditionalists will enjoy the finishing hole at Willow Glen. It's a par 3 that plays no longer than 167 yards, so one final tee shot will give you the chance for a closing birdie putt.

But unless it's sundown, chances are that's not the last shot you hit for the day at Sycuan.

Sycuan Resort's Willow Glen golf course: The verdict

Sycuan Resort is the place to go for affordable, resort-style golf that has a little something for everyone. While other area plays such as Torrey Pines, Grand Del Mar and Aviara steal the headlines and charge much higher rates, this place is more inline for the golfing enthusiast not willing to shell out $100 or more for a round or $200 or more for a night's sleep.

Willow Glen and next-door Oak Glen course at Sycuan Resort are fairly similar plays built during the same time period. Willow Glen tends to get a little more play from visitors, thanks to a few more postcard worthy holes.

But Oak Glen has some great holes, too. Both play similarly long at a little less than 6,700 yards from the championship tees. Willow Glen has the higher slope/rating at 72.6/130, vs. 71.9/130 for Oak Glen, but the difference is negligible.

You should have a little more room to whack it around at Willow Glen, including two 540-yard plus par 5s that are true three-shot holes – unless, of course, you're a San Diego State stud.

Stay and play at Sycuan Resort

If you're the kind of golfer who likes to hit golf balls from sun up to sun down, you should lay your head in a room at the 100-room hotel at Sycuan Resort. Aside from golf, there are 11 tennis courts, two swimming pools and Primrose Spa. The property recently upgraded its guest rooms with a $2.7 million renovation project.

When you're done beating balls for the day, you can head off the property with a complimentary 24-hour shuttle to the Sycuan Casino three miles down the road.

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Willow Glen golf course - Sycuan Resort - No. 17Willow Glen golf course - Sycuan Resort - No. 6

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 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 BrandonTuckerGC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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