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Southern California's La Costa Resort and Spa polished and expanded after a $50 million renovation

Katharine DysonBy Katharine Dyson,
Special Contributor
La Costa Resort and Spa
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La Costa Resort and Spa has been welcoming guests to southern California since 1965. (Courtesy of La Costa Resort and Spa)

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- La Costa Resort and Spa has been welcoming guests since 1965 when it was touted as the "ultimate international watering hole," known for its great golf and incredible spa attracting screen stars such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Clint Eastwood, as well as high profile guests Jackie Kennedy and the Queen of Iran.

In 1969, the PGA's Tournament of Champions put La Costa on the golf map welcoming Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson and others, and by 1984, La Costa had added 18 more holes by Joe Lee. More premiere tournaments followed including the Match Play Championship (1999-2006) and the LPGA's Tour's Kia Classic (2010).

Today, after a $50 million renovation, it's a newly honed and polished La Costa that greets people. You sense this from the time you leave your clubs and luggage with the valet and walk across the plaza into the lofty lobby lounge where huge glass windows look out to the golf course.

La Costa's golf courses

In 2010, Steve Pate -- who won the TOC tournament at La Costa in 1988 -- and his partner, architect Damian Pascuzzo, assisted by architect Jeff Brauer, were brought in to do a total redo of La Costa's Champions Course (formerly the North), the original Dick Wilson design, and Legends Course, by Joe Lee.

The team was hired in 2010, construction began in February 2011 and the courses opened in September of that year, an astonishing feat.

"We pretty much blew everything up and started from scratch, and Champions is still a work in progress," Pascuzzo said.

Greens were rebuilt or repositioned, fairway contours were refined and tees were rebuilt. On the Legends, opening and closing holes on each nine were remodeled, and a lot of sand was brought in to improve drainage. There are also new lakes and a lot of additional native grass areas.

"Champions is set up so you can make up three shots on the field on the final six holes," Pate said. "For example, hole no. 18, a par 5, is very reachable in four. It sets up a dramatic finish, and golf is, after all, theater."

Playing the Champions Course in December found the greens remarkably receptive and running fast and true. Fairways, which had been re-sodded with 419 Bermuda, were in surprisingly good shape, although the roughs were still springy, showing traces of the sod seams and tough to get out of. Time should undoubtedly sort this out.

La Costa: Lots of fun off-course

Denise Chapman, La Costa's director of marketing, said the resort has added a lot of family-friendly features.

"There are family tees and a putting course, water slides, Athletic Club, Kidtopia kids club and the Edge Adult Pool," she said.

For teens, there is Vibz Game Lounge, a very cool place with music, dance, table games such as pool and air hockey, and -- get this -- an X-Box lounge.

And what kid wouldn't love Splash Landing where pools and water slides come in threes? There's a water play zone, sand beach, dive-in movie screen and the Splash Cafe, plus high-speed Internet accessible in a private cabana.

These new facilities join the 17-court Tennis Center, Plaza Shops such as the high-end Audrey's Closet, restaurants, Coastal Events Center and the spiritually oriented Chopra Center

Rooms and suites are located in Spanish-colonial-style buildings oriented to the golf courses, gardens, spa and tennis courts. Interiors draw on a fresh new color palette of blues, greens and terra cotta pulled from landscape. Some suites have deep soaking tubs cleverly located between the bath area and bedroom with a sliding partition opening to reveal views of the outdoors.

Legends Bistro in the lower lobby serves meals throughout the day, while the trendy BlueFire Grill specializes in local, organic ingredients and Pacific Coast seafood. Diversions Sport is a perfect meeting place for those who want to munch and drink while watching their favorite players compete on large screen TVs, while spa-goers can grab a bite to eat at the Spa Cafe -- we're talking healthy here like smoothies and lettuce wraps.

Named by Spa Magazine as the no. 1 resort spa in southern California, the Spa at La Costa has a whole new look with an extensive 15,000-square-foot outdoor courtyard where aerobics and other classes are held, an inner courtyard with a spa pool, reflexology path and gardens, fitness and movement studios, and the 28,000-square-foot spa and salon with 42 treatment rooms.

The Spa Menu has been refreshed with the newest rage, a Bamboo Massage, joining staples such as reflexology, facials, wraps, manicures and pedicures. For the ultimate treat, La Costa's 2-1/2 hour "Indulge Package" combines a massage or facial with a manicure and pedicure.

With the La Costa's banquet facilities, Executive Learning Center and upgraded Coastal Events Center, the resort can accommodate 50 to 500 people for business and social events. La Costa is managed by KSL Resorts.

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Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.

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