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Play the golf courses of San Diego on three budgets

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Maderas Golf Club in San Diego
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Troon Golf-managed Maderas Golf Club boasts one of the top upscale daily-fee experiences in San Diego. (Courtesy of Troon Golf)

SAN DIEGO -- The best part about golf in San Diego, weather aside, is that there is a course for every wallet size.

Visitors can come and play the best that southern California has to offer, or simply find a warm-weather escape from their snowed-in home during the winter.

There are 90-plus golf courses in San Diego County, making for tremendous variety both stylistically and for affordability.

So which San Diego golf scene is right for you? Here are some golf courses for three separate budgets.

The sunshine is on the house.

San Diego golf for high-rollers

San Diego's elite golf courses range from more than $100 to about $230.

Golfers seeking the most prestigious area play start with the South Course at Torrey Pines, home of the 2008 U.S. Open. It features the most spectacular setting of any municipal golf course in America, towering on the cliffs of La Jolla above the ocean. The next-door North Course at Torrey Pines is no slouch, either, as it hosts early rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour. The North Course can be played for about $100 cheaper than the South Course.

The easiest way to play at Torrey Pines is by staying at the Lodge at Torrey Pines or the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. Both are new properties, located right off the golf course, and offer golf packages with guaranteed tee times.

The best "member-for-a-day" experience in the area can be found at Troon Golf-managed Maderas Golf Club. Low-handicap players can enjoy a golf course that plays more than 7,100 yards from the tips, and all levels of golfers can enjoy tour-worthy conditions, facilities and service on rolling, open terrain north of San Diego.

If you want to play a private area course, stay at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa. This luxurious haven near Del Mar hosts many of the world's most rich and famous, and staying here comes with access to area private courses such as Del Mar Country Club and The Farms Golf Club. Tee times to Torrey Pines can also be booked through the club's concierge.

Other high-end resort options include 36-hole La Costa Resort & Spa, Park Hyatt Aviara Resort's Aviara Golf Club, Grand Del Mar Resort and Barona Resort & Casino, each of which feature some of the area's top golf experiences.

San Diego golf on a moderate budget

You can still enjoy some fine golf around San Diego, from overachieving municipal courses to resort properties, for between $50-$100.

Golfers who want a tournament test on the cheap will want to start at Carlton Oaks Lodge & Country Club in Santee. Originally opened in 1958, it was entirely revamped by P.B. Dye and is now a frequent host to Canadian Tour and PGA Tour qualifying events, boasting a layout that plays more than 7,200 yards.

Nearby Carlsbad recently added to the prolific munis within San Diego County with The Crossings at Carlsbad, which tumbles up and down severe mountain terrain and features wide fairways, ocean views and plenty of trouble everywhere. The facilities are complete with a fantastic clubhouse brunch set high above the golf course and a large practice range.

You can enjoy area resort golf without staying at a break-the-bank property. Start at Sycuan Resort, which is one of the area's most all-encompassing golf facilities. Set in the valley floor of El Cajon, there are two scenic and traditional 18-hole courses, an 18-hole executive course and full practice facilities.

For a little taste of history, the Rancho Bernardo Inn boasts a relaxing and beautiful walk back in time. This William F. Bell design winds through mature and shady trees, gently rolling hills and small ponds.

For some more mid-level options, try Steele Canyon, Salt Creek Golf Club and Tecolote Canyon.

San Diego on a bargain budget

Bargain golf in San Diego means less $50, and there are plenty of options.

One of America's greatest values is right in the heart of the action on Coronado Island -- municipal Coronado Golf Course. Spectacularly set along the busy San Diego Bay, golfers can play here, resident or not, for as low as $30. The catch? It's a wildly popular play that requires entering a St. Andrews-like lottery system two days before your tee time, or booking earlier in advance and paying a fee.

One unsung value golf course that doesn't get a lot of press is Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club. This residential community course boasts an up-and-down, roller-coaster ride designed by Ronald Fream. But the real draw is the greens, which are some of the best in the area, even as good as what you might find in San Diego's top-shelf courses.

Across the highway is the affordable DoubleTree Golf Resort. Run by Arnold Palmer Management, this course is loved by seniors and locals. It boasts fine conditions and a traditional, parkland design with a mix of short par 4s sprinkled with enough long holes to keep things interesting.

Another newer addition to San Diego is Arrowood Golf Course, located north of San Diego. Part of a growing residential development, the course is surprisingly natural, playing beside rolling farmland in many spots.

Also available to bargain hunters in search of a top layout is the semi-private Golf Club of California. Opened in 2002, green fees can be less than $50, yet the challenging design plays up to 6,900 yards.

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Rancho Bernardo Inn golf course - No. 18Arrowood Golf Course - No. 16Carlton Oaks Lodge & Country Club - No. 13
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Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. 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.

 
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