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Southern California: A golf destination with plenty to offer

William K. WolfrumBy William K. Wolfrum,
Gary Player signature course - Westin Mission Hills Resort Spa
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The Westin Mission Hills Resort Spa in Palm Springs. (Chris Baldwin/WorldGolf.com)

Sure, golf in southern California is world-renowned, with destinations like San Diego attracting golfers of all skill levels. But the swath of land between Los Angeles and San Diego has plenty of other things to offer golf vacationers, and sometimes the best is saved for off the course: Charming towns, beautiful beaches, rugged mountains, cool nightlife. Here, WorldGolf.com gives you a taste of why southern California is so great.

For many years, the Rose Bowl, played on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif., was always played on a day that was sunny and 75 degrees, much to the annoyance of the rest of the nation, which was huddled inside trying to stay warm. As the legend went, Jan. 2 was the most popular day of the year for many to decide to pack up and move to southern California.

Whether it's true or not that southern California would get an influx of out-of-staters moving in after the Rose Bowl, one can be pretty certain that, at very least, the idea at least crossed the minds of a heck of a lot of Americans, fighting winter weather. And why not? Southern California has it all, from resorts, to skiing, to golf and gambling.

So if you've ever thought of getting away from the cold and heading to So-Cal, here are some of the top picks the southern half of the Golden State has to offer for both golf and play.

Golf (and more) near San Diego

If you enjoy some gambling action along with golf, look no further than Barona Valley Ranch and Casino. A short 30-minute drive from San Diego, Barona features a relaxing rustic setting that belies the action going on both on and off the golf course. Great gaming and multiple dining options are just part of the thrill at Barona, which is home to one of the top courses in the state.

"We wanted to make Barona Creek the best in the San Diego area," architect Todd Eckenrode said. "We looked all over the area and saw many artificial, over-the-water type courses. We wanted a natural look -- generous landscapes with broad views, native grasses, oak trees, use of the rock formations and we wanted it to be lean and mean."

Speaking of fun, games and golf, Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage has all of that and then some. With the Pete Dye-designed resort course and the Gary Player Signature Course, you'll be faced with two great golf options.

And aside from the spa and other standard resort amenities, Mission Hills will have the sports-minded busy all day long.

"Name the sport and this place has it. There are so many lighted tennis courts that you're liable to think you've stumbled upon a separate community center in an evening stroll around the grounds," wrote Chris Baldwin at GolfCalifornia.com. "The basketball courts actually have nets and not as many cracks as a broken car window."

Southern California destinations

With the immense size of southern California, sometimes some great locations can be missed altogether. Temecula is one of those places. This charming city boasts world-class golf at Redhawk Golf Course — named the seventh most difficult layout in the state by Golf Digest -- as well as the Ted Robinson-designed Temecula Creek Inn and Temeku Hills Golf Course. And you're less than an hour from southern California's immaculate beaches and mountains.

Speaking of mountains, Big Bear Lake is the place the rich and famous go to get their ski on in the winter months. The skiing is Big Bear's calling card — 430 acres of skiing area with more than 55 runs, 23 lifts and over 200 terrain features — but this rustic town also is a gold mine for families with spectacular scenery and plenty of diversions. Add to that it's location near two more underrated golf locations -- the Inland Empire and the High Desert -- and you could find yourself hitting the slopes in the morning and hitting from the first tee by the afternoon.

This is but a sampling of what the monolithic golf destination of southern California has to offer, because whether you travel north, south, east or west, So-Cal is the ultimate place for golfers to play on and off course.

William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.

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