Best golf courses in Southern California
Southern California has some of the most scenic and stunning golf courses in the world. From the seaside cliffs of San Diego to the desert sands of Palm Springs, there is plenty of golf to choose from as we list out the very best.
The golf courses in Southern California are some of the best in the country and offer golfers a variety of options, as well as plenty to see and do off the course.
From LPGA, PGA TOUR & Major Championship courses to playing mountain side designs, Southern California golf is something to treasure. Check out some of the best courses in Southern California to play on your next golf trip below!
South Course at Torrey Pines
One of the most famous municipal golf courses in the country, the South Course at Torrey Pines is the pinnacle of golf in the San Diego area. Located roughly 15 miles north of the city, the South Course at Torrey Pines is one of the true gems in Southern California.
The course has hosted two U.S. Opens in the last 15 years and is home to the annual Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA TOUR. The golf course opened back in 1957 and went through multiple changes and redesigns with the most recent coming in 2019.
The course itself plays a touch over 7,800 yards from the back tees but has four other tee boxes to choose from. 11 of the 18 holes at the South Course play along either cliffs or ravines making accuracy off the tee extremely important. You will also find multiple bunkers on every hole of the course, especially deep ones surrounding the greens.
The signature hole on the South Course is the 3rd hole which is a downhill par 3 with a ravine surrounding it on three sides and a scenic view of the Pacific Ocean behind. Narrow fairways, small greens, and elevation changes will be encountered throughout the round so make sure to bring your “A game”.
Stadium Course at PGA West
Opened in 1987, this Palm Springs gem is one of the top courses in the area. Located roughly 28 miles outside the city of Palm Springs, this Pete Dye design will challenge golfers of all skills. The course has been the host site of The American Express on the PGA TOUR since 2016 and, as of July 2022, is undergoing a two-year renovation project removing trees, upgrading bunkers, and relocating greens to the original design.
The length of the course is 7,300 yards from the furthest tees but offers golfers six sets of tees to choose from catering to golfers of all skills. Half of the holes on the golf course will have water in play as three of the four par-3s are designed to hit over water.
In true Pete Dye fashion, the fairways are tight but have wide landing areas for you to hit to while the greens are rather small and undulating. Deep bunkers can be found on each hole with the deepest bunker being next to the green on #16, which is about 18 feet below the level of the green, certainly one you want to avoid.
As with TPC Sawgrass (also a Pete Dye design), the signature hole on the Stadium Course is #17 which is an island green surrounded by rocks and water aptly nicknamed “Alcatraz”.
One of the more hidden gem courses in the Palm Springs area, Classic Club was opened in 2006 and is one of only 10 Arnold Palmer designs in the greater Palm Springs area. Located roughly 15 miles southwest of the city of Palm Springs, a round at the Classic Club is a true desert golf experience as the location does not have any homes or structures for miles.
The course hosted the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic (now The American Express) on the PGA TOUR between 2006 and 2008, so it is considered a championship course.
Length-wise, the course plays a little over 7,300 yards from the back tees, but offers golfers five other tee options to choose from making it perfect for golfers of all skill levels. While the course is in the desert, 12 of the 18 holes have water playing along the fairways and greens so shot making is key.
While the water is abundant, Mr. Palmer designed the fairways to be generous as they are very wide with not too many bunkers to get stuck into. The bunkers around the greens however are a different story as they are deep and strategically placed. The greens at Classic Club are pristine Bermuda grass that roll true, but are on the smaller side so approach shots to the greens need to be carefully measured and executed.
Pete Dye Course at Westin Rancho Mirage
A short drive from the Classic Club sits the Pete Dye Course on-site at the Westin Rancho Mirage Resort. The course is located a little closer to downtown Palm Springs, about 10 miles away, and is one of only seven Pete Dye designs in the greater Palm Springs area. The course was opened in 1987 and has remained relatively unchanged since then.
Out on the course, golfers will find four sets of tees to choose from with the longest tees only playing a touch over 6,700 yards. While it may not be the longest course, as with any Pete Dye design there is always plenty of trouble to run into. The fairways have large landing areas off the tee, but get narrow towards the greens so accuracy off the tee is key.
In true, Pete Dye fashion, bunkers and water hazards are strategically placed to catch any shots that go awry. Large and long fairway bunkers can be found throughout the course on almost every hole while water hazards only come into play on five of the 18 holes. The greens are undulating with mounds and humps surrounding them and they roll true on the Bermuda grass.
Aviara Golf Club
Located about 30 miles north of San Diego in Carlsbad, CA, sits Aviara Golf Club. Situated on-site at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, the course has been a yearly staple on the LPGA Tour hosting the JTBC Classic (formerly Kia Classic) in March since 2013. This Arnold Palmer design opened in 1991 and borders the Batiquitos Lagoon which feeds into the Pacific Ocean.
Playing at just over 7,000 yards from the far tees, three other sets of tee boxes are available to make the course as long or short as you’d like. The fairways can be narrow at times, but for the most part, you will find large landing areas to aim for. If you do end up off the fairway, there is an abundance of very large bunkering throughout the course to give you trouble on your approach.
The greens at Aviara are large and undulating, but are also guarded by large bunkers for any wayward shots. The course is bordered by trees and wastelands so out of bounds can be a factor as there are only a handful of holes that border each other. Water hazards are scattered throughout the layout as they can be found on only seven holes, mostly on the back 9.
Champions Course at Omni La Costa
Situated right around the corner from Aviara Golf Club is the Omni La Costa Resort and the two courses on-site. The Champions Course at Omni La Costa was the first of the two to be built and has hosted PGA TOUR events from 1969 – 2006. Opened in 1965, the course went through a renovation in 2011 including new holes and turf upgrades to help the conditions year-round.
The course has seven sets of tees to choose from catering to golfers of all skills with the longest tees playing 7,150 from the back tees. The fairways are generous with wide landing zones, but have a ton of fairway bunkers to hit into. The course has some subtle elevation changes with many of the holes being elevated from the fairway. 17 of the 18 greens have large bunkers to catch any missed approach shots.
The first hole plays along the resort accommodations before heading out into the local neighborhood, but the holes all border each other so houses will only be located on one side or the other. A small creek runs through most of the course and 10 holes have large ponds that come into play making strategy and shot making key to scoring well.
Players Course at Indian Wells
Located around the bend from La Quinta Resort and PGA West are the two courses at Indian Wells Golf Resort. Located about 20 miles outside of the city of Palm Springs, The Players Course has been ranked in the Top 25 of “Top Courses in California” by Golf Advisor since 2014. This John Fought design was opened in 2007 and has majestic views of the San Jacinto, Santa Rosa and San Bernardino mountains.
Open to golfers of all skill levels, the course offers seven sets of tees with the farthest ones measuring just under 7,400 yards. Opening with a par-5, the course offers undulating fairways and greens, elevation changes, and strategically placed bunkers. The Players Course has one of the longest par-5s in Southern California which is the 9th hole playing 626 yards from the tips.
The width of the fairways varies depending on the hole and shot making is key when hitting off the tee. Bunkers are prevalent throughout the course both off the fairways and guarding the greens. While the green complexes are tough, they are generously large for the most part giving plenty of pin locations to aim for.
When playing the Players Course, you will not experience any residential homes. All the holes border each other except for the final hole which is situated next to the Renaissance Esmerelda Resort.
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