just a fantastic variety of risk-reward choices, short-but-challenging par-3s (the 16th is an island green awash in jagged-edged bunkers) and some stern holes coming home. The greens are tour quality: pure and
extremely quick. OFF THE COURSE: Barona is a desti-
nation unto itself. The resort features 400 rooms, a day spa and the usual gambling options, including 2,000 slot machines. The buffet is sumptuous in its variety and the Barona Steakhouse is fine dining, not franchise fare.
CORONADO Torrey Pines gets the deserved hype,
but the municipal Coronado Golf Course ($30-$35, coronadogolf.com) is the quintessential San Diego experience. Tourists flock to Coronado for the
same reasons San Diegans do: The three-minute drive over the Coronado Bridge just south of downtown San Diego transports them to simpler times, to a town with one main street that feels like Mayberry. The walkable golf course, too, is a
throwback. Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe shot scenes here for “Some Like It Hot,” and from different holes you can see the San Diego skyline and the red-peaked roofs of the Hotel del Coronado.
The best hole is the par-4 16th,
which runs hard against the bobbing boats at the Coronado Yacht Club. Coronado is popular and usually
busy, so call weeks in advance to secure a time for a nominal extra charge. OFF THE COURSE: Once you’re in
Coronado, you won’t want to leave. The beaches, with their fine-grain sand, regularly rank among the best in the U.S. On the west side is the beautiful, 120-year-old Hotel Del, a true San Diego landmark. You can shop at the Del or stroll along its boardwalk. There are bikes to rent nearby, and only a 10- or 15-minute ride to the east brings you to the Coronado Landing, where shops, galleries, restaurants and a panoram- ic view of the San Diego skyline await. From the Landing, it is a short ferry ride across San Diego Bay to the downtown waterfront.
project, Balboa Park ($40-$50) is the oldest of San Diego’s municipal courses and is only a couple of minutes from downtown hotels and the San Diego Zoo. Yet Balboa has been largely ignored
because it fell into disrepair for years as Torrey Pines’ stature grew. Now Balboa is rightfully making a huge comeback. A new irrigation system and renewed attention to detail have the fun, chal- lenging track in beautiful condition. Sam Snead was a regular here while in the Navy, and every great San Diego pro has played Balboa, from Billy Casper to Phil Mickelson. In fact, after Mickelson won his first Masters in 2004, he brought his family over to play Balboa to enjoy the course and reminisce. Ernie Els beat Mickelson at Balboa when they were in their teens to win the Junior World Championship.
The course winds in and out through
a canyon, and after a long climb up the narrow 18th to the clubhouse with a stunning view of the city, don’t miss a post-round meal at Tobey’s 19th Hole Café, which serves the best hot dogs and chicken fried steak in town. OFF THE COURSE: The renowned
San Diego Zoo is a five-minute drive from the Balboa course, as are all of
Balboa Park is close to downtown hotels and the zoo.
The world famous San Diego Zoo houses more than 3,700 animals of more than 650 species.