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Tee to Fairway to Green: Ocean, Desert & Mountain

What sets San Diego apart from other golf destinations?

Try this: Within a 60-mile drive a golfer can enjoy the opportunity here of playing a desert course, a mountain course and an ocean course.

Taken individually, Warner Springs Ranch Golf Course (desert), Mt. Woodson Golf Club (mountain) and Torrey Pines Golf Course (ocean) each would make for a memorable round. Collectively, they represent an unforgettable experience.

Ocean: Torrey Pines Golf Course

The PGA has made the Torrey Pines Golf Course an annual Tour stop since 1968, so the venue has been on the national map for decades. Televised shots of the North and South courses hugging the coastal cliffs above Torrey Pines State Beach in La Jolla are spectacular. Hang gliders floating on the air and the Pacific Ocean provide the perfect backdrop when TV cameras are focused on the pros making their way from tee to green.

If that wasn't enough to make everyone want to play Torrey, then there was the 2008 U.S. Open, where Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate in one of the most memorable majors in history. Who wouldn't want to play the South Course and trace the steps of Woods, who was playing on a left knee that would require reconstructive surgery a week later, on the way to his 14th major championship. How many golfers do you suppose have lingered on the green at the 18th hole and tried to reproduce the 12-foot putt Woods made on the final hole of regulation to force an 18-hole playoff (that actually went 19) for the title? This was the latest, and most memorable, chapter in the history of the storied venue.

The South, which was toughened up in a redesign by Rees Jones in 2001, is more challenging than the North, but either course will qualify for the bucket list. As popular as Torrey has become in recent years, it's still possible, especially as a single, to walk up and get a tee time. Not a bad place to literally watch the sun set on an unforgettable golf experience.

Desert: Warner Springs Ranch Golf Course

Located in the foothills of Palomar Mountain in North San Diego County, Warner Springs was originally established in the mid-1800s as a stagecoach stop. The resort property began to take shape in 1922 when hot springs pools were built. The golf course, which opened in 1945, is among the many resort activities that include horseback riding, hiking, biking, tennis and swimming. The course, which plays host to many high school, state, amateur and SCGA qualifying events, stretches nearly 7,000 yards from the championship tees. The fairways are lush and many of the holes are lined with trees, putting a premium on keeping the ball in the fairway. There is not a lot of water to worry about - although lakes do guard the greens at No. 8 and No. 17, on a course that protects most of the pins with strategically-placed bunkers. Sights and sounds throughout the course make for a special round, especially at the par-3 15th hole. The elevated tee box provides beautiful views of distant mountains as well as the Mount Palomar Observatory and Lake Henshaw.

The ranch's Olympic-sized hot mineral springs pool and restaurants are post-round enticements. It might be the place to bed down for the night before continuing the golf excursion.

Mountain: Mt. Woodson Golf Club

Situated in the shadow of the mountain for which it is named, Mt. Woodson challenges golfers with elevation changes, tight fairways and undulating greens. What sets the course in Ramona apart are the old oak trees and massive boulders that surround the course, which present breathtaking mountain or valley views from seemingly every hole.

Eagle Crest in Escondido is another course to get your revenge against the golfing buddy who is a big hitter off the tee but refuses to dial it back on a course that is more punitive than most on errant drives, rewarding accuracy over length. Use the driver cautiously. The smart play is to favor long irons. Back-to-back par-fives at the 13th and 14th holes are good examples. At 533 and 520 yards respectively, the long hitters want to get there in two. But a headwind greets you on the 13th tee, where shots to the right tend to wander OB. Trouble lurks coming back on the 14th if you leak left. The par-3s, taken as a group, are among the best in the county. Elevated tees at Nos. 3 and 9 complicate club selection, water guards the green at No. 6, sand captures short shots at No. 11 and there's a crosswind to contend with at No. 16.

Learn more about San Diego's unique course settings and find the best place to play here.

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