Well, there is a first for everything!  Time was that it did not matter what the destination, golf was always top of mind…and truth be known it still pretty much is otherwise I might have to re-think being the Traveling Golfer.

This past spring as I was planning my trip to Palm Springs for the International Association of Golf Tour Operators Convention, San Diego was an option for flying in and out of.  Having been to San Fran and LA the San Diego option seemed like a perfect option to complete the California trifecta.

Xiao Liwu munching on some bamboo

Carlsbad too has always been intriguing and only 45 minutes up the road from San Diego.  We did stay and play a few rounds in Carlsbad, but most of that will be featured in an upcoming issue.   This story will link you to the Rancho Bernardo Inn Resort and the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa which, although in Carlsbad, was played on the way back from Palm Springs.

The first,  if you are wondering…is that my plans for San Diego were built around a visit to the one and only world class San Diego Zoo.  This is a must stop for anyone visiting the area, animal lover or not.  Being the animal lover that I am I spent almost 7 hours walking, chilling on the Kangaroo Bus tour and being amazed by the spectacular views from the Skyfari Aerial Tram.

Those that know me also know that I have a thing for Black Bears, having been very up close and personal with a few on a number of occasions.  Pandas, on the other hand, are not going to be bear like creatures that you can do that with.  Nonetheless I knew that this zoo had pandas, and having never seen one, they were on the top of my list.  I did learn one thing and it’s worth noting – if you get to the zoo in the middle of the day, for the most part, the animals are chilling, sleeping and not generally moving around much.  Early morning or later in the afternoon/ feeding time is much more interesting!  I found that out with my first visit to the Pandas mid-day so I returned later on to catch Xiao Liwu munching on some bamboo while baby Gao Gao, although beginning to wake, was still snoozing.

You can easily spend a day or two at the zoo as it is massive and has just about everything you could want to see in the animal kingdom.  Themed areas include Africa Rocks, Urban Jungle, Elephant Odyssey, Lost Forest, Asian Passage, Outback, Northern Frontier and of course Panda Canyon.  Now that I have been there once I will no doubt visit again the next time I’m in the area.  http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org

A bit worn from my visit to the Zoo, I make my way to the Rancho Bernardo Inn.  Back onto the thoughts of tomorrows golf, or thoughts of the impending cold one!

They say that “Rancho Bernardo Inn is a place that is as warm and welcoming as home – but better!”  I will certainly vouch for that as upon check not only was I made to feel, oh so welcome but the young lady behind the counter presented me with a voucher for a complimentary drink.

18th Fairway at Rancho Bernardo Inn

The (Sports) Bar at the Inn was the perfect spot for that drink!   In fact, it turned out to be the perfect spot for the evening.  Comfy cozy, cold beer, good food and plenty of golfers to share stories with.

Morning golf was relatively early.  As a single and a guest of the resort I was fortunate enough to have been paired with a wonderful couple who guided me around this classic William F Bell design.  Bell was also the architect of neighboring Torrey Pines.

1st green at Rancho Bernardo Inn

The meticulously maintained course which has recently undergone some significant renovations was a treat to play with my new found friends.  A good mix of holes, some tree lined some protected by strategically placed bunkers all around visually pleasing.  The course stretches back to just over 6,600 yards and with 4 sets of tees suitable for all.  Navigating your way around the trees and bunkers is not all as a couple small brooks meander their way through the course feeding into a number fountained ponds.  The risk reward 9th and the diabolical wow hole, number 18 provide classic endings to both nines.

The resort located about 25 minutes north of San Diego in the San Pasqual valley has a bit of a Spanish feel to it, beautifully appointed from the resorts common areas right through to the rooms!  The resort gained notoriety on a national level by hosting the PGA San Diego Open in 1964.  The LPGA Honda Civic Classic was also hosted from 1978 to 1980.

An award winning property recognized by the likes of AAA Four Diamond, Golf Magazine and in 2007 The Spa at Rancho Bernardo was awarded #1 Hotel Spa in North America by Conde Nast Traveler Magazinehttp://www.ranchobernardoinn.com

Omni La Costa Resort – 16th green Champions Course

Lucky enough to be invited to play the Champions Course at the luxurious seaside Omni La Costa Resort (& Spa) we did not hesitate even for a minute.  This resort is pretty much a destination within itself located 30 minutes north of San Diego’s coastal community of Carlsbad.

This classic design originally opened in 1965 as a 27-hole complex (Dick Wilson design, also designed the original Blue Monster – Doral) underwent what appears to be a seamless transition to 36 holes over the years.  The historic venue has played host to some 37 PGA events including the Accenture Match Play for many years, in 2012 hosted the LPGA Kia Classic.

A host to the legends and the best of today and for good reason.  Some of the most recent awards and accolades:

  • Gold Medal Resort, Golf Magazine, 2012 – 2015
  • Top 10 U.S. Golf Resorts for Women, GottaGoGolf, 2015
  • Best Courses You Can Play, Golf Week, 2014
  • Greens of Distinction, Corporate & Incentive Travel, 2013
  • Gold Tee Award, Meetings & Conventions, 2011 – 2013

15th green, Champions Course

The Championship Course is very user friendly and suitable for all levels of golf.  Just play the right tees.  The course although well bunkered, has a few forced carries and a few trees to mess with your tee shots but it will be the water that is most memorable and striking as well.  You will love the series of finishing holes which you get a glimpse of when you tee off on #1.  Have a look around!

Time did not allow for us to play the Legends course and rumour has it that although similar in style it is a little tighter.  I know that this will be someplace I look forward to coming back too and you should consider a visit yourself!  Sunny and warm San Diego and Carlsbad await. http://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/san-diego-la-costa

For more information on San Diego with oh so many attractions, nightlife and great restaurants check out http://www.sandiego.org