Fave Five Southern California Golf Courses

Editor-In-Chief Ken Shapiro tees off at local golf courses.

By: By Kenneth Shapiro

Before I share my list of Fave Five golf resorts in Southern California, there are a couple things I need to make clear. First, I’m only talking about courses that are connected to a hotel or resort, so that excludes private clubs or municipal courses. Second, this list is totally personal and is based solely on my experience — I don’t claim to have any objective criteria. Finally, I’m not a very good golfer.

I mention that last point because often what a good golfer and a not-so-good golfer want in an experience are at odds. I’m not especially concerned with yardages, slope ratings or handicaps, I’m just looking for a fun afternoon with a few nice views. For me, a round of golf is a way to spend a lazy afternoon in the sun — regardless of what I shoot.
Here, then, are a few courses where your clients are almost sure to have a good time.

5. Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms 

Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms // (c) 2009

Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms

I’ll begin the list with a course that’s relatively close to my home in Los Angeles. Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms bills itself as the only destination resort course in Los Angeles proper. Located just 25 minutes from downtown L.A., the recently renovated, 650-acre Pacific Palms Hotel & Conference Center features 292 guestrooms, each with a balcony, and, according to the resort, it has “the city’s only four-star-rated golf experience.”

In fact, the legendary “Ike” and “Babe” courses at Industry Hills have been around for 25 years, and have a beloved place in the history of Southern California golf. In the last few years, however, the courses were completely overhauled as part of a multimillion-dollar, five-year renovation. Today, Industry Hills features two exciting courses with incredible city and mountain views. The course is a must for all So Cal golfers.

4. La Costa Resort and Spa

La Costa Resort and Spa // (c) 2009

La Costa Resort and Spa

For decades, La Costa Resort and Spa has enjoyed a reputation as a top-notch choice for championship golf, and I think such praise is well deserved. Many of the game’s greats have played here — from Nicklaus to Woods — and the courses have seen plenty of classic moments. Besides the two, 18-hole tournament-caliber courses on property, there are extensive practice facilities and an attractive clubhouse.

Nestled among the coastal foothills of Carlsbad, Calif., north of San Diego, La Costa Resort and Spa boasts the 43,000-square-foot Spa at La Costa, 552 guestrooms and 76 deluxe one- and two-bedroom suites. This is an especially good choice for golfers traveling with their families, as the resort is one of the most family-friendly in all of Southern California. The kids will be so happy at the Splash Landing pool and Kidtopia kids’ club they won’t even notice you’re gone!

3. La Quinta Resort & Club

La Quinta Resort & Club // (c) 2009

La Quinta Resort & Club

One of my all-time favorite resorts, La Quinta Resort & Club, is located in the Coachella Valley, near Palm Springs. The layout of the resort is spectacular, with nearly 800 casitas, villas and suites — and more than 40 pools — spread out over 45 acres. The resort was built in 1926, and its classic Hollywood ambiance makes it a truly one-of-a-kind property.

In addition to everything else La Quinta offers, the resort features five championship golf courses, and has been named one of America’s Best Golf Resorts by ForbesTraveler.com. Out of the five courses, the most notable are the three PGA West courses: the Stadium Course, the Tournament Course and the Greg Norman Course. The site of multiple PGA events, all three courses are exciting and challenging, but the Stadium course is probably the most difficult.

Personally, I am perfectly happy playing any of the five. Simply put, these are some of the finest desert courses that can be found anywhere.

2. Indian Wells Golf Resort

Indian Wells Golf Resort // (c) 2009

Indian Wells Golf Resort

With more than 100 golf courses in the Coachella Valley alone, one could very easily do a best-of list focused solely on desert courses, so it makes sense that another top spot on my list is from the golf-rich Palm Springs area.

The Indian Wells Golf Resort has four hotels associated with it, including the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort Villas & Spa, the Renaissance Esmerelda Resort & Spa, Miramonte Resort & Spa and Indian Wells Resort Hotel. The two courses that make up the Indian Wells Golf Resort — the Celebrity Course and the Players Course — opened relatively recently in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The courses have been the host of several PGA events, including the LG Skins Game.

Last year, the resort continued to raise the bar, with a brand-new golf clubhouse, and since that time the clubhouse has become a destination in its own right. Called the IW Club, it was recently voted Clubhouse of the Year by Golf Inc. magazine. The 53,000-square-foot IW Club features sandstone walls, glass-and-metal construction, limestone and granite accents and stainless-steel detailing. Some clubhouses feel too stiff and unfriendly, but I found the IW Club to be very welcoming. It was a great place to get a drink after a round or to meet up with my family for lunch.

The combination of on-course play and after-golf amenities makes Indian Wells an easy choice for my Fave Five.

1. The Resort at Pelican Hill

The Resort at Pelican Hill // (c) 2009

The Resort at Pelican Hill

One of the reasons golfers love playing in Hawaii and Mexico is the abundance of oceanfront courses in those destinations. Despite its ample coastline, Southern California has relatively few courses on the ocean. Well, the top spot on my Fave Five goes to one of the newest seaside resorts. The Resort at Pelican Hill, in Newport Beach, opened this year — although the golf courses were originally built in the 1990s — and it has quickly become a premier destination for Southern California golfers.

The Pelican Hill Golf Club includes two Tom Fazio-designed courses, the Ocean North and Ocean South courses. Both courses provide different experiences (I recommend the South Course), but they both feature fantastic ocean views and stunning oceanfront holes. Both courses were named to Golf magazine’s 2008 list of the Top 20 Courses in California, and the resort’s ritzy Newport Beach setting means it’s possible to play alongside celebrities on any given day too, including local residents Kobe Bryant and the main man himself, Tiger Woods.

The oceanfront courses are fantastic enough, but the resort also features a wide range of unique golf offerings. For instance, the Yoga Golf classes are designed to improve flexibility, strengthen muscles and stabilize the mind. The resort also boats an extensive Golf Academy that provides instruction to guests, and a professional forecaddie service that is included in the greens fees.

The resort itself is one of the most exciting to open in Southern California in recent years. Designed in a Tuscan-inspired, Palladio-style, the property is adjacent to Crystal Cove State Park, which stretches for 3½ miles of open beach. The resort features 204 Bungalow Suites and 128 villas. The perfectly circular Coliseum pool at the heart of the property is the largest circular pool in the world.

Between the five-star accommodations and the oceanfront golfing, there is no worry that your clients will be disappointed with this choice.