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Del Mar National "Delight" by Martin Olivera

When we hear the name "Del Mar," images of the race track and beautiful horses galloping full speed at the cheers of excited fans come to mind. Or visions of a sandy beach, trendy shops and elegant restaurants transport us to one of the most sought-after and traditional coastal and beach districts of Southern California and specifically - San Diego. Perhaps "elegant" is the adjective that best describes this San Diego golf course, available to the public since 1999 and located east of Del Mar. The Meadows Del Mar Golf Course, the first Tom Fazio design in San Diego county, was gently deployed over the canyons and ravines of Carmel Valley, a rapidly developing San Diego County community just south of exclusive Rancho Santa Fe, and about three miles from the Pacific Ocean.

Although Meadows Del Mar was renamed in 2003 to Del Mar National Golf Club, this classic par-71 championship course is still referred to as "The Meadows" by many of the locals. It features several tee locations that extend its length from 4,974 to 7,021 yards, thus satisfying the level of play of the beginner weekend golfer and the advanced player alike. This characteristic of catering to every level of play contributed to its recognition as "Top 100 Women Friendly Golf Courses" by Golf For Women magazine. Fazio's design maximizes the natural beauty of the San Diego landscape, while creating challenging and truly enjoyable golf holes. "Great environments make for great golf courses" said the world renown architect, who had to move very little earth and used the existing hillsides and valleys to carve each hole into the layout. The wide fairways meander along the shallow canyons and valleys, while native chaparral, pines, sycamore and California pepper trees act as witnesses of every golf shot from the bordering hillsides. To further enhance the natural setting, the designer placed the paved cart paths above eye level, thus becoming unnoticeable from the playing areas. One more touch of excellence from Fazio.

This fabulous San Diego golf course - Del Mar National starts off tough, with five of the first seven holes running into the prevailing sea breeze. One of them is the strongest hole of the entire design, the 4th hole. This par-4 sits atop a the crest of a canyon and measures 476 yards from the back tees. It's a dog-leg-left protected by fairway and greenside bunkers that demands a long carry off the tee. The second shot to approach the green will make you nervous. There is almost no bail out

space. Miss the approach left or right and you'll be asking the wildlife in a deep ravine to please toss the ball back to you.

They never do. In addition to the protection from the natural terrain, Del Mar National gets help from one of Fazio's distinctive marks - visual deception. Undulating fairways and semihidden bunkers, as well as the dramatic changes in elevation, trick the player's perception of distance. An examples of this architectural technique are the apparent continuity of saddle-bunkers along the left side of the fairway on the 10th hole. They make the fairway look narrower than it actually is. Pure and simple visual intimidation. The variation in topography is more pronounced in the back nine holes, with breathtaking views of the surrounding ridges and valleys. The tee shot from the back tees on the 15th hole is worth the cart ride all the way up there. The finishing holes include the toughest water carry on the course - the tee shot on the par-3 17th - which, at 241 yards into a narrow green, can put a bitter dent on any scorecard if not executed accurately. Players must hit a shot into the prevailing wind, over a duck populated pond that extends and protects the entire left side.

The Del Mar National Golf Club welcomes players and visitors with a magnificent 14,400 square-foot wood and flagstone, Frank Lloyd Wright style, clubhouse overlooking the 18th hole, which includes a full-service restaurant and bar. A first-class staff of PGA professionals and golf event planners at the pro-shop pay attention to every detail, helping you prepare for an unforge` round of golf, setting up a golf tournament, or catering a special event. The practice facilities simulate course-like conditions, with target greens surrounded by bunkers. Golf lessons are provided by qualified PGA teaching staff.

Del Mar National is part of a San Diego Golf development that includes over 150 upscale homes built at a considerable distance from the playing ground, and mostly on the back nine. A hotel is to be built in the middle of the complex in the future.

Whether you know this San Diego "Golf Jewel" as the Meadows Del Mar Golf Course or the Del Mar National Golf Club and it doesn't matter whether you play the golf course, just spend some time practicing your game, or simply enjoy the restaurant and other facilities...the promise is one and the same: "An experience like no other."

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