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A SAN DIEGO GOLF COURSE REVIEW

LA COSTA GOLF RESORT & SPA

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La Costa Resort and Spa and Golf and More - by Martin Olivera

When you first drive through the entrance at the La Costa Golf Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California, you feel like you are driving into a Spanish colonial town of old. As you view the white walls and terracotta tiled roofs you can almost sense a Jesuit Mission up the road. As you drive on, however, instead of finding a "padre" by the road you are greeted by one of the many golf resort employees that will help make your San Diego golf vacation at the resort an unforgettable experience. If you were at this golf resort before and it is not your first drive through the entrance, you are up for a big, huge, surprise! Originally opened in 1965, "La Costa" - as it is informally known locally - is under new ownership and nearing completion of a $140 million renovation. Southern-California based "KSL Resorts," which also owns local relic Hotel Del Coronado, took over and is turning the 400-acre place into a "total golf, tennis and spa resort." If you like golf, tennis and spa resorts and you can't find it here, you probably won't find it anywhere else.

There are two championship golf courses at La Costa Golf Resort. The South Course and the Champions Course (formerly the North Course). And these golf courses are really of championship caliber. Eighteen holes were originally designed by the late renowned architect Dick Wilson in 1964. In 1973, Wilson's protégé Joseph Lee designed nine more holes to complete the South Course. In 2011, Damian Pascuzzo, Steve Pate & Jeff Brauer completed the $10 million redesign. "Both courses are very challenging," indicates La Costa's Director of Golf Jeff Minton, "the Champions Course is longer and plays about three to four shots tougher than the South, but the South is narrower and demands more accuracy." After recent slight modifications, both tracks play at about 7,200 yards from the tips and are heavily affected by the ocean breeze, making those yards seem even longer. In fact, the last three holes of the South Course, a medium length par-4, a long par-5 with a large lake guarding its right side, and a brook-protected par-4, have been known for many years as "the longest mile in golf." All three play into the teeth of the chilly wind. Carved into the foothills of Carlsbad, 35 miles north of San Diego, these golf courses meander through acres of scenic land, with multimillion dollar houses overlooking the bermuda grass fairways. The layout is criss-crossed by small creeks and protected by medium sized ponds on several holes. And when water doesn't come into play, golfers must confront deep-faced, high-lipped, threatening sand bunkers around the bent-grass greens. Many holes, particularly on the South Course, are made even more difficult by strategically placed trees lining up both sides of the fairway. "My favorite hole on the Champions is #14, a 447-yard par 4," says the former Hogan Tour player and PGA Class-A Professional Minton. "The hole presents a challenge for each shot. The drive must be placed carefully to avoid a creek on the left side and bunkers on the right. The second shot must also avoid the same creek, which crosses the fairway and meanders to the right of the green. The green is also very well bunkered with deep sand left of the green and even more behind it. The green is also very difficult to putt due to the subtle slopes. Par is a great score here."

If you are a golfer, you've probably heard of the Tournament of Champions which was played at this golf resort from 1969 until 1998. The PGA TOUR played its first tournament of the season here, with an exclusive field composed of only the winners of the previous season. For a few years, the Senior (now Champions) Tour also shared the limelight during the first week of January, inviting its champions to play alongside the younger tour in a separate but concurrent event. Since 1999, La Costa Golf Resort has been the host of the "Accenture Match Play Championship." a tournament featuring the top-64 ranked players in the world in a single-elimination format. Exciting do-or-die golf matches played along a five-day span. The now 7400-yard "Championship Course" played by these world-class professionals is a composite of the two golf resort courses. The front nine includes the back-nine holes of the South Course, whereas the front nine includes holes #1 through #3, and #13 through #18 of the Champions Course. These 18 holes comprise the original course designed by architect Dick Wilson. The finishing holes can be easily viewed from the hills by the clubhouse, providing a stadium-like atmosphere to the excitement. The Tournament Course record is 63, scored by Lee Janzen during the 1995 Tournament of Champions.

In addition to these two top-rated San Diego golf courses, the golf facilities include a complete practice area with a driving range and short-game features. La Costa has one of the finest San Diego Golf Schools with a full staff of teaching professionals for private lessons, golf schools and clinics.

If you want more than golf at this San Diego resort, how about this: The La Costa Golf Resort & Spa offers 474-luxurious-guestrooms, a world-class spa with 42 treatment rooms, a top-notch athletic club with all the latest fitness training equipment and roman waterfall massage and a herb garden. The world-famous Chopra Center at La Costa founded by renowned philosopher and health expert Dr. Deepak Chopra complements the spa with cutting-edge mind/body programs. Then there is the family swimming pool with a waterslide, 21 tennis courts (two grass, four clay and 15 hard-court), and two new restaurants with ayurvedic-style cuisine and innovative menus exclusive to the resort.

All you have to do is follow the steps of world golf champions and come play golf at La Costa or simply check into the many relaxing activities offered by this world renown San Diego golf resort. Just follow their motto and invitation to "indulge, invigorate, and inspire." Whichever activity you choose, you won't be disappointed.

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