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Coronado Municipal Golf Course

Note: San Diego Golf Reservations No Longer Books This Course

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Coronado: A Resort Municipal Golf Course by Martin Olivera

Sounds like an oxymoron: A resort municipal golf course? I doubt any other municipal golf course can claim this so convincingly. Not even its cousin Torrey Pines, a few miles up the coast. It doesn't matter whether you are the die-hard muni golfer who plays "the course as you find it and the ball as it lies", or the high-end resort type who enjoys the amenities of first-class service. The Coronado Golf Course is an "in-your-face" proof that you can indeed have the best of both worlds: a traditional layout, superbly -- and I mean it -- maintained, that you can calmly walk and play, extremely "muni" affordable, and with the flair, service and feel of being part of a resort. You see, in addition to having its own merits as a fun and beautiful course, Coronado happens to meander along the southeast part of the island of the same name, just a ferry or bridge crossing from downtown San Diego. Regarded as a classy tourist destination, the island of Coronado is known better for its National Historic Landmark -- the Hotel Del Coronado -- than for its golf course. Yet, the package you get when you visit this place is complete. It will fill your day. You can golf, hit the beach, and shop while staying at a hotel that has hosted kings, presidents and celebrities from all over the world. But I digress. Let's look at the golf course.

Originally designed by architect Jack Daray, this golf course opened to play in 1957. The day it opened, its Head Golf Professional Don Collett, and a trio of future golf hall-of-famers -- Gene Littler, Paul Runyan, and Billy Casper -- played the inaugural round of 18 holes that back then extended to a bit over 6100 yards with a par of 75. The story goes that Collett held the course record of 63 from 1958 until 1989 when Jim Robyn bettered it by one stroke. In 1966, the construction of the Coronado bridge took some land from the course and Jack Daray Jr redesigned the first nine holes to their current configuration. In 1997, when a new clubhouse was built, the 9th and 18th holes were further modified to their present shape by Daray Jr and Stephen Halsey, extending the layout to about 6,600 yards from the tips.

Ample, large and immaculately smooth greens, almost non-penalizing rough, and fairways lined with sparse palms, oleanders and eucalipti are the main characteristics of this track. Yet, the subtle defenses are there waiting for the careless player. Bunkering is not overwhelming, but the sand is soft and therefore may produce difficult buried lies. The "water holes" are just as enchanting as they are dangerous.

The front-nine features only one hole, the 3rd, running along the island shore. It's a straight par-4 whose green lays almost under the bridge. The par-5 4th and par-4 6th run dangeoursly parallel to "inland" paths and city streets. It's the beginning of the thought of the round: "Don't go right". The overall design is well balanced with four holes favoring a draw, four a fade and six a straight drive. The 8th hole -- a medium length par-4 with a green protected by a pond all around -- is the most picturesque of the front, giving ample space to swing away off the tee, but then requiring some care with the approach.

The back-nine is fun. A lot of variety, scenery and risk-reward situations. The 12th is almost a par three-and-a-half. A long and precise high-draw off the tee can cut a dog-leg left over pines an eucalypti to reach the green of this 300-yard hole. But a vicius hook, an agressive long shot, or a carless slice may easily result in a bogey. The 13th -- a sharp dog-leg right with in-course out-of-bounds on the right -- is another risk-reward hole: cut too much and you have to reload. The second shot is just as dangerous ... unless you are local resident Ian Langdon, who earlier this year holed out from the fairway and through the woods for a rare "albatross". The three finishing holes have Glorietta Bay on the right ... "don't go right" comes back to mind. But that applies only to the golf shot, because the views in that direction are awesome. The 16th is not very long and invites a high cut over water. The expectators are the sailboats and seagulls watching from the Coronado Yacht Club a few yards away. It's arguably the most scenic hole of this inward nine. Seventeenth is 13th's cousin, a par-4 dog-leg left with in-course out-of-bounds on the left. The final hole has a clean view of the bridge and downtown San Diego at the distance. A par four-and-a-half, its 490-yards demand discipline because two or three straight shots are necessary to negotiate these final yards.

Besides superb golf, Coronado offers a wide range of activities to quench the vacationer or day-tripper thirst for fun. Bike riding around the village paths is very popular and bike rentals are available for all ages and in various models. It's the best way to get to know most of the island. The ride along the coastline from Hotel Del to the Ferry Landing Market Place is unforgettable. Orange Avenue, Coronado's main street, features ethnic restaurants, cafes, antique shops. And for those who can't have enough ocean exposure there is Coronado City Beach, named one of Southern California's best beaches by the Travel Channel in 2002, and the best San Diego beach by local residents this year. One more interesting note is that on every 4th of July, the City of Coronado turns the golf course into a gigantic picnic park whereby entire families and friiends get together to watch the fireworks off Glorietta Bay. The next day it's back to golf.

But part of the golf outing itself is getting to the island. The views of San Diego Bay from the Coronado bridge alone are worth the trip, and they will remain with you regardless of your golf score.

For more information about Coronado island visit For information about the golf course, call 619-435-3121. And for all your golf information and outing needs in the San Diego area, visit San Diego Golf Reservations at

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