10 Stunning Public Golf Courses in Southern California

By Ryan Watson

Torrey Pines third hole

Southern California has been a destination for travelers all over the world ever since the glitz and glamour of Hollywood brought this sunny paradise into movie theaters worldwide. But outside of the world of celebrities, numerous beautiful golf courses have made the region one of America's premier golf destinations. While home to many exclusive private clubs, the following list compiles 10 of the best courses in Southern California that any golfer can play. So, what are you waiting for?


Torrey Pines Golf Course (La Jolla)

torrey pines golf course fourth hole

Easily one of the greatest municipal courses in America, Torrey Pines is also home to some of the most memorable moments in recent golf history. Tiger Woods, who has won at Torrey Pines eight times, triumphed in the 2008 U.S. Open when he famously won on a broken leg. In 2021, Jon Rahm had an amazing finish to claim the U.S. Open. Torrey Pines is home to North and South courses and located in the La Jolla cliffs that tower over the Pacific Ocean. These courses are truly an experience in golf.

Those who benefit the most are San Diego residents because Torrey Pines only costs around $65 for residents while everyone else pays around $200. Even at the higher rate, saying you played where some of the best in the world have competed is worth the price of admission.


Maderas Golf Club (Poway, California)

The top-rated course in San Diego County and another course on our list of San Diego's best golf courses, Maderas Golf Club was designed by Johnny Miller and Robert Muir Graves. It features forests, creeks, waterfalls, and rocky outcroppings, and uses the natural geography to craft a challenging and breathtaking course.

After a day on the course, Maderas Golf Club offers The Grille for guests to relax and recap their round. The Grille offers an informal atmosphere and an extensive menu that will appeal to everyone.


PGA West Resort (La Quinta)

PGA west resort golf course


Palm Springs is renowned for its prestigious and historic golf scene. PGA West came onto that scene in 1985 and has since become a must-play and must-stay in the area. Home to nine courses, five clubhouses, and two private courses, PGA West puts La Quinta in rare air when it comes to golf destinations.

Course architects include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Tom Weiskopf and Pete Dye. The most famous hole is on the PGA West Stadium Course where the 17th is a par-2 known as "Alcatraz."

It doesn't get much better than staying onsite at PGA West. The La Quinta Resort offers only the best accommodations and numerous dining options to complete your long stay or quick weekend visit.


Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club (Carlsbad)

Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club


Featuring San Diego's only course designed by Arnold Palmer, Aviara Golf Club takes in golfers with its breathtaking beauty. Landscaped with native wildflowers, this course is sometimes described as a botanical garden with a golf course. The par-72 course sprawls over 7,007 yards and features a plethora of bunkers and hazards to keep things interesting.

The Park Hyatt offers luxury accommodations with rooms that have a courtyard, pool, or foothill views. Ponto Lago is your answer for fine dining, Ember & Rye is a relaxed steakhouse, Pacific Point is a fantastic lobby bar, and Water's Edge is a casual poolside experience.


Rustic Canyon Golf Club (Moorpark)

Not only is Rustic Canyon Golf Course a great course, it purposefully keeps prices low to remain affordable which easily sets it apart from other Southern California courses. Built by Hanse Golf Design, Rustic Canyon was formed from the natural landscape of the area. This canyon course feels like a true Southwest course with sagebrush and cactus dotting the layout.

The course featured generous fairways that blend with native surroundings. Rustic Canyon rewards strategic play and placement as one of the main areas you can get into trouble is having approach shots into well-protected flags.


Industry Hills Golf Club (Industry)

A semi-private club located at the Pacific Palms Resort, Industry Hills boasts two championship quality courses. The Eisenhower Course is home to LPGA tour events. Named after the former president and lifetime golfer, the "Ike" features slope ratings between 130-145, assuring a challenging day on the greens. The Zaharias Course, named after "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias, the great multisport athlete, and Olympic gold medalist, covers an expansive 650 acres of beautiful scenery.

The Pacific Palms Resort is on the property and is a fantastic place to stay. You'll forget that you're only 25 miles away from Los Angeles as this is known as "L.A.'s Hilltop Hideaway." The Snack Shack is on course for quick, delicious bites and the resort has dining options to suit any palette.


Pelican Hill Golf Club (Newport Coast)

Pelican Hill Golf Club

credit: Pelican Hill Golf Club

Newport Beach, ocean views, fun and challenging golf. What more can you ask for? Pelican Hill Golf Club offers 36 holes of glamour with its Ocean North and Ocean South courses, both of which are breathtaking. If you can properly arrange it, try to play all 36 holes in one day with the ideal arrangement being an early morning tee time to watch the sunrise on the property, and then a late afternoon time to watch the sunset.

The resort offers bungalows and villas to stay in while also having a spa and wellness retreat. Below the resort is Crystal Cove, three miles of some of the most beautiful oceanside you'll find in the world. Surf, swim, dive, but most importantly, relax.


El Dorado Park Golf Course (Long Beach)

This Long Beach public course was built in 1962 and features a course designed by Ted Robinson, Sr. known for its sprawled layout featuring many water hazards and natural hazards. Measuring in at 6,921 yards, El Dorado Park is a bit of a hidden gem amongst the better-known courses of Southern California. It is also the site of the Long Beach Open.

El Dorado is a great location to get lost in practice as it features a driving range, a practice bunker, two putting greens, and a chipping green. The extra practice can be useful because this course can be a very challenging test if you are not precise off of the tee.


Barona Creek Golf Club (Lakeside)

Barona Creek Golf Club


Located at the Barona Resort & Casino, Barona Creek Golf Club was designed by Gary Roger Baird Design International. It features over 100 bunkers on the 7,092 yards course and uses a natural landscape full of California oak groves to provide a challenge to golfers. This 18 hole course is perfect for those looking for a weekend getaway in Southern California.

The Barona Resort and Casino appeals to those looking for some additional wagering away from the golf course. You will also have your choice of six dining options including Italian, noodles, pizza, and a steakhouse.


Shady Canyon Golf Club (Irvine)

Shady Canyon Golf Club


Another Southern California course designed by the legendary Tom Fazio, Shady Canyon is located on the border of a nature preserve and uses the varied terrain to construct a vibrant course. Like all Fazio courses, Shady Canyon provides both a great challenge while providing beautiful views.

Some of the many features on property include multiple relaxing patios for enjoy a beverage on, a 6,700 square foot wellness center, elegant dining, and some amazing views of the natural landscape that surrounds the area.

About the Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.