Tag Archives: Rancho Bernardo Inn

SD Tourism: Four Great Golf Finishing Holes in San Diego



Editor’s note: This post is part of an occasional series for the San Diego Tourism Authority – www.sandiego.org – promoting golf in San Diego. http://blog.sandiego.org/2015/07/great-finishing-golf-holes/

Like the ending to a great book or movie, the 18th hole of a golf course should offer an experience that’s both satisfying and memorable.

Few things in golf beat a walk-off birdie, so consider this a short bucket list of places you’d like be lucky to score one in San Diego. The following is a list of some of the best finishing holes San Diego golf courses have to offer:

RBI 18

1. Rancho Bernardo Inn –
William Bell, the designer of Torrey Pines and many other public courses in San Diego, did some of his best work on No. 18 at Rancho Bernardo Inn, a hole that’s as scenic as it is strategic.

This closing par 5 begins with a decision off the tee: Do you try to drive the culvert crossing the fairway at around 250 yards or do you lay up? From there, it’s all about positioning to this uphill hole protected by ponds and a stream. That’s a lot of watery waters for things to go wrong trying to reach this narrow, triple-tiered green. But whether you make birdie or bogey, the setting, which includes two fountains, makes the hole and experience unforgettable.

Aviara Golf Club

2. Aviara Golf Club – Possibly the most beautiful finishing hole in San Diego is also its most difficult. This dogleg right par 4 wraps around a lake with a magnificent waterfall and offers a gorgeous view of Batiquitos Lagoon on the left. The lake is a popular destination for tee shots – and second shots, as finding the fairway is no guarantee of anything. The second shot, while played to a sizeable green, is deceivingly difficult. The approach is played into a Pacific Ocean breeze that can push your ball right into the water or out of bounds left. Par feels like a birdie here. The pros on the LPGA Tour are even tested by this one.

new Maderas 18

3. Maderas Golf Club –
This straight away par 5 starts with an elevated tee shot over a ravine to a fairway where a majestic giant oak marks the right side. Aim for the oak and then pour all you’ve got into your second shot on this long finishing hole. The green is situated in front of the Maderas clubhouse, which has the look of an Italian villa. You can putt out and then retire to the patio and enjoy a great view of the hole you just played.

18 torrey

4. Torrey Pines (South Course)
– Design-wise, this flat, straightaway closing par 5 may seem fairly ordinary, but what’s happened here makes it extraordinary. As the finishing hole for the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open, it gets the most TV time of any hole in San Diego. But the lore of No. 18 really ties back to 2008 and the iconic U.S. Open. This is where Tiger Woods trickled in a tricky 12-foot birdie to force the playoff with Rocco Mediate that made that Open legendary and turned Torrey into hallowed ground in golf. Here’s your chance to recreate history.

Honorable mentions: Golf Club of California, Balboa Park Golf Course, La Costa, The Vineyard, Coronado Municipal Golf Course

JC Golf: Highlight Hole – No. 18 at Rancho Bernardo Inn

RBI 18

One of the most distinctive finishing holes in all of San Diego, and not just JC Golf, is the 18th at Rancho Bernardo Inn.

This closing par 5 starts with an elevated tee shot that can involve carrying a culvert and ends with an uphill approach to a triple-tiered green fronted by a creek and surrounded by two ponds with fountains.

The green view is the glimpse of the course that greets golfers at Rancho Bernardo Inn, and it’s stunning.

But for all its scenery, it’s a hole that requires more strategy than any other on the course. Rancho Bernardo Inn Director of Golf Bryon Penfield says No. 18 is one of the ultimate examples of a hole solved over time and rarely on the first try.

“You’ve definitely got to strategize there,” Penfield says. ”If you’ve playing it for the first time, you might get into some trouble.”

The hole is equal amounts trouble and temptation, which is another reason the hole is a local favorite.

“That hole is the most talked about amongst our regular players and guests,” Penfield says. “It’s got a unique design. It’s not your every-day golf hole.”

William Bell, the architect of Torrey Pines and many other public courses in Southern California, designed Rancho Bernardo Inn.

“His courses usually have some character,” Penfield says, “and No. 18 is a great example.”

Curiously, No. 18 was a much different golf hole when the course opened in 1962. Penfield says only a lake is present in photos of the hole’s original design.

“It was all grass and a lake,” Penfield says. “William Bell came back and added the water features later.”

And the lost ball count was forever changed.

The hole plays to 544 yards from the black tees, 527 from the blues and 508 from the whites. Not matter the tee, the tee shot immediately presents a challenge and a decision that makes this hole play as two different games – the first being a lone-drive contest.

A culvert crosses the fairway and comes into play off the tee. From the black tees, Penfield says it’s a 260-yard carry to cross, all be it often with a tail wind.

(Rule note: There is a bridge for golf cart crossing at the canal. For the most part, everything left of the bridge is considered a free drop by local rule and to the right is the water hazard. The area is marked in red.)

This is where the hole tempts the ego perhaps at the better judgment of strategy. It’s a macho moment to carry the culvert, but it doesn’t always prove to be the best play, Penfield says.

“There are a lot of different strategies there depending your length. Some guys will just fly it,” he says. “I’ve learned to play it as a three-shot hole.”

As have I. “Successful” crossings have sometimes left me blocked on the right side by trees. The rule here, Penfield says, is not to comprise your second shot with your first. Play short of the culvert and to the left of the fairway bunkers.

“The second shot is really big there,” he says. “Even if you make it, you’re still 220 out to an uphill, three-tiered green looking at creek and waterfall. That’s a challenging shot, probably a hybrid for most people. But a good par 5 does present that challenge.

“What people don’t realize on their second (laying up) is that the fairway slopes severely right to left. You’ve got to know to land it on the right side. If you’re even middle left, it might trickle into the water.
“You’ve got to pick your spots on every shot on 18 starting right from the tee shot. It’s a hole that always has you thinking.”

Penfield favors an iron shot on the second.

“The best way to do in most cases is to drive it short of the channel, then take a 7-iron or so layup and try to be between 80 or 90 yards in. Then you’ve got a full sand wedge to an uphill green.”

The mistake many make on their third is to under-club and bring the water into play, or they try to get too precise to a front-pin on the triple-tiered green.

What few realize, Penfield says, is that the hole offers a significant bailout area long and left. He factors it on the occasions he does try to go for eagle.

“If I go for it, I set up left and try to hit a cut. That way, if I don’t hit the cut I’m still OK,” he says. “But I’ve made it a couple times.”

Those who’ve reached in two, however, are far outnumbered by those who’ve found a watery grave for a potential birdie or par.

That sinking feeling is something nearly everyone who plays the hole has experienced, Penfield says, and it seems to only make them more determined the next time.

“We give people a golf course that makes them think a little bit,” he says. ““Our men’s and ladies’ clubs have played that hole for years and it still keeps them guessing. But that’s what a good golf hole should do.”

What’s been your experience at No. 18? Strategies? Successes? Failures you learned from? Please share your stories with us.

JC Golf Spotlight Hole: No. 9 at Rancho Bernardo Inn

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Just as the classic short par-4 10th at Riviera Country Club in LA tests the pros on tour, No. 9 at Rancho Bernardo Inn offers its own set of temptations, options and risks.

The temptation is seeing the green 306 yards from the back tees and grabbing driver –  thus ignoring the sizeable pond and pine tree on the right – and going for glory.

Rancho Bernardo Inn Director of Golf Blake Dodson says this option has progressively paid off with time thanks to advances in club and swing technology. For the same reasons, the risks have also changed – for the golfer and the course.

(Note: the ninth green sits adjacent to the resort’s banquet facility.)

“With the modern equipment and the modern swing, it’s a very attainable golf hole,” Dodson says. “In 1962, the year we opened, the driving average on tour was 240-250 yards. You used to challenge the hole and the water would come into play.

“Now the Aragon Ballroom comes into play.”

Yes, a tee shot flying the green and ending up in the landscaping is a legitimate concern these days for talented and well-equipped players.

“A better player can get there with a 3-wood,” Dodson says.

The reward is a possible eagle or even birdie. The risk, for most of the recreational field, is a ball in the water and a sour end to the front nine.

“I’ve seen a lot of watery graves and good scores lost there,” Dodson notes.

But Dodson says there is a time and place for the driver play.

“When the pin is front left, that completely makes sense,” he says. “If you’re drawing the ball off the water, there’s a bail-out left and it plays into an easier chip.”

But he cautions about OB left.

“If it comes in hot (and turning left), it ends up in my cart barn. I’ve seen that, too.”

For his part, Dodson espouses a layup, especially after a birdie on No. 8, a very attainable par-5.

“You want to give yourself the best chance of that birdie/birdie finish,” he says.

That means playing to set up your most comfortable second shot.

“Some days I’ll take a 6-iron just to have a confident full swing on my second from maybe 150 yards,” he says. “I’d rather have the full swing and control the flight.”

And that avoids the most common predicament Dodson sees, which is a driver that doesn’t quite reach its destination.

“Then you probably have an awkward distance with your wedge,” he says. “ You’re at less than a full swing, which a lot of people struggle with.”

As far as Dodson is aware, no one has ever holed a tee shot on No. 9, but he says that’s only a matter of time.

“I expect we’ll see an albatross there,” he says.

However, that soon may become a bit bigger challenge than it is now. To help No. 9 stay challenging in today’s equipment environment, Dodson says the course is looking at lengthening it.

“That’s one of the few places on property where we can add yardage,” he says. “We’re considering it.”

Some golfers may not appreciate that, but the Aragon Ballroom and the cart barn certainly will.

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 The sand trap lurking behind the green at 9; you don’t want to be hitting out toward the water

Ask The Pro: Rancho Bernardo Inn’s Blake Dodson

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It’s always golf season in California, but for golfers in most of the country, this time of year is when their thoughts turn to their golf gear and making upgrades.

With that in mind, Rancho Bernardo Inn Director of Golf Blake Dodson touches on three equipment areas – driver, hybrid, putter – that deserve your utmost attention this spring due to changes in trends and technology.

How often should you upgrade your driver?

“If you’ve got a driver that’s more than three years old, you’re running on antiquated technology. The technology turns over so fast now that your driver is like your computer.

“For the golfer, life is too short to play bad golf. Get modern technology.

“If you’re a beginning golfer, there’s such a flood of second-hand technology out there that there may be driver a year or two behind that could be a real steal for you.”

How much more prevalent is it becoming to carry multiple hybrids?

“We’ll, I carry two. I used to hit 1-irons and 2-irons, but they don’t make those any more. But I’ve made the transition and you’re seeing people now carrying as many woods and hybrids as you are wedges.

“They’re easier to hit and you get a lot distance out of them.

“When you look at a look of college kids, they’ve been carrying multiple hybrids for years and you’re going to start seeing that evolve through the rest of the game.

“That’s the big shift in the make-up of people’s bags. Three-irons and 4-irons are becoming like the eight-track for a lot of people – outdated.”

The banning of the anchored stroke was the big putting story of 2013, but oversized putter grips seemed to be the next biggest. How much are you seeing this trend reflected in recreational players?

“It’s lighting in a bottle for people. My advice is to use one but to try the different sizes. The size of the grip needs to correlate to the size of your hands.

“It’s all about how the putter rests of your hands, especially if you have larger hands. And for those people, these grips have especially been salvation for them.

“You want to have an oversized putting grip installed professionally, so let your pro help you with sizing and make sure you get into the right equipment.

“The grips helps you have firm wrists and soft hands and takes the play out of your putting stroke, which is what we’re all after.”