The Best Public Golf Courses in San Diego

These golf courses offer the best in value and quality in San Diego

San Diego is a golfer's paradise and our perfect year-round weather means an abundance of public golf course choices. From the high-end and scenic Maderas Golf Course to the scruffy but uniquely night-lighted Mission Bay Golf Course, San Diego County has a plethora choices that suit any golfer's skill level. But golf can be an expensive hobby. So, where can you play a round of golf and not feel like you maxed out your credit card, and at the same time feel like you've played a quality and challenging course? Here are San Diego public golf courses that I feel provide both a great value and quality for your money.

  • 01 of 10
    Boy at Torrey Pines
    Ben Grey/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    This is the San Diego public golf course everyone wants to play -- it's a famous PGA Tour stop for the Farmers Insurance Open, it hosted the 2008 U.S. Open, and it's one of Tiger Woods' favorite courses. It's Torrey Pines Golf Course and it's San Diego's version of Pebble Beach (the famous golf course in Big Sur, California).

    Torrey Pines Golf Course actually consists of two courses, the North and South (a brute). Torrey Pines offers a good value if you have a San Diego city resident card ($61 for the South course and $40 for the North course on weekdays; it goes up to $76 and $50 on weekends). If not, expect to pay a premium for green fees ($183 for South, $100 for North on weekdays; $229 and $125 on weekends). But the views are priceless... if you can get a tee time. 

    11480 North Torrey Pines Road
    La Jolla, CA 92037

    (800) 867-7397
    619-570-1234 (for city resident cards only)

  • 02 of 10
    Sycuan Golf Resort Willow Glen Course 4th hole
    Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0

    The Sycuan Golf Resort is nestled in the hills in East County in El Cajon. Sycuan is actually three courses: Willow Glen, Oak Glen, and the par-three Pine Glen. Willow Glen and Oak Glen are challenging but playable and immaculate, and Pine Glen offers up a quick 18 holes. The tree-lined fairways and rolling hills offer a serene experience.

    In addition, Sycuan's practice areas (practice greens, driving range and short game areas) are some of the best open to the public anywhere. Green fees range from $75 to $111 for Willow or Oak depending on the day of the week and if you're walking or riding, and $18 to $30 for Pine. Twilight rates are considerably lower.

    3007 Dehesa Road
    El Cajon, CA 92019
    619-442-3425

  • 03 of 10

    If there's one golf course that offers affordability, scenery, challenge, and fun, it's Coronado Golf Course, hands down. With a layout along the shores of San Diego Bay with panoramic views of the downtown skyline and the Coronado Bay Bridge, this municipal golf course is perfect for the recreational golfer. It might be "municipal" but this course is immaculate, with stellar greens.

    The course is challenging but not tricked up and a lot of fun. And the best thing? Green fees are only $30! Of course, the trade-off is a tee time is really difficult to get. Playing 18 Holes is $35 during the week and $40 on weekends and holidays.

    Coronado Municipal Golf Course
    2000 Visalia Row
    Coronado, CA 92118
    619 435 3122 for tee times

  • 04 of 10

    It might not have the appeal of Torrey Pines, but Balboa Park Municipal is a good course. It may look short on the scorecard and the grounds get less love than some of the other golf courses in San Diego, but with canyons and elevation changes, Balboa can be a surprisingly challenging layout and some holes offer some great city views. Besides, if you have a city resident card, you can't beat the green fees: $32 on weekdays and $40 on weekends, while non-resident fees are $40 on weekdays and $50 on weekends.

    2600 Golf Course Drive
    San Diego, CA 92102
    619-235-1184

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    It may be an executive length course, but Oaks North plays like a full-length golf course. This 27-hole layout boasts a classic layout, stellar greens and plenty of challenge. It's one of my favorite courses in San Diego, and it's even better when you don't want to spend five hours on the course on a weekend.

    But this short course is no pushover; the par 3s have plenty of length, and the par 4s demand good drives and precise approaches. Unless you're a bomber, you can use every club in your bag here. Rates are around $49 to $69 for SoCal residents and $60 to $84 for visitors, but it's a good value nontheless.

    12602 Oaks North Drive
    San Diego, CA 92128
    858-487-3021

  • 06 of 10

    Cottonwood Golf Course has always lived in the shadows of its flashier neighbors Sycuan and Steele Canyon, but it's a much better value than either. Consisting of two courses, Ivanhoe and the Lakes, Cottonwood plays more difficult than its mostly flat layout presents.

    Ivanhoe has always been a lengthy bear and the Lakes course has eight water features. Rates start at a very affordable $18 on weekdays without​ a cart (can go up to $57 on weekends with a cart) -- and they serve one of the best hot dogs around.

    3121 Willow Glen Dr
    El Cajon, CA 92019-4605
    (619) 442-9891

  • 07 of 10

    Bonita Golf Club is another San Diego public golf course situated in a river valley, and this course often gets overlooked by local golfers. But it's a good, straightforward design. It's another classic William Bell design (Torrey, Balboa), and it demands good shot-making, but doesn't punish you.

    Weekends get pretty busy, but the course is usually in pretty good condition. With green fees around $28 to $40, Bonita is a really good value for the quality of golf you get.

    5540 Sweetwater Road
    Bonita, CA 91902

    (619) 267-1103

  • 08 of 10

    The Vineyard is Escondido's municipal golf course. It's a typical modern layout, though a bit gimmicky and more challenging than sometimes expected. However, it has a nice location and is usually in good condition and for the price of $49 to $65, it's a relative bargain if you live in North County and want to play a course close to home.

    925 San Pasqual Road
    Escondido, CA 92025
    Phone: 760.735.9545

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Chula Vista Municipal Golf Course is yet another layout in a river valley. It's a solid, old school course, and it well should be as it was designed by golf legend Billy Casper. It's flat, has lots of trees, but not a lot of variation. Sometimes its condition is on the rough side, but for the price, you get a good experience. With the onshore wind blowing through the river valley in the afternoon, the back nine can seem a lot longer than expected. Rates for 18 holes range from $25 to $38 and are even cheaper for Chula Vista residents.

    4475 Bonita Road
    Bonita, CA
    (619) 479-4141

  • 10 of 10

    Not the best and not the worst golf course around, but Mission Trails makes the list because of its value. With that value comes some drawbacks. Some of the holes are just strange with how they're laid out and the front nine are some of the quirkiest around. The back nine stretch out in a bit more traditional way. Rates for 18 holes range from $23 to $36.

    7380 Golfcrest Place
    San Diego, CA 92119
    (619) 460-5400

Keep in mind that some of the rates listed above (which are subject to change) are for tee times during normal hours. If you're willing to get up early for a twilight tee time, you can save even more.

This article was edited by Gina Tarnacki.