best golf courses in southern california

Spanning from the lively cityscape of Los Angeles to the sun-soaked shores of San Diego, Southern California is a golfer’s playground. Its landscapes range from dramatic oceanfront cliffs to vast desert plains, creating a golfing experience like no other. With over 600 golf courses to choose from, Southern California has solidified its reputation as a premier golf destination, not just for its sheer number of courses, but for its exceptional quality. Home to some of California’s – and the world’s – finest golf courses, Southern California invites you to tee off in paradise. Let’s explore these gems together.

Best Golf Courses in Southern California

1. Stadium Course at PGA WEST

La Quinta

PGA West
Photograph Courtesy of Evan Schiller

Pete Dye’s Stadium Course at PGA WEST® isn’t just a golf course; it’s a legend in the making. It’s been rated by Golf Digest as one of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses” for good reason. This 7,300-yard marvel is the ultimate test of skill, with the highest stroke (76.1) and slope (150) ratings at PGA WEST®. But don’t let that intimidate you – there are five sets of tees, so everyone can play.

What makes the Stadium Course truly unforgettable are the adrenaline-pumping moments. Picture this: you’re on the back nine, facing the island green of hole #17, known as Alcatraz, and the water-lined 18th hole. These are two of the toughest finishing holes in golf, and getting through them unscathed can make or break a tournament.

2. Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club

Carlsbad

Nestled in the rolling hills of Carlsbad, Aviara Golf Club is San Diego’s only golf course designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer. Named the #1 golf resort in Southern California by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler and recognized as one of the country’s best resort golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine, Aviara Golf Club offers a truly exceptional golfing experience.

The par-72 course features a memorable coastal layout uniquely sculpted around rolling hillsides and landscaped with native wildflowers. Spanning 7,007 yards, the course is dotted with strategic bunkers and water features, challenging golfers of all skill levels. 

3. Pelican Hill Golf Club

Newport Coast

Pelican Hill Golf Club offers an extraordinary golfing experience with 36 holes of world-class play designed by Tom Fazio. The Ocean North and Ocean South courses masterfully weave through the stunning terrain, each hole blending seamlessly with the natural landscape. As you navigate through rolling fairways and strategic bunkers, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas that make it hard to keep your eye on the ball.

The Ocean North course presents wide fairways and panoramic ocean views, creating a serene yet captivating round. Meanwhile, the Ocean South course challenges golfers with dramatic elevation changes and tighter fairways, demanding precision and strategy.

4. Monarch Beach Golf Links

Dana Point

Monarch Beach Golf Links

Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point, California, stands as a testament to his genius. This par-70 course is renowned for its blend of breathtaking natural beauty and challenging design.

Perched atop dramatic bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, every hole on this exquisite layout offers not only a fair challenge but also stunning views of the surf breaks below. It’s a rare treat in California to experience such scenic vistas throughout your round. The course’s average winter highs in the mid-60s add to its allure, making it a perfect year-round destination for golfers of all levels.

5. The Classic Club

Palm Desert

The Classic Club is one of the best golf courses in Southern California with its 18-hole Arnold Palmer signature design. The club has hosted numerous professional and competitive events, including the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic from 2006-2008. With generous landing areas and yardages ranging from 4,219 up to 7,322 yards, The Classic Club caters to players of all levels.

6. Rustic Canyon Golf Course

Moorpark

Tucked away in the canyon hills lies a one-of-a-kind golf experience: Rustic Canyon Golf Course. Hanse Golf Design created the course organically, with a shocking lack of blueprints or plans, embracing the natural landscape with large, contoured green complexes and bunkers seamlessly integrated into native barrancas.

As you traverse the flat, wide-open fairways, fading into the rustic surroundings adorned with sagebrush and cactus, you’ll feel a real connection to the untouched beauty of California’s landscape.

7. Torrey Pines Golf Course

La Jolla

Torrey Pines

Perched atop the coastal bluffs of La Jolla, Torrey Pines Golf Course is one of the best golf courses in California. With sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and the California coastline, this iconic municipal course captures the essence of golf in Southern California.

Designed to blend seamlessly with its natural surroundings, Torrey Pines offers two challenging courses: the North Course and the South Course. Each course winds through majestic Torrey Pine trees, challenging golfers with its strategic bunkering and undulating fairways. The South Course, famously the host of the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open, tests even the most seasoned players with its demanding layout and beautiful ocean views.

8. The Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort & Club

La Quinta

The Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort & Club isn’t just a golf course – it’s a playground sculpted by the legendary Pete Dye himself. Known for its blend of playability and jaw-dropping visuals, this course beckons both casual players and seasoned pros alike.

As you tee off amidst the desert landscape, you’ll encounter Pete Dye’s signature touches at every turn. Pot bunkers strategically placed to challenge your strategy, rock formations that frame fairways with rugged elegance, and tee boxes set at elevations that offer views of the surrounding mountains – all come together to create a golfing experience unlike any other.

9. Firecliff at Desert Willow

Palm Desert

Firecliff

Step onto the fairways of Firecliff at Desert Willow Golf Resort, Palm Desert’s crown jewel and premier golf destination. This 18-hole masterpiece spans 7,056 yards with a par of 72, offering a true test of skill amidst Southern California’s desert landscape.

Ranked #134 by Golfweek’s Best 2022: Top 200 Resort Golf Courses in the US, Firecliff is renowned for its blend of beauty and challenge. As you navigate the course, you’ll encounter extensive natural areas, sparkling water features, and more than 100 bunkers.

As you explore the best golf courses in Southern California, consider using Ship Sticks to seamlessly get your gear to and from home. Simply pack your bags, attach your shipping label, and Ship Sticks handles the rest. Enjoy far more birdies and way less baggage. 

Megan Williams

Meet Megan Williams, a wordsmith with a passion for golf, travel, and the epic combination of the two! Originally from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the Golf Capital of the World, Megan has played golf since she was a child, eventually playing competitively in college. She's since swapped her golf clubs for the keyboard and skillfully translates her on-course experiences into captivating narratives and insightful stories. When she's not crafting engaging content, you can catch her enjoying the company of her energetic golden retriever or trying new culinary delights around Tampa, Florida - her current stomping grounds. Join Megan on her literary journey as she explores golf courses and resorts worldwide, shares travel knowledge and shipping tips, covers industry news, and more - all exclusively on the Ship Sticks blog.