San Diego is coming of age quite gracefully, graduating from swabbies and flip-flops to Jimmy Choos and start-ups in what seems like the blink of an eye. Gone are the downtown days of soup kitchens and thrift shops. The Gaslamp Quarter—version 2.0—is now home to income-disposing millennials in search of the perfect post-modern Mai Tai. The Padres take the field just down the block at Petco Park, and a 40-minute trolley ride south lands you in exotic Tijuana for carnitas tacos and culture shock. Pack light: S.D. averages 266 sunny days per annum, and even more in winter than in summer. The golf is quite good, as is the food, and there are enough gourmet craft breweries to drown a world of high-priced sorrows.
Morning: Stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, a study in Mediterranean luxury and elegant design. The well-marbled hotel sits astride a secluded Tom Fazio layout, 7,160 yards of forgiving fairways and true-rolling greens.
Afternoon: Squeeze in another round 30 minutes inland at Maderas Golf Club, designed by Johnny Miller and Robert Muir Graves. Elevated tees and greens punctuate the heave and sway of the terrain.
Off-Course Option: If it’s between July and September, the smart money is on betting the nags at historic Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, the former second home to co-founder Bing Crosby.
Evening: Take advantage of two great dining options at the Fairmont: The Addison restaurant is chef William Bradley’s refined, farm-to-table take on French cuisine, with a wine list that rivals the Ritz. Mediterranean-themed Amaya is more casual.
Morning: Five miles down the coast from Del Mar sits Torrey Pines, 36 holes of windswept, ocean-adjacent golf. The nails-tough South is the more celebrated layout, but the North has been newly redesigned by Tom Weiskopf with a focus on playability.
Afternoon: Be browbeaten by Torrey’s South course or relax and enjoy William P. Bell’s Balboa Park Golf Course, shortish at 6,339, but replete with gorgeous city views.
Off-Course Option: Care to see your tax dollars at work? The USS Zumwalt—a $4.4 billion, 610-foot guided missile destroyer—is docked at San Diego’s Naval Base. Or visit the Air & Space
Museum in Balboa Park.
Evening: There are few better culinary choices downtown than Bracero, an upscale/downhome take on modern Mexican food. If you choose to bunk in, Tower23 is a chic Gaslamp Quarter boutique hotel astride the Pacific.
Morning: Venture 30 miles northeast to Barona Creek Golf Club, a Native American resort and casino with a fine Gary Roger Baird design featuring wide fairways, big boulders, and dramatic mountain views.
Afternoon: Despite the nearly two-hour drive, Tom Fazio’s Rams Hill Golf Club is a local favorite etched out of a mountain hillside in the Anza Borrego State Park featuring unobstructed mountain views and water, water everywhere.
Off-Course Option: You could easily devote a few days to San Diego’s justly famous, 100-acre zoo, where more than 3,700 animals seem perfectly happy to mug and cavort in expertly crafted habitats.
Evening: An exquisite seaside resort, L’Auberge Del Mar in North County, has a white-sand beach and the 5,000-square-foot Spa L’Auberge. There’s great fresh seafood down the street at Pacifica Del Mar.
Morning: Walk the flatlands of the hacker-friendly Coronado Municipal Golf Course, a non-wallet-busting track on the shores of San Diego Bay with views of passing Navy ships and the marina.
Afternoon: Play Aviara Golf Club, a lushly landscaped Arnold Palmer design in Carlsbad, then quaff a few tankards of ale at one of the area’s 131 brewhouses, starting with Carlsbad’s Barrel Republic.
Off-Course Option: Lay down and listen to the Pacific whispering sweet liqueous nothings in your ear. And wish the waters a happy 750 millionth birthday.
Evening: Sleep a deep, hop-infused slumber at West Inn & Suites, an affordable boutique hotel in Carlsbad. The hotel will shuttle you over to West Steak and Seafood for supper, where they serve a mean bone-in prime cowboy steak and a perfectly sinful truffle mac and cheese.