Never boring: Solving Salt Creek Golf Club near San Diego

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- Shot variety, scenery and a test of skills all make for a fun golf course. Add in a friendly staff, some decent food and good practice facilities, and you have the makings of Salt Creek Golf Club, just 20 minutes or so south of the San Diego's Lindbergh Field Airport.

Salt Creek Golf Club
Salt Creek Golf Club is nestled in Mt. Miguel and is surrounded by protected wildlife refuge.
Salt Creek Golf ClubSalt Creek Golf Club - No. 5Salt Creek Golf Club - No 12Salt Creek Golf Club - No. 18Salt Creek Golf Club - clubhouse
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Salt Creek Golf Club

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Located at the base of Mt. Miguel next to a State Wildlife preserve, Salt Creek Golf Club has a traditional link-style layout that tumbles across the gently rolling hills of San Diego County. Although it stays true to its Scottish heritage in design, it has a truly southern Californian landscape.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6855 yards | Book online | ... details »

Built in 2001, Salt Creek has been a favorite among locals, but visitors will find it to be a fun diversion as well. The course, designed by John Cook and Cary Bickler, has a Scottish links feel to it.

San Diego is, of course, where Phil Mickelson grew up. According to the locals, he liked playing Salt Creek and called the risk-reward sixth hole one of the best par 5s he's ever played. But it's hardly the only memorable hole. Throughout there are elevated tee boxes, the backdrop of Mount Miguel and a few views of the Pacific Ocean. There are water hazards on several holes, interesting greens complexes and plenty of uneven lies.

On the ninth, for example, the 404 yards from the back tees seems like 460 yards with the hole playing straight up hill. The par-3 seventh, at 224 yards from the tips, can be a driver off the tee even for good players if the wind is unfavorable or a 6- or 7-iron if the hole is playing downwind. And the par-5 12th, with pot bunkers and large hill, has as good a links look as any on the course.

Chris Fellows plays the club just about every weekend.

"They're the best greens in the county," Fellows said. "Plus there are no homes on it. What's not to like?"

Ongoing improvements at Salt Creek G.C.

Back in March 2012, the club changed ownership and with it has come several improvements.

On the course, crews added 30 tons of sand to the considerable bunkers. They also added rough in certain areas to keep balls in play. That's important because Salt Creek's fairways tend to slope to one side pretty heavily. In fact, getting a flat lie anywhere outside the teeing area is pretty rare.

Marco Ochoa, director of golf operations at Salt Creek, gives this bit of advice: "To play this course, the keys are pretty simple. Your game plan has to be from the fairway. You have to play the high sides of the fairway, and hit the club that will put you in the fairway. Our fast, firm Bermuda fairways roll out for days."

Although the fairways are wide, because they're fast, the wrong kind of tee shot can leave some interesting if not impossible approaches, given the drop-offs around some of the holes.

"So, hitting cuts on the left-to-right sloping fairways can be punishing," Ochoa said. "On the greens, you should play about half of the break that you see. In addition, golfers should understand that since this is a links course, you can utilize the quickness of the fairways to run shots up onto the greens."

The club is also in the midst of improving the clubhouse. In the plans are a new outdoor deck, and the exteriors of the buildings will be refinished with stucco and stone.

Salt Creek Golf Club: The verdict

The first big plus at Salt Creek Golf Club is the lack of homes -- just mountains and green grass for as far as the eye can see.

The second best attribute are its greens, which not only roll well (and can be deceivingly fast) but will catch your attention with some difficult reads and tough slopes. You'll definitely want to stay below the hole if you can.

Most of all, the 6,829-yard, par-72 course is interesting. No two holes look alike, and all are pretty memorable.

The facility also has excellent practice facilities with a large range, more than one putting green and an extensive short-game area. Lessons are also available from the professional staff. The golf shop is well-stocked, and the food service is more than adequate.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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