Versatility reigns: San Diego golf courses for women

By Katie Denbo, Contributor

SAN DIEGO -- One of the beauties of the game of golf is the versatility each course has for all skill levels and condition preferences. A simple shift of a tee box can change the game for a player, and accommodate a group with widely varying abilities. When it comes to women's golf courses, this is especially important for them to truly enjoy the game.

Barona Creek Golf Club
Barona Creek Golf Club offers wide, open fairways ideal for higher-handicap golfers.
Barona Creek Golf ClubRancho Bernardo Inn Golf CourseGrand Golf Club
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So what makes for a good golf course for women? One consensus is an assortment of yardages that allow shorter, higher-handicap hitters to tee off with confidence but longer hitters to still feel challenged. Others include wide and open fairways, minimal forced carries and the opportunity to be rewarded for a spectacularly hit shot.

"As a higher-handicap player, I like a course that's wide and open from the tee, that makes it easy for me to spot my shot," San Diego golfer Alysa Kerner said. "Carrying the ball can sometimes be difficult for me, so I also like a course that doesn't force me to do so too often."

Many golf courses in the San Diego area fit the bill for great places for women to play, and the following are no exception.

Barona Creek Golf Club

One of the first things women will notice on the first tee of this Todd Eckenrode design is the expanse of wide and rolling fairway before them. Barona Creek G.C. is famous for its open, natural surroundings, native grasses and a quietness that is seldom found in bustling San Diego, allowing players to bump the ball along or experiment with shot-making from the 5,296-yard forward tees.

Large greens provide ample chances for key putt-making, and extreme forced carries are at a minimum at Barona. Although more than 100 bunkers spot the layout, soft sand and mostly flat lies don't trap players whose sand play isn't their strong suit. In all, the course takes the risk-reward gamble out of the round for the ladies, and keeps it in its neighboring casino.

Rancho Bernardo Inn G.C.

Rancho Bernardo Inn is one of the classic San Diego golf courses that leaves all levels of women with a fun and satisfying round. Debuting in 1962, the William F. Bell layout features enough beauty and challenge with its sparkling water features and large bunkers, but few that intimidate. At a manageable 4,886 yards, elevated tee boxes leave all players feeling like big hitters -- including on the par-4 16th hole on which a solid tee shot could actually drive the green -- and short par 3s offer some birdie opportunities with a solid tee shot.

Torrey Pines Golf Course

One of the allures of municipal Torrey Pines Golf Course is that golfers of any level can play a layout once walked by the pros. The South Course in particular, host of the 2008 U.S. Open, errs on the longer side for higher-handicapped women at 5,467 yards, but features stunning ocean panoramas and only one water hazard, on the 18th hole.

Despite its famous length, Torrey Pines South is straightforward from the tee for women, with most holes offering a "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" view of what's ahead. Bunkers are, for the most part, unobtrusive in the fairways, while all but a couple of the greens offer open shots in the front. William F. and William P. Bell designed the layout before Rees Jones renovated the layout in 2001.

Morgan Run Resort and Club

Located in Rancho Santa Fe, Morgan Run's 27-hole layout is a genuinely fun resort-course experience that leaves women feeling energized and confident after a round, and ready to tee it up again. Just three miles inland from the famed Del Mar racetrack and the coast, fairways are wide and forgiving, holes are straightforward, and the layouts are flat, allowing for effective bump-and-run shots.

A Jay Morrish design, Morgan Run's South-North-East nines combine for yardages of 5,254, 5,413 and 5,541 from the forward tees. The property is well known throughout the area for being a course playable by all ages and abilities and because of this, also offers a diverse mix of players on the course enjoying the game. Although there are a handful of carries on each combination, the carries themselves are short and manageable, with several options for landing areas on the other side. Thanks to its level terrain, Morgan Run is an ideal course to walk, adding a health benefit to boot.

The Grand Golf Club

As the only Tom Fazio golf course in San Diego, the Grand Golf Club is serene, peaceful and an ideal combination of both thought-provoking and rewarding golf. Dramatic elevation changes equal impressive tee shots for shorter hitters, while undulating fairways help funnel shots into well positioned set-ups. The Grand offers tees as short as 4,824 yards that are set within the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, spreading across more than 380 acres.

Katie DenboKatie Denbo, Contributor

A past editor and publisher of FORE Magazine, Katie Denbo is PR and Marketing Manager for the Pebble Beach Company. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the California Golf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and has traveled to golf resorts and properties all over the western U.S and Canada. Follow her on Twitter at @kdenbo.

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