Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego combines throwback feel, great golf and perfect weather

By David R. Holland, Contributor

SAN DIEGO -- Rancho Bernardo Inn is a timeless, modern throwback; a classic resort that reminds you of a day when Bob Hope hung around, played golf and entertained.

Rancho Bernardo Inn golf course
Water guards the green on 18 at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego.
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If you go

Add 70-degree weather year around, and RBI becomes the perfect getaway for snow-strangled Easterners getting cabin fever.

The golf course at Rancho Bernardo Inn, at 6,667 yards and par 72, is a William Francis Bell design that opened in 1962. It hosted the 1964 San Diego Open that Art Wall won, besting Tony Lema and Bob Rosburg by two strokes, and depositing $4,300 for the win.

The LPGA came to RBI in 1978 when Nancy Lopez lost to Sally Little in a playoff; Joanne Carner won in 1979, and in 1980 she nudged 18-year-old Judy Rankin to win $22,500.

In 1986, Ted Robinson Sr. added the water features seen on nine and 18, and in 1998, the course was upgraded by Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt, who added a fourth set of tees and reshaped the 61 bunkers. The greens were also redone.

Rancho Bernardo Inn: Golf for all skill levels

Open long before the area's golf boom daily-fee courses, such as Maderas Golf Club, Aviara Golf Club and Grand Del Mar, this is a fun golf course that will reward straight drives and accurate approaches without beating you up. You will need to avoid trees on doglegs, negotiate some deep splashed bunkers and avoid water. The par 3s are fun and very playable from the forward tees.

The neighborhood setting in northeast San Diego County uses the beautiful views of the San Pasqual Valley foothills.

"We think RBI is a hidden gem, even for people who live in San Diego," said Bryon Penfield, director of golf. "Golfers love the conditioning of the course, that it is fair and not too difficult, but that there are still plenty of challenges for golfers of all skill levels."

Penfield said course knowledge comes with a few rounds under your belt -- knowing where to position your tee ball and places to avoid. He likes 11, 12 and 13 for scoring chance -- two par 3s and a par 5. "The greens are fair and run about 10 on the Stimp meter, but certain holes can bite you if you are above the pin."

The 18th -- a 544-yard par 5 -- can be a beast going downhill from the tee and back uphill past Robinson's spewing fountain and lots of water that trails in front of the green and behind with rock-strewn ponds and trickling wetness. And then the green has three tiers.

The ninth is a short-but-risky 306 yards, because the water in front angles your ball into the pond if you get the wrong bounce. The course is very walkable.

Rancho Bernardo Inn: Live music, awesome food and more

There was once a time when RBI hosted a concert series on the driving range that was the biggest happening in Rancho Bernardo. It was called Symphony on the Green, featured the San Diego Symphony, and for 20 years of summer concerts brought luminaries such as Mel Torme, Doc Severinsen, Henry Mancini, Debbie Reynolds and Marie Osmond here. It ended after a 1992 appearance by Bob Hope.

Today most nights include live music at Veranda Fireside Lounge & Restaurant that includes a view of the final hole. Don't forget it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

AVANT is RBI's top-notch contemporary restaurant that draws on the best of wine country dining in a relaxed atmosphere. The culinary team serves up dishes and drinks that embrace items foraged, farmed, hunted or fished.

AVANT Kitchen, a private demonstration kitchen, offers small groups of up to 12 direct access to AVANT's chefs, their secrets to spectacular results and private experiences in the intimate space.

The 287 hotel guestrooms and suites were completely updated, and California-Spanish architecture abounds. Enjoy comfortable platform beds, works space, marble spa-style shower and vanity, separate bathtub, along with a 42-inch, flat-screen TV and WiFi.

My private balcony displayed the spa and pool along with the foothills and a great sunset.

There's also more than 40,000 square feet of flexible meeting space in the Aragon Ballroom. They can accommodate an intimate gathering for 16 or a grand event for 1,000 guests.

The Spa features state of the art treatment rooms, temperature-controlled outdoor treatment casitas, relaxing water features and sunning lounges right next to a beautiful swimming pool.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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