The Meadows Del Mar Golf Course: Where Even the Sand is Perfect

By Ben Malone, Contributor

Sometimes, when you're driving on the way to a golf course, you see a couple of the holes and think to yourself, "This isn't that great." Nothing could be further from the truth when driving that final stretch of road on the way to The Meadows Del Mar Golf Course.

The few holes you see while driving up to the clubhouse literally give you goose bumps. Perfectly manicured fairways give way to plush greens that have more undulations than the Pacific Ocean. Snow-white sand traps litter the fairways and protect the greens, daring golfers to flirt with the danger that lies within.

This course, a brand new masterpiece designed by Tom Fazio, is carved into the hills of Del Mar, Calif. Having only been open since the summer of 1999, the Meadows Del Mar is quickly staking its claim as one of the premier travel destinations in all of Southern California.

Every aspect of the facility caters to the desires of even the most demanding golfer. The staff, from the guard at the gate, to the cart attendants, and everyone in the pro shop, treat you like you are their guest.

The grass driving range is kept in impeccable shape. Unlike many of the other practice facilities in the area, you can actually hit off of this grass and not worry about finding a clean patch. The landing area of the driving range is actually kept in better condition than many of the municipal courses that San Diego golfers are used to playing. Even the restrooms out on the course (or should I say "Comfort Stations," as they are called) are spotless.

As far as playing the golf course goes, it is possible to shoot low here, but it is also entirely within the realm of possibility that you will run out of golf balls and post a triple-digit number. One very important factor to being able to shoot well at the Meadows Del Mar is to pay attention to the pin placement.

There's a sign at the starter's desk providing the pin placement for the entire course ("1," "2" or "3"). A chart is included on the golf cart showing all 18 greens, and where each pin placement corresponds to the each number. Most of the greens are so large that a misplaced approach shot can lead to at least a three putt, if not more. Many shots can be lost if you don't pay attention to where the pins are located.

Looking at the score card, you may be led to believe that the course is relatively short. Don't be fooled. It's only 5,821 yards from the whites (labeled Resort on the card) and 6,353 yards from the yellows (labeled Tournament on the card), but the course plays much longer than the official length.

Even if distance isn't a factor from hole to hole, pinpoint accuracy is absolutely necessary across the board. Golfers who begin to spray their shots all over the course will inevitably pay dearly.

Time to Tee it Up

The first hole is a good warm-up hole. It's a short, downhill par-4 (327 yards from the yellows, 302 from the whites) with a relatively open fairway. The putting surface is large and undulating, but drive your approach shot long and it's lost in the brush behind the green.

The second hole's difficulty comes from its distance. This par-4 demands length and accuracy off the tee. The fairway crests approximately 240 to 250 yards out, but it's all uphill to that point.

If you can reach the top of the hill, your ball will carry down the slope and give you a reasonable approach shot. However, sand traps guard the landing area, and anything but the perfect tee shot will leave you with an impossible second shot. Once you get to the green, be prepared for some difficult putts, as a large putting surface boasts ridges in many directions, making it nearly impossible to hit a long putt.

The first real birdie opportunity (for anyone other than scratch golfers) comes at the par-4 fifth hole. It's an incredibly short hole (258 from the whites, 281 from the yellows) and the green is reachable from the tee. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security, though, simply because this isn't a 450-yard monster. An errant tee shot can be deadly.

Looking at the score card, you may be led to believe that the course is relatively short. Don't be fooled.

A large hillside guards the entire right side of the fairway, and a ball hit up there is as good as lost. The left side of the fairway is lined with large bushes, and sitting behind the shrubbery is undeveloped land. In other words, you absolutely must drive in the fairway on this hole. You should be left with no more than a wedge in to the green, and this is one of the easier putting surfaces on the course. You can pretty much roll in a putt from anywhere on the green.

The next hole, the par-3 sixth, is another hole that will not intimidate anyone with its length. It's only 106 yards from the yellows, and should be no more than a wedge for golfers.

This green, however, will give you nightmares. It has three levels to it, and depending on the pin placement, you may have to putt through two ridges, be it uphill or down. Just putting your tee shot on the green isn't enough here. You have to put it on the correct tier in order to feel safe about two-putting, let alone a chance at birdie.

Number nine is yet another short par-3, measuring 139 yards from the yellows and 125 yards from the whites. This shot is uphill, however, and prevents you from seeing the green from the tee box. You can aim at the flag and hope you hit it well, but once you get up there, you find an extremely large green, sloping in every possible direction. Anything outside of 25 feet is a three-putt waiting to happen.

Making the Turn

Water does not appear on the course until the par-5 12th. A small pond sits directly in front of the tee box, and really doesn't come into play. It does give you something to think about though, and sometimes that's all it takes to top a shot directly into the water.

This hole is long enough that most golfers won't be able to go after the green in two shots (526 from the whites, 557 from the yellows), but that doesn't mean par, or even a birdie, is a lost cause here. If you can avoid the fairway bunkers, and if you play smart shots on this hole, your approach shot will give you a sinkable birdie putt.

Hole number 14, another short par 4 (295 from the whites, 329 from the yellows), will intimidate many golfers before they tee up their ball, even with a relative lack of distance. A 70-80 yard canyon sits between the tee box and the fairway, just waiting to swallow poor tee shots.

Once you clear the canyon, the hole is pretty straightforward. The elevated green, continuing a trend all over the course, is multi-tiered and breaks in every possible direction. Pin placement will determine how many putts it takes to escape this green.

The next hole, the par-4 15th, makes every golfer's eyes light up when he/she hits the tee box. The fairway sits 40 to 50 yards below the elevated tee. In order to reach the fairway, your drive has to clear at least 150 yards of canyon.

The landing area is extremely generous, allowing you to "Grip it and rip it" towards the wide open fairway. Hit it too far or not far enough, and you will end up in a fairway bunker. Another multi-level green awaits you, boasting ridges and mounds that will bring many shaky putters to their knees.

The finishing hole epitomizes the golf experience at the Meadows Del Mar. Fairway bunkers guard the landing area, and the extremely large green is also well-guarded by sand traps. Just getting on this green isn't enough. You must put your approach shot close in order to feel confident about a two-putt.

There is not one aspect of this course that leaves golfers wishing for something more. The tee boxes are beautiful. The fairways, while not the greenest in the world, are in great condition; don't let the color fool you.

The greens are smooth and allow you to roll in putts of considerable length, provided you can read the many twists and turns your ball will take on its way to the hole. Even the sand is perfect here (what else would you expect from a course that lays only 10 minutes from the Pacific Ocean?). If you can't have fun playing this golf course, you can't have fun anywhere.

Meadows Del Mar Golf Course
5300 Meadows Del Mar
San Diego, CA 92130
(858) 792-6200

Ben Malone, Contributor

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