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72 holes in 72 hours: San Diego

Weather makes it easier to plan a golfing vacation

By Mike McAllister

Coronado Golf Course with San Diego's skyline in the background.

Torrey Pines Golf Course: Yardage/Par: North (6,874, par 72); South (7,607, par 72). Green fees: North ($65-$75), South ($105-$125). Cart: $30. (858)452-3226.

Mount Woodson Golf Course: Yardage/Par: 6,180, par 70. Green fees: $49-$85. Cart included. (760)788-3555.

Eagle Crest Golf Course: Yardage/Par: 6,417, par 72. Greens fees: $55-$75. Cart included. (760)737-9762.

Coronado Golf Course: Yardage/Par: 6,590, par 72. Green fees: $20. Cart: $12. (619) 435-3121.

Alternative courses: The Vineyard at Escondido (760)735-9545; San Luis Rey Downs Resort (760) 758-9699; La Costa Resort & Spa (760)438-9111.

Next week we'll travel to the Orlando, Florida, area.

(CNN) -- Visiting San Diego, California, any time of the year is a pleasure, mainly because the weather rarely is anything other than perfect. That, of course, makes it easier to plan a golf vacation, especially if you're looking for a getaway during a dreary winter.

The San Diego area is well-known to golfers as the home of Torrey Pines and La Costa, two courses with PGA Tour ties. While getting on one of those courses will make your friends back home jealous, you would also do well to check out some of the lesser-name courses the locals play.

After flying into San Diego International Airport (www.san.orgexternal link) on Friday morning, here's how we'd play it the rest of the weekend:

Friday afternoon

Torrey Pines: You've heard of it. Likely seen it on TV during the annual PGA Tour stop. Now you need to play it.

No golfing trip to San Diego would be complete without a spin through at least one of Torrey Pines' two courses (located in La Jolla, about 20 minutes north of the city). Both are used during the Tour's Buick Invitational, but it's the tougher and longer South Course -- renovated in 2001 by Rees Jones -- that will host the 2008 U.S. Open.

Torrey Pines' popularity, of course, means that tee times could prove difficult to obtain. The least expensive route is to participate in a telephone lottery, but you can guarantee a tee time up to eight weeks in advance by booking a golf instructional package that also includes a cart and merchandise voucher.

It will be worth it. You'll play a first-class course with magnificent Pacific Ocean views.

Saturday morning

Mount Woodson: Eight days after he won the Masters last year, San Diego resident Phil Mickelson chilled out with his brother Tim by playing this target-style course set against the rugged landscape of the Ramona Valley 25 miles from San Diego.

It's a shot-maker's layout, so you'll need pinpoint accuracy to avoid spending time in the surrounding canyons.

If you have time after your round, check out the 27-room, 12,000 square feet Mount Woodson Castle, an historic mansion built in 1921.

Saturday afternoon

Eagle Crest: The phrase "best-kept secret" is often attached to any description of Eagle Crest. Why? The wildlife preserve and wildflowers, waterfalls and eight lakes throughout the 6,417-yard layout provide a spectacular backdrop to this relatively new track (built in 1992 in the San Pasqual Valley, 20 miles from San Diego).

Recent ownership and management changes have meant upgrades in customer service and amenities. Ask for Twilight or Super Twilight fees.

Sunday morning

Coronado: Golf Digest rates this par-72 layout two miles from San Diego as one of its top 50 Great Value Courses in the country.

What do you get for your $20 green fee? Great views of the San Diego Bay, the Coronado Bridge and the famed Hotel Del Coronado (which, by the way, is rumored to be inhabited by a ghost named Kate Morgan, who checked into room 302 in November 1892 and never checked out!).

It's a course that's challenging, but not too punishable. It's also a local favorite, which again could prove troublesome in getting an exact tee time. But the course does provide a way to guarantee tee times; the fee is steep ($38) but might be worth it, especially if you have a plane to catch that afternoon. Luckily, you're not too far from the airport.

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