Golf is a game for all ages, but it's now more kid-friendly than ever in San Diego thanks to a new way to play the game.
In late summer of 2014, two courses in San Diego installed 15-inch cups, making the hole about the size of a large pizza, as a part of TaylorMade Golf initiative termed "Hack Golf" designed to draw new players to the game by making scoring easier.
Oaks North in Rancho Bernardo and Lomas St. Fe, both executive courses, were among the first adapters. Oaks North dedicated its nine-hole east course to the new game while Lomas St. Fe committed all 18 holes, hosting a 15-inch cup and a regulation hole on each green.
The new game has especially been a hit with kids, juniors and couples, say course managers in the area.
"The holes are here to stay," says Lloyd Porter, Head Professional at Oaks North. "This is for the next generation of golfers."
Players on the "hack" courses also get the benefit of forward tees.
The following list of top courses for kids in San Diego starts with those two courses and includes others known for being particularly hospitable to kids, juniors and beginners.
Course architect William Bell is best known for designing Torrey Pines, but he also built this 2,431-yard gem in Solona Beach. Lomas has been named one of America's "Top Short Courses" by Golf Range Magazine the past two years and consists of all par 3s, save two 4s, and has an ocean view from the eighth tee box. Lomas is also the only course in the county currently offering the 15-inch cups on 18 holes. The holes are all placed in the backs of the greens so as not to be obtrusive to regulation play. Lomas also offers Glow Ball night golf on a semi-monthly basis, giving beginners, kids and juniors another way to enjoy the game.
Where: 1580 Sun Valley Rd, Solana Beach, CA 92075
Nine of Oaks North's 27 holes are set up for "hack" rounds, but all three executive nines are terrific for beginners.
The east course hosts the 15-inch cups, but even played with the forward tees, the new game hardly reduces the course to pitch and putt. Three of the tee shots are more than 200 yards, giving younger players ample room to swing away and hit clubs all the way through their bag.
The 15-inch holes are donated by flags with the number "15" and orange balls with the same number on the tee boxes.
JC Golf originally had an introductory offer of nine holes for $15 for the east course (cart not included), but visitors will find all three nines affordable, playable and walkable and the practice facility, which includes a 15-inch cup as well, a great place to learn and be taught.
Where: 12602 Oaks N Dr, San Diego, CA 92128
These two courses in San Marcos are a doubly good destination for kids because they pair a playable regulation course (St. Mark's) and an executive course in the same community complex.
St. Mark's hosts a number of junior tournament. Its largely flat topography and manageable yardage (6,398 yards/par 71) make it ideal for juniors and beginners, though a long par-5 on the back and a severely elevated par-4 on the back provide a test.
Lake San Marcos' recent renovation included new cart paths, but the course is plenty walkable and a pleasurable stroll while honing your iron and short-game play. A new clubhouse is also in the works.
Where: 1750 San Pablo Dr, San Marcos, CA 92078
Even if you've experienced a number of executive courses, chances are you haven't played one like Reidy Creek in Escondido.
Two things in particular make Reidy Creek unique: the setting and its sophisticated greens.
The course winds through a wooded area in the shadow of the Escondido mountains, making it more like a miniature version of a regulation course than what people largely associate with executive courses.
Sometimes-severe bunkering and heavily sloping greens make scoring a challenging even though the course is played entirely with irons.
Reidy Creek is an aesthetically enjoyable and challenging way to learn the game.
Where: 2300 N Broadway, Escondido, CA
Located just minutes from downtown, Mission Bay Golf Course is an executive course owned and run by the City of San Diego.
Speaking of setting, how do ocean breezes and night lighting work for you? You can enjoy both on this par 58 that includes four par 4s.
Unlike some executive courses, Mission Bay also has a driving range.
And if you like a little history with your golf, Tiger Woods won a Junior World title here once.
Where: 2702 N Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109