The Grand Golf Club meets those measures while maintaining a level of exclusivity. It is open only to guests of the Grand Del Mar resort, or to private members.
The Grand Golf Club debuted in 1999 as a daily fee course called Meadows Del Mar, but has undergone substantial improvements under the direction of its original architect, Tom Fazio. He turned the par-4, sixteenth into a par-5, changed some teeing grounds, added bunkers, and installed a million dollar waterfall to the eighteenth hole.
More on that, later.
This is a bold routing through canyon country. The course provides four sets of tees from 5230 to 7180 yards. Fazio spaced them roughly 500-600 yards apart, which makes a fair game for anyone. Choose carefully to make the most from bunkering and terrain with beneficial pinball qualities, in places.
Typical of resort courses, many of the holes look more threatening in contemplation than reality, but to score well, stay close to the lines. Bogeys are easy, even on the large greens. A string of pars and birdies will take some doing. From the two rear tees, the GGC is all the golf course a single digit player can handle. Every hole is interesting. The front nine offers several excellent par 4-s.
The uphill, par-4, second plays as long as 462 yards. It moves around elbow bunkers inside a dogleg left. Stay away from them. This hole plays well from the right. Even the green slopes right to left. Two bunkers protect the left side.
The downhill, par-4, fifth plays a maximum of 378 yards. It looks short and simple on paper, but is just long enough to require a straight drive into the narrow, right-to-left slanting fairway. Woods and a hidden creek crowd the left side. This hole exemplifies the best of those multiple tee options. Fifty yards separate the whites from the backs, and twenty more from the tips. From either of those latter two, it feels as if you are driving the ball into a thimble.
The 372-454 yard, par-4, eighth, earns my vote as the most memorable hole on the course. It moves left, uphill, and around a mountain, with penal/protective bunkers on the outside corner. You will hit your second into a two-tiered green with more bunkers, which lie short right. Why this hole, which requires two all-world shots, ranks as only the #5 handicap, baffles me. Phil Mickelson reportedly bogeyed the eighth while en-route to shooting a 63.
The Grand Golf Club does not require brut force all the way around, however. It also has a nice rhythm. Easier holes follow tougher ones, allowing players to recover their wits.
The back nine finishes with four memorable holes.
The par-4 fifteenth plays 416 yards and drops 220 feet from the tips. Hit a rainmaker into the fairway and watch it fall. Favor the right side and the green opens up nicely.
The 495-515 yard, sixteenth, is the shortest par-5 on the course, but narrows in the landing area, and bends slightly downhill, to the right. Many shots funnel back to the center. Strong golfers can reach this green in two if the wind does not blow, but there is native area, left, and water behind. This is an excellent hole for mach play, or to get one back.
The 148-242 yard, par-3, seventeenth water has in front, left, and behind. The green is deep, with two tiers. If you have a score on the line, this hole takes some mettle, particularly from the back tees and into that prevailing breeze.
Finally, you will reach the 351-421 yard, par-4, eighteenth. This is home to that million dollar waterfall, and a reminder that the plush resort lies beyond. Pumps push seven thousand gallons of water a minute into a fast moving creek below the green, and then it fills a lake. If you are an aficionado of such manufactured water features on golf courses, this is one to see. After seventeen holes through mostly arid environs, it's like, 'Where in the land of drought did this come from?'
Your answer -- recirculation.
That creek has a penal effect on strategy, however, as I soon learned. The eighteenth plays downhill into a fairway pinched by bunkers. My ball found the left one, making par problematic, as three bunkers defend the left side of an elevated green. My awkward lie in the sand left an already low percentage shot. That water added one-too-many risks. It forced me to lay back, hoping to wedge tight, but without success. My ball nearly went into the creek, anyway.
We should that for dedicated walkers of golf courses, The Grand Golf Club is impossible. Distances between some teeing grounds lie too far apart. Just ride. The golf carts have cushy seats.
However, golfers may find solace in the good companionship of knowledgeable forecaddies. Should you choose to hire one, ask for Jim Pearson, who will take your game personally. He always referred to 'we' instead of 'I', and knew the bounces. Jim improved my score by several strokes, just by telling me where to aim. He also helped me to get around in a little more than three hours. I love that pace of play.
Lastly, do not challenge Jim to a game of poker unless you are very, very good. Look for him on television, soon.