La Costa Resort and Spa, in Carlsbad, California, about 40 minutes north of the San Diego airport, is one of those iconic America golf destinations.
For many years, it was the epitome of PGA Tour luxury, hosting the season-opening Tournament of Champions (under various corporate sponsors) from 1969-98. An event only for winners, the TofC was a favorite with players and their families because of the resort’s other amenities, notably a world-renown spa. I remember back in the 1980s talking to Tour players who said they felt pressure to win so their wives could begin the new year with a few days of pampering. La Costa also hosted the PGA Tour’s Match Play Championships seven times between 1999 and 2006, and beginning in 2010 became the home of the LPGA Tour’s Kia Classic.
Having just indulged in a few days of La Costa pampering (with my wife, who didn’t want to leave), I’m happy to report that the resort is better than ever. Now owned by KSL and almost entirely renovated and refurbished during the past year at a cost of $50 million, it’s all brand new and as welcoming and refreshing an indulgence as you’ll find. Spa, tennis, salon, food, rooms… all great. But especially exciting is an upgrading of the two golf courses to a level exceeding the original 1965 Dick Wilson designs.
The Champions (formerly North) and South courses were reworked by the design team of Damian Pascuzzo and former Tour player Steve Pate (who won the TofC in 1988), with architect Jeff Brauer. All 18 holes on Champions were modified: Highlights include redesigned and repositioned bunkers, altered routing of fairways, new and expanded areas of native grasses, and subtle elevation changes. Four holes are entirely new, every green has been replaced, and more than 30 acres of turfgrass was eliminated. (The photograph above is of the 11th hole on Champions.)