They’re not Pebble, Bandon, Kiawah, or Pinehurst. Common courses are the modest 9- and 18-hole munis and semi-private clubs that most golfers play. Following is another installment in an occasional series.
THE LONGER I’VE BEEN away from San Diego, the more I appreciate the decade I lived there. John Steinbeck, the famous author, once made a distinction between weather and climate. He said he preferred weather. San Diego has climate, and it’s terrific for any outdoor activity. Like golf.
Besides Torrey Pines, Balboa Park Golf Course was one of my golf hangouts. It’s old, originally built in 1915. William Park Bell, a prominent California course architect, was involved in its design. Playing to a par of 72 and about 6,300 yards, Balboa is short. But I never considered it a pushover. It snakes through little canyons and climbs onto miniature plateaus. It’s a tight little stinker, with some ridiculously tiny greens. Accuracy, not length, is required at Balboa, called a “devilish little course” by one reviewer. I can’t disagree.
I loved Balboa. For me, it was a walk-up course. I didn’t have a regular group. I would arrive in the mid to late afternoon and, once I got on, play until dark. Through the canyons and up and down the sloping terrain, Balboa could be a vigorous walk, but not too tough for me when I was in my mid 20s. I once walked 18 at Balboa on the same day I ran a half marathon. Ah, youth.
Along with Torrey, Balboa hosts the San Diego City Amateur. If you want to set the course record at Balboa, it will take something in the 50s. And you’ll have to beat a man named Snead. Yes, that Snead.
When enlisted man Sam Snead was stationed in San Diego with the U.S. Navy, he posted a 60 at Balboa. (That was in 1943.) I’m sure it should have been a 59. Sam must have missed a makeable putt somewhere.
−The Armchair Golfer
Desert Aire Golf Course