CORONADO ISLAND, CA. - It’s early morning — the sun is just beginning to show itself on the horizon — but already the parking lot at Coronado’s Municipal Golf Course is packed with cars. The starter, a small, elderly man with lots of tattoos painted on his muscular arms — “souvenirs of my Navy days” — is expecting another busy day.
“I’ve been doing this job for many years now and there’s never been a slow day here,” says the jovial man who greets the first foursome as the digital clock displays 6:30 a.m.
The Coronado Municipal Golf Course, tucked under the sweeping bridge that connects treasured Coronado Island with San Diego, is an American legend. Opened in 1957, it’s regarded as one of the finest public golf courses in North America — probably the world - and the sixth busiest in the United States — Coronado averages 100,000 rounds a year.
But the best thing about this storied course where U.S. presidents — Bill Clinton among them — and the greats of golf — Phil Mickelson, Billy Casper, Gene Littler and Paul Runyan, to name just a few — have played is what golfers are charged to play — $35!
“Now you know why we have so many tee times,” smiles the starter.
Needless to say, Coronado, with its wide inviting fairways, manicured greens and perfect weather conditions — San Diego is graced with almost 150 days of sunshine annually — is a steal!
The 6,590 yard, par 72 beauty that offers stunning views of San Diego Bay and the world famous Hotel Del Coronado, is bordered by a U.S. Navy base — Naval Air Station Coronado — on one side and the Glorietta Bay Marina on the other.
Every hole at Coronado is memorable but the 17th is its most famous — not for being a great golf hole but rather a movie set. In 1958, the hole starred in the film classic Some Like it Hot, which featured Marylyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Part of the 17th, which sits opposite Coronado Yacht Club, was turned into a boat launch for one of the film’s more memorable scenes.
Golf has been played on the island since 1898 - the year after the Hotel Del Coronado opened - but the expansion of the Naval Air Station during World War II pushed the original 9-hole course aside.
Both the front and back nines at Coronado Municipal, the most southern course in the U.S. west, are equally challenging and rewarding and on the first few holes it’s not unusual to see Navy personal jogging and training on the road that runs parallel to the course.
Every 4th of July, Coronado Municipal shows its patriotic side by hosting a gigantic picnic for military families that includes a massive fireworks display over Glorietta Bay.
A round at Coronado Municipal may be cheap but playing the experience of playing there is priceless.
Getting a tee time at Coronado Municipal is never easy but if you’d like to try, go to www.golfcoronado.com / Those staying at the Hotel Del Coronado have better chance because the hotel has some reserved tee times set aside for guests. / Air Canada Rouge and WestJet offer flights to San Diego from several Canadian cities. / For tourist information on San Diego, go to www.sandiego.org