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Native Oaks Golf Club Ranks Among San Diego’s Best

By George Fuller

Named after the stately trees that grace its fairways, Native Oaks Golf Club has been among the favorite courses for daily fee golfers in the San Diego region since it opened in 2004. Much of that popularity can be attributed to its serene rural setting backdropped by boulder-strewn hills and the fact that the course has always been considered “affordable.”

Nowadays, with a renewed commitment from its owners, the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, to improvements in conditioning and the overall player experience, the course is undergoing something of a renaissance. The Band brought Indigo Sports (at the time the company was called OB Sports) in as managers in January 2020, and with the expertise of parent company Troon in agronomic practices, players started noticing changes for the better.

“Our biggest goals when we came in were improving conditions and expanding awareness in San Diego County,” said Eric Julian, PGA General Manager. “The owners were committed to the improvements. In 2020, all new maintenance equipment was acquired, along with the hiring of a new superintendent and the development of an overseeding program so we could focus on healthier turf and favorable playing conditions year-round. Combined, our efforts are now starting to be seen in a big way.”

Julian said one of the comments he receives most often from players coming off 18 green is: “This is one of San Diego County’s hidden gems.” Or: “It’s one of the best-conditioned courses in San Diego.”

Designed by Dave Ginkel, the layout stretches to 6,707 yards and plays to a par of 72 from the black tees. With five sets of tees, the course is playable for all, yet can be a true test of golf for accomplished players. While it is not overly long by today’s standards, the natural contours of the land require shot-making skills to score well, and the putting surfaces require a good eye to read the breaks.

“As the course flows through the oak trees on the back nine, you can forget where you are,” Julian said. “It’s so pretty and very unique to San Diego County.”

As word-of-mouth spreads about the improvements and the tee sheet fills with players from around Southern California — including from three nearby destination casino hotels: Valley View Casino & Hotel (also owned by the San Pasqual Band), Harrah’s Resort Southern California, and Pala Casino Spa & Resort — the course is still an affordable play. Dynamic pricing on a recent Saturday in April saw public green fees range from $46 to $110, depending on timing and demand. 

Improvements are also apparent inside the clubhouse, as restaurant manager Regina Stehly has reshaped the menus at Shawii Kitchen. While the tasty offerings fall into the category of “golf comfort food” — think breakfast burritos, burgers, wraps, and salads — dishes are both creatively conceived and expertly prepared, making a meal here something to look forward to whether one has played golf or not. 

Shawii Kitchen (“shawii” is the sacred corn paste of the Kumeyaay people, made from the acorns of the surrounding Native Oak trees) also offers weekly Wednesday dinners that are popular with the local community. 

“Recently there have been 650 new homes built adjacent to the course,” Julian said. “Native Oaks and Shawii Kitchen look to become the communal space for our neighbors, and the Wednesday dinners are part of our outreach.”

So too are several programs aimed at bringing juniors into the game, including hosting the PGA Junior League and the regional Notah Begay III Junior Championship qualifying tournament. The course also supports separate intertribal organizations that help bring juniors into the game, with one recent event seeing greater than 100 kids participating.

A high-quality community course in a jewel of a setting with affordable rates that supports junior golf and offers a terrific food and beverage program. What’s not to love about Native Oaks Golf Club?

Native Oaks Golf Club   |   (760) 751-3007   |