Fifteen resorts join the ranks of Medal winners in 2014, but the only one to debut at the Gold level is The Grand Del Mar. Its splashy showing is attributable to Top 10 performances in both Service and Food & Drink, but it’s undeniable that its stellar location played a big role in the results. Situated an easy 20-minute drive north from the San Diego Airport, The Grand Del Mar is not on the ocean. Yet, that’s hardly a drawback, as it’s free from coastal fog, mist and wind, but not so far inland that it gets too hot.
The Villas at The Grand Del Mar are the highest of the high-end, enjoyed by the likes of Mr. and Mrs. Justin Timberlake, but the standard hotel rooms are among the best in the industry. Only 18 holes of golf are on-property, a Tom Fazio creation that was formerly known as Del Mar National and Meadows Del Mar. It’s a dandy, however, zigzagging among the ridges and canyons, with generous, saddle-shaped fairways and greens that are mostly open in front. Since the course doesn’t accept outside play, tee times are plentiful and play moves along briskly. Frequent visitor Phil Mickelson once tamed the 360-yard, par-4 14th by crushing driver to one foot, but there are plenty of holes that aren’t as easy for Lefty, such as the 480-yard, par-4 4th, a ridge-top stunner and the water-guarded 242-yard, par-3 17th.
With its classic Old Hollywood-style swimming pool, its Addison restaurant (a AAA 5-Diamond winner for six straight years), its golf instruction programs -- spearheaded by Golf Director Shawn Cox and Lance Gill, co-director of the Titleist Performance Institute Fitness Advisory Board -- and its popular equestrian center, it’s no surprise that The Grand Del Mar achieved Gold Medal status. Perhaps the better question, is, what took you so long?
The Grand Del Mar, San Diego, Calif.