When my wife and I were looking for a house nearly 20 years ago, one of the areas we visited was south Escondido. While touring the models, the salesperson mentioned that soon the hillside homes would have a view of a golf course that was then in the planning stages.
Grand plans, I thought, but who knew how long it would take to build a course in an area that included wetlands and was sure to include plenty of bureaucratic red tape. Not long, it turns out. In 1993, the Vineyard at Escondido opened. We didn’t end up purchasing one of the homes located above the course, but I do consider The Vineyard one of my home courses.
They have a quality driving range and putting greens to get warmed up, the course has a good variety of holes and the scenery — especially on the back nine — enhances the experience. The par-70, 6,531-yard layout is one of my favorite courses in San Diego for all of these reasons. But what makes it even more appealing is twilight rates after noon ($40/$35 residents, including cart) and super twilight rates ($20) after 3 p.m. I can’t imagine a better bargain. With days getting longer and the time change coming March 13, it provides plenty of opportunity to sneak in an enjoyable afternoon round. Tee times can be made online at their website or by calling the pro shop at (760) 735-9545.
Super twilight outings are my favorite. The challenge begins from your opening shot on the 420-yard par-4 first hole, which looks tight from the tee box but opens up on the left with a decent drive. Water guards the greens on the next two holes — hiding from view off the tee at the 351-yard par-4 second hole while looming large on the 125-yard par-3 third. They ask you to stay out of the sensitive nature areas — especially on the sixth and seventh holes — but sometimes my golf ball just won’t listen.
The courses stretches out on the back — it’s nearly 400 yards longer than the front — and offers some good driving holes. The 12th hole is another par-3 over water. I’ve seen kids fishing there and made a mental note to put a collapsible pole in my bag. I believe they fish for bass and bluegill, but Callaway and Titleist are the only things I’ve pulled from the pond.
Vineyards are visible in the distance coming down the par-4 14th hole, which offers more water lapping at the left side of the fairway off the tee. The par-5 15th hole is the longest on the course at 551 yards and seems even longer at times. An errant tee shot provides an up close view of a vineyard, or “The Grapes of Wrath” as I call them when my ball stops by for an unscheduled tour.
The pace frequently quickens at this point, golfers realizing that if they dawdle on the 16th and 17th holes they may not finish. The tee box for the 18th hole is perched high, offers a spectacular view west and the opportunity for a brilliant sunset to conclude the round. The challenge on the 411-yard downhill par-4 — besides avoiding the fairway and greenside bunkers to the right — is to get your ball in the cup before the sun slips behind the hills.