View our
special offers

Discover the Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Course, which has been visited by renowned professional golfers like JoAnne Carner, Tony Lema, and Art Wall Jr.

timeline icon

Rancho Bernardo Inn’s golf heritage dates back to the 1960s.


The Rancho Bernardo Inn began accepting guests in 1963, and within a year, the retreat had offered travelers a chance to play a round of championship-caliber golf. The course was designed by renowned architect William F. Bell Jr. as part of Donald and Lawrence Daley’s efforts to make the Rancho Bernardo Inn San Diego’s preeminent holiday destination. The son of prominent golf course architect William P. Bell, William F. Bell Jr. proceeded to create a magnificent collection of fairways that extended for a combined 6,631 yards. (Bell and his father were well-known for their work designing award-winning championship golf courses across the West Coast and American Southwest, especially in California, Arizona, and Nevada.) Taking months to complete, the new golf course was well received upon its greatly anticipated opening. Indeed, the PGA Tour even agreed to host the San Diego Open at the location shortly after its celebrated debut. Accomplished golfer Art Wall Jr. won the prestigious tournament amid significant fanfare, beating both Tony Lema and Bob Rosburg with a two-stroke lead. (Wall specifically took home a purse of $6,400 in winnings, which amounted to over $61,000 today!) Other prominent competitions arrived at the Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Course not long thereafter either. Among the most famous ones held on-site was the LPGA’s Honda Civic Classic from 1978 to 1980. Golfing legend JoAnne Carner won two of the three competitions, which further solidified her status as one of the foremost athletes within professional golf. (Her three different career USGA wins has since placed her on par with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Tiger Woods.) Today, guests can follow in the footsteps of the many esteemed golfers who once played on the rolling greens of the Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Course. But guests also have access to additional courses throughout the San Diego region, too, thanks to the inn’s relationship with JC Golf Management. Few places are truly better for an elite golfing experience than the Rancho Bernardo Inn.

  • About the Location +

    In 1769, a band of Franciscan missionaries and Spanish soldiers arrived in the area, where they established a fort—known as a presidio—as well as a church called the “Mission San Diego de Alcalá.” The land would remain under control of the Spanish colonial authorities for the next five decades, specifically the friars stationed at the mission. But while the Franciscans mainly spent their time interacting with the native Kumeyaay, they also engaged in educational pursuits that included the creation of the area’s first maps. Among the most prominent names to refer the locale within those documents was, “El Paraje O Cañada de San Bernardo,” which translates to mean, “the place or canyon of Saint Bernard.” The Franciscans lost their hold over the land when local officials confiscated it following the conclusion of the Mexican War of Independence in 1821. They subsequently carved up the erstwhile mission grounds into a sprawling estate 17,700 acres in length called the “Rancho San Bernardo.” The Mexican government eventually granted the Rancho San Bernardo to an English captain named Joseph Snook. In order to acquire his grant, Snook became both an official Roman Catholic and Mexican citizen, forgoing his previous identity to assume the title of “Jose Francisco de Sales Snook.” And while he eventually married into the prominent Alvarado family, he never had any children to whom he could pass on his estate. When Snook died in the early 1850s, his brother, John, inherited the Rancho San Bernardo.

    John Snook did not possess the massive land grant for long either, as he died shortly after obtaining it. His own descendants then acquired the Ranch San Bernardo, but they held little desire to use it. They, thus, sold the entire estate to entrepreneur James McCoy through his agent, Thomas Fox, in 1867. McCoy immediately began to subdivide his newfound landholdings, selling most of it as plots to middle-class settlers who were interested in establishing their own homesteads. By this point, the large majority of migrants heading into the vicinity were Americans, as California had long since joined the Union. McCoy soon sold enough land that several hundred people resided in the locale by the early 1870s, with some eventually founding a small agricultural village. The community grew steadily for some time, hosting such business likes a general store, a blacksmith shop, and even a post office. The development of both the neighboring City of Escondido and the Lake Hodges Dam in the early 20th century led to the hamlet's abandonment. As such, most of the Rancho San Bernardo became a ghost town. Meanwhile, the San Diego Water Company purchased some 5,800 acres from Ed Fletcher and William Henshaw in the 1920s, which, in turn, leased it to George Daley. Daley was a prominent rancher who intended to use the area for rearing livestock and growing grain. He eased the Rancho San Bernardo for many years, before purchasing it outright in the middle of World War II.

    George Daley eventually passed away in 1957, leaving the 5,800-acre estate to his two nephews, Donald and Lawrence. Then, four years later, Donald and Lawrence formed a partnership with real estate developer Harry Summers and businessmen W.R. “Fritz” Hawn to construct a spectacular planned community upon the grounds of their uncle’s ranch. Together, they submitted blueprints to local officials through their joint company, “Rancho Bernardo, Inc.” Their plan envisioned the creation of countless beautiful homes supported by schools, community centers, and magnificent storefronts. At the center of town would reside its crown jewel—a brilliant boutique hotel that would epitomize the area’s grandeur. In 1962, the Daleys and their partners received permission to start building their planned town of Rancho Bernardo. Construction commenced right away and lasted the duration of the decade. Model homes soon appeared in the neighborhoods of Bernardo Greens, Bernardo Hills, and Seven Oaks. The first residents then followed, with some 1,300 people moving into the community in just the first year alone. The Rancho Bernardo Company also completed construction on its promised municipal buildings, as well as the Rancho Bernardo Inn by 1964. The new town of Rancho Bernardo was immensely popular among families living in the greater San Diego area, as thousands relocated to the settlement over the next several decades. By the 1980s, some 20,000 people called Rancho Bernardo home. Today, Rancho Bernardo continues to be one of southern California’s most vibrant places to live. It has also grown into an exciting holiday destination, thanks in large part to the prestigious Rancho Bernardo Inn.

  • About the Architect +

    William F. Bell Jr.: One of America’s most prolific golf course designers, William F. Bell, Jr. hailed from a family of renowned golf professionals. Indeed, the Bell family had been involved in the creation of championship-caliber fairways since the early 20th century. Bell Jr.’s father, William P. Bell, worked on his first course as the greenskeeper of the prestigious Pasadena Country Club right before the outbreak of World War I. He used the experience at Annadale to obtain work constructing golf courses alongside the renowned Willie Watson. Among the many outstanding courses that the senior Bell designed while working with Watson included the Hacienda Golf Club and the San Diego Country Club. William P. Bell even managed to help renovate the esteemed fairways at the Annadale Golf Club, specifically the redesign of its numerous hazards. But Bell finally decided to branch out on his own during the 1920s and began designing his own courses throughout the American Southwest. At first, Bell sought the advice from another architect named George C. Thomas to perfect his designs. Perhaps one of the best designs he created with Thomas’ help was the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. In fact, Bell impressed Thomas so much that the former aided the latter on his own projects, like the course located at Ojai Valley Inn (which is also another member of Historic Hotels of America.) But by the start of the Great Depression, Bell had designed several courses on his own. Over time, he took his son, William F. Bell Jr., on as his apprentice and the two continued to work on golf courses in the western United States for many years thereafter. In 1953, Bell Jr. assumed control over the family design firm, which he proceeded to run over the next three decades. Bell Jr. eventually designed over 200 courses throughout the country, including the fantastic set of fairways at the Rancho Bernardo Inn. His talents also facilitated Bell’s respected membership in the American Society of Golf Course Architects and even became its president for a time in the late 1950s.

  • Famous Historic Golfers +

    Art Wall Jr., winner of 31 professional title victories, including one major championship—the 1959 Masters Tournament.

    Tony Lema, winner of 22 professional title victories, including one major championship—the 1964 British Open.

    Bob Rosburg, winner of ten professional title victories, including one major championship—the 1959 PGA Championship.

    JoAnne Carner, the only woman to have won the U.S. Girls' Junior, U.S. Women's Amateur, and U.S. Women's Open.

  • Women in Golf +

    JoAnne Carner: Among the accomplished golfers to compete on the Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Course was JoAnne Carner. Originally a native of Kirkland, Washington, Carner had developed quite a reputation in her youth during the mid-20th century. In fact, one of her earliest achievements involved winning the U.S. Girls’ Junior title in 1956. Then, a few years later, Carner managed to earn a national collegiate title while playing for Arizona State University in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championships. Around the same time, Carner won five separate U.S. Women’s Amateur Titles and finished as the runner-up on two other occasions. The victories were an impressive record for Carner, as they placed her second on the all-time list of winners behind only the legendary Glenna Collett Vare. While still competing as an amateur in the late 1960s, Carner decided to enter an official LPGA Tour event—Burdine’s Invitational—and came in first place. The victory subsequently marked the beginning of a lucrative professional career that saw Carner win a total of 43 tournaments on the LPGA Tour. Her most iconic victories occurred as a contestant at the U.S. Women’s Open, which she won twice in 1971 and 1976. But Carner gained many other noteworthy achievements throughout her lifetime, including five Vare Trophies, three LPGA Tour Player of the Year awards, and the 1970 LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year. In 1981, she even received the Bob Jones Award—the highest honor given in recognition of a player’s sportsmanship by the USGA. A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Carner has since remained the only woman to have won the U.S. Girls’ Junior, the U.S. Women’s Amateur, and the U.S. Women’s Open.

Special Offer

Optional Push

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur.

Learn More