Mission Trails Golf Course

Mission Trails Golf Course is a quirky Par 71 located at the foot of Cowles Mountain and is known as the course where a young Phil Mickelson worked and honed his skills.

The San Diego-born golf legend started working at Mission Trails, picking up trash before he got promoted to pick up balls at the range. Phil Mickelson grew up in the San Carlos/Del Cerro neighborhood of San Diego, where Mission Trails is located.

Mission Trails is a quirky golf course that doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation for its layout or conditioning. The course is bare in many areas, although they keep the greens and the greenside regions in decent condition.

The course is a tale of two nines; the first ten holes are played in a valley at the foot of Cowles Mountain, a popular hiking spot and the highest point in the city of San Diego. 

The first hole, a par 5, drops down into a valley where the next eight holes are played.  Many drainage ditches come into play, a concrete version of the bern that you might see in Scotland but nowhere near as pleasant looking.

A 6,000 par 71, Mission Trails is not long and not particularly challenging but will still test every club in your bag. It is an excellent place for beginners that want to take the next step toward a full-length course. 

The fourth hole is a 291 par four accessible off the tee; a few of these holes are at Mission Trails. The ninth hole is a 155-yard par three that plays straight uphill; take at least three different clubs here.

Number 10 is another par three now shooting downhill and plays 190. The course changes significantly as it goes under a tunnel to 7 holes that play around Lake Murray Reservoir.

Numbers 12 and 13 play alongside the lake and are the most scenic parts of the course. The 14 th hole is a 572-yard straightaway long par 5 with Cowles mountain in the backdrop.

The signature holes are a toss-up between 17 and 18. The 17th hole looks almost like nothing else on the course, a 215-yard demanding par three that is partially blind off the tee and surrounded by brush on both sides.

Number 18 is unique. The tees are staggered and are just 264 yards from the blue tees. When I played, the back tees were set at just 220 as a par 4, just 5 yards further than the last hole! I forgot to mention the massively steep climb to the green; it plays around 50 yards additionally. This is a massive make-or-break finishing hole, especially if something is on the line.

Overall, Mission Trails is interesting to check out and see where Phil Mickelson honed his short game. There are several other better options, but it is reasonably priced, accessible and generally has a good golf crowd at the course.

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