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The swingin' North County

Golf manufacturers, elite golf communities, prestigious golf courses and many avid golfers seem to be finding their way to San Diego's North County. Can you blame them? The breathtaking natural scenery and the coastal breezes can do wonders for your golf game.

Lush greens, rolling fairways, steep bunkers, impeccably landscaped courses designed by the masters ... San Diego's North County is a golfer's paradise. The scenic beauty and maintained fairways of courses like the Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad, the Doubletree Golf Resort in Pe-asquitos and Morgan Run Resort & Club in Rancho Santa Fe make courses in the area all stay up to par. Both residents and tourists alike are refreshed with a day on the green anywhere in the county. Golf Digest has currently ranked Rancho Santa Fe Country Club, The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe and Torrey Pines Golf Course in the top 30 in California.

A mecca of golf product manufacturers has developed in North County as well. Callaway (NYSE: ELY), Ashworth (Nasdaq: ASHW), Titleist and TaylorMade all have headquarters in Carlsbad, with Orlimar slightly inland in San Marcos. "Callaway and TaylorMade led the move to North County and the best in golf seem to have followed," said John Phipps, director of marketing for The Golf Mart stores. "And why not be based in the most beautiful area in the world, especially one that's a year-round golf market."

Apparently, Phipps has followed the lead of those who know, since three of the four San Diego Golf Mart locations are in North County: San Marcos, Encinitas and Del Mar. This month, The Golf Mart is sponsoring the retail section at Golf Fest, a consumer golf show to be held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on March 15-17.

"The local manufacturers especially enjoy getting involved with the show because it's a way for them to bring and showcase their newest products to consumers in their hometown," Phipps said.

This year's Golf Fest will be the fifth annual event, but only the second in North County, since the show just moved from the San Diego Sports Arena to the Del Mar Fairgrounds in 2001.

"The move in venue gave us the added exhibit and vendor space we needed for the growing show, but also allowed us to target both the San Diego and the steadily growing North County golf markets," said Shelly Hall co-founder of Golf Fest.

Many of golf's greatest players swing through North San Diego County, the home of top tournaments, such as the recent Buick Invitational at the Torrey Pines Golf Course and Accenture Match Play Championship at the La Costa Resort & Spa. The chance to see Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Ernie Els and all of the top golfers in the world in action brings excitement to the area during competition. Players also love to compete in North San Diego, as evidenced by their preference to keep the briefly moved Accenture in San Diego rather than Australia.

In an effort to make life a little easier, homebuyers have begun to value close proximity to golf courses as one of the hottest amenities available. Why not live where you play? Prestigious golf course communities have been springing up all over North County, such as The Crosby Estate, Del Mar Country Club and Santa Luz.

"I see an increase in the market for estates directly on the fairway in the next seven years," said Tom Dobron, president of Innovative Resort Communities in Escondido, who is developing fairway properties in Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev. and PGA WEST in La Quinta. "It's been building momentum as baby boomers like myself get older and as more of us play golf."

Golf close to home is becoming so popular, many golfers have opted to move part of the course directly into their backyards. Avid golfers can perfect their stroke or teach their children to putt with a fully installed synthetic backyard green from companies like Carlsbad-based Southwest Greens of Southern California. Depending on the space available, backyard greens can include sand traps and water features, adding tremendous value to any home. Southwest Greens boasts many satisfied clientele, including Padres great Tony Gwynn, whose Poway home is accented with a custom built "19th Hole."

Rocheleau is an account executive at Spear/Hall & Associates.

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