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February 2021

Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

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Leading The Health And Wellness Revolution For Decades

By Steve Eubanks

It was once a regular on the PGA Tour calendar. Those who remember the days before wrap-around seasons and FedEx Cup points recall the days when events still sought associations with celebrities like Danny Thomas (the Memphis Classic, which has always benefited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital) or Glen Campbell (the L.A. Open) or Jackie Gleeson (Miami), Bing Crosby (Pebble Beach) and Bob Hope (Palm Springs) La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California, a 30-minute drive from the San Diego airport, was a spring staple, the host course of the Tournament of Champions.

Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Don January, Al Geiberger, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Lanny Wadkins, Tom Kite, Davis Love and Phil Mickelson all won there. Tiger Woods won there with a near ace in a Monday-morning playoff against Tom Lehman.

Paul Azinger, who won the Tournament of Champions at La Costa in 1990, said, “It was always a great spot. The golf course was solid and you got strong fields because everybody playing there had won. It was one of the biggest events, certainly one of the biggest wins I had that wasn’t a major. And the resort was great, laid back, kind of a fun spot to spend a week with the family.” 

The place was built in 1965 by some Las Vegas investors. It was a Southern California getaway, a residential playground with golf, tennis, equestrian and some rooms. The initial 40 units rented for $22 a night, which included greens fees.

“It was the acclaimed ‘La Costa Lifestyle’ that really distinguished the resort and began to define a new kind of vacation excellence, one where guest well-being was at the heart of the resort experience,” said the resort’s director of marketing, Michelle Zwirek. “At the center of La Costa’s innovative excellence was its spa, the likes of which America had never seen before - a resort within a resort. From the beginning, La Costa’s spa was more in keeping with the European design of a spa retreat.

“As a recreational resort, La Costa had it all: championship golf, tennis, stables and riding trails. There was also an Olympic-size swimming pool, complete with cabanas, locker rooms, snack bar and teen area, which was unique at that time. When it came time to relax, as if a day at the spa or an afternoon of golf wasn’t relaxing enough, La Costa won rave reviews with its incredible accommodations, award-winning cuisine and sensational service.”

Then came the golf boom of the 90s. Resorts with rooms, restaurants, golf, tennis, pools and spas became a ubiquitous part of the American landscape, especially in California. San Diego County alone has close to 100 courses and the Coachella Valley a couple of hours to the east has even more. Suddenly, the things that made La Costa special could be found in a lot of places, some with newer rooms and views of the ocean.

The PGA Tour also moved the Tournament of Champions to Maui. And while the field strength and winner’s list for that event didn’t improve, the views from the Plantation Course at Kapalua in January made for the kind of television that no other property could match.

Enter Omni, the Dallas-based hotel and resort company that purchased La Costa in 2013. Because Omni owns a number of historic properties, including the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, their executives understood that La Costa could carve out a unique spot in the health and wellness niche. The spa was redesigned and updated and the resort struck a deal with Dr. Deepak Chopra, the Indian-born physician known for his new-age approach to wellness. The Chopra Center became the centerpiece of the La Costa experience.

“Resort ‘wellness’ is more than yoga classes, smoothies and Instagram posts,” Zwirek said. “Wellness is a lifestyle and a commitment. Our director of spa, tennis, golf, recreation and culinary each, respectively, stays abreast of trends in product and service to ensure that La Costa remains at the forefront of destination wellness and travel. Our Spa, for example, is currently focused on providing treatments in the safest way possible, ensuring the health and safety of both our associates and our guests.”

As with every resort in the world, but especially in California, COVID-19 hit La Costa hard. Dining restrictions extended through 2020, and the spa, where massages and aqua therapy play a key role in an overall package, remained closed for more than 10 months. But Omni stuck with the strategy. As other clubs and resorts “discovered” health and wellness, La Costa was in a position to say, “We’ve been here all along.”

“The culinary team at La Costa is consistently seeking to innovate, educate and meet the dietary demands of the modern traveler,” Zwirek said. “A primary focus is sourcing sustainable and local products in order to reduce our carbon footprint while making California produce the star.”

The holistic approach to wellness goes top to bottom. Resort staff will design a menu for you, a fitness program that suits your goals, and set you up with golf, tennis, spa treatments and meditation therapy – programs that other golf properties are just beginning to discover but that La Costa has had in place for decades.   

“In many ways, La Costa has remained unspoiled over the last 50 years,” Zwirek said. “Most of our guests are pleasantly surprised by the wide-open space, the gorgeous flowers, the ocean air and the blue sky.

“The design, the footprint and the location of the resort naturally encourage deeper breaths, longer walks, an extra nine holes or afternoon siesta.” 

Given the year everyone had in 2020, all those things are good for the health and wellness of the mind, body and spirit.

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