Welcome to our “Where I Played” series, in which a GOLF staffer runs through a recent day at a course you might play in your future. On this occasion, we’re teeing it up at Aviara Golf Club, in Carlsbad, Calif.
It’s no secret that Southern California has some great golf, and Aviara Golf Club lives up to that reputation. This Arnold Palmer design is at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort and features picturesque views, challenging green complexes and plenty of birdie opportunities. If you want some great golf along with all the other perks of resort life, this is your place. I checked out the track on a recent excursion to the West Coast, and I loved every second of it. Here’s what you need to know.
Course: Aviara Golf Club
Tee time: 10:25 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 27
Course type: Resort
Difficulty: Well … it depends. Are you a fairway-finder with swagger around the greens? If so, this course should present few problems. But if you get loose off the tee, things can get tough in a hurry.
If you miss the fairway, the rye-grass rough is thick and will grab your club with ease. There aren’t many chances to run the ball up onto the greens, so you’ll need some strength to muscle the ball out the rough. Things don’t get much easier once you reach the putting surface. The greens are large, which will help your GIR percentage, but if you’re not in the right spot, three-putts are lurking. The undulation can also cause present challenges, so you’ll need to bring your best putting skills to keep bogeys (and doubles) off the card.
Like any good resort course, though, Aviara provides plenty of opportunities for fun (read: birdies!). There are four different tee boxes to choose from, so don’t be shy about teeing it forward for some easier looks at low numbers. I pegged it from the blue tees (~6,500 yards) and had several looks at birdie, a couple of which I converted.
Aviara is no bruiser on the scorecard, but if you hit poor shots, you will be punished. My advice? Tee it forward, have a few drinks and take dead aim. Birdies are out there, you just have to find them.
How to get there: The resort is in Carlsbad, Calif., about 30 miles (~40 minutes) north of San Diego International Airport on Interstate 5. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can stop at Torrey Pines on your way up for a para gliding excursion.
Fast facts: Aviara is an annual stop on the LPGA Tour’s West Coast swing. The Kia Classic — now known as the JTBC Classic — comes to town each March and has an impressive list of past champions. Major winners such as Inbee Park, Lydia Ko and Ana Nordqvist have all been crowned at Aviara, and you can see their plaques in the clubhouse locker room.
Favorite hole: No. 15 is absolute bear, and I loved every inch of it. This par-4 is nearly 480 yards from the back tees, meaning you’ll need two solid shots to reach the green in regulation. The hole is a sharp dogleg left with hazard running down the left side, but beware of a right bailout — it’ll leave you with a monstrous approach to the green. Oh, and did I mention it shares a putting surface with the 12th? The hole features a massive double green, which is one of my favorite elements of golf architecture.
I loved: The views on this course are spectacular. Aviara is cut into rolling hills and landscaped with flora native to the region. Be sure to bring your camera, because there are plenty of Instagram opportunities.
I didn’t love: The 10th hole was a bit of a head-scratcher. It’s a sharp dogleg left with a forced carry over a manmade pond. The landing area off the tee is far too shallow. Most players will need driver to carry the hazard, but the fairway is not deep enough to hold the rollout from the big stick. I appreciate that the hole asks you to shape the ball, but even with a nice draw off the tee, you will need some good fortune to keep the ball in the short stuff. I’m no course designer, but that hole left a sour taste in my mouth.
Final thoughts: Aviara is an excellent option in SoCal if you’re into the resort vibe. The views are phenomenal, the food is scrumptious and the golf will leave you wanting to play again and again. I’ll certainly be back next time I’m in the area.