Aviara Golf Club is among the best golf courses not only in Carlsbad (which is a mean feat to itself) but in Southern California. Home to the LPGA's Kia Classic, the course's conditioning and routing will challenge amateur and golfer alike. I was fortunate enough to play there recently and here are some of musings.
The course is unbelievably hilly with significant elevation gains and losses.
The course was designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay back in 1991 and you can see that they were in thrall of bulldozers at that time as the contours of the fairways and green complexes try to mimic the natural highs and lows in the course but to mixed results.
Don't get me wrong, if you find yourself in these bumps and swales it causes you to hit different types of shots but there is something just a bit to tricked up and unnecessary in this type of design that you find from the 90s. Links golf isn't perfect but the ebb and the flow makes sense because its well natural.
That is where my criticism of Arnie's design stops however as the course overall is a powerhouse of fun. Amazing conditioning, friendly staff and challenging holes abound and here are some other features I liked.
Water really starts coming into play on 8 (a par 5 with a beautiful pond)
And then kicks into high gear on the back 9 with multiple holes featuring water (all leading up to the 18th hole which I will get to in a minute).
The water never felt out of place and whether these are naturally occurring ponds on the property, built as reservoirs or built for other purposes, I really enjoyed every hole that had water as it made you really think about a given shot.
Also the bunkering on this course is everywhere and definitely was sculpted into the ground with an artist's eye.
The bunkers are numerous but easily avoided for the most part but interestingly if you find yourself in one, it is better to be short as the lips are huge and its better to be in the flatter territory on these things.
The par 3s on this course (especially on the back 9) are some of the most visually enticing holes that I have played. It is like if flowers from Augusta and the water features from other Southern California golfers courses married and had these par 3 babies. While there is one outlier that is an uphill shot with no water and no flowers, most of the par 3s look like this.
Of course, the challenge of these holes is not to hit it into the water but for the most part, they provide bailout areas so you can enjoy the beauty without going through a bag of balls.
I have attended several LPGA events here at Aviara and aside from all the beauty and interesting holes as detailed above, this hole reigned supreme in my imagination and I have wanted to play it ever since.
The hole is a long par 4 and is nestled between a lake and an estuary leading to the sea. When you step onto the tee, the salt air hits you in the face and as the hole plays slightly downhill, its really a stunning visual. The play is to hit your ball 240 to the corner of the pond and/or 265 to the bunker on the far left and then have a long iron into the green, which is partially defended by a waterfall (!).
You can't help but take your time on this hole and even though I was having an "eh" day on the scorecard, I sharpened my focus and my game to try and play this hole as well as possible. Its tough though as even making your way back to your cart can cause awe-inspiring views.
Once you get to the green it is long and narrow with a ridge running through the middle of it and with a back and left hole location, it made for very difficult putting.
Overall this hole is a beast and even if you hate the rest of the course (you won't) you will love this hole.
Aviara is a top notch golf course and one of the best conditioned in SoCal. The holes are mostly intriguing and there are a few superstar standouts that are amongst the best holes in the Southland. The tricked up nature of the fairways and some of the random placement of bunkers was a bit perplexing but the course for the most part engages you in all the right ways. It is an expensive course, no doubt about that but I walked away from it really glad to have paid the money to play such a visually engaging course and 18 along was worth it for me.
For more information about Aviara, check it out here! http://www.golfaviara.com/