Course Review

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Aviara Golf Club Course Review

Pete Wlodkowski of amateurgolf.com    view bio and other articles by Pete Wlodkowski
published 31 Mar 2014

see also: Aviara Golf Club

Aviara Golf Club has played host to the LPGA Tour for the past two years and -- I'm pleased to say -- to the AmateurGolf.com San Diego County Amateur for even longer. I always tell visitors that no golf trip to San Diego is complete without a round at Arnold Palmer's only San Diego design.

Now that you've seen it on TV you probably want to play it even more. The following review should put you in the mood. And by all means, give us a call if you are interested in playing next January's San Diego County Amateur.

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In the world of golf course marketing, the phrase "private club for a day" is almost as ubiquitous as "playable for golfers of all abilities". But sitting on the deck of the beautiful Spanish style clubhouse, overlooking the 18th green at San Diego's Aviara Golf Club (while enjoying food better than most private clubs), it's clear that Aviara fits both of these clichés.

On a recent Sunday, I played Aviara with a college friend I hadn't seen in many years. It was his first round of the season; it was my 30th. Rather than play the course all the way back at the Palmer Tees, where it rates at 75.4 and pushes 7000 yards, we chose the Teal or middle tees at around 6500 yards -- perfectly playable for both of us. After shaking off the rust, my friend found his first par at the signature par 3 third hole.

This 135-yard beauty, (pictured below) is a good example of the painstaking level of detail that is put into not just the course itself but the flora around it. Beautiful colors seem to be in bloom year-round at Aviara, just as the lightening fast putting surfaces seem to roll perfectly every day. (The club’s "three holes at a time" aerification program means you never have to worry about sand and large holes taking the fun out of putting.)

The reverse view of the 3rd hole, taken from the 4th tee

The Arnold Palmer designed course is situated next to the Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad. It occupies a rolling landscape where the front nine plays uphill towards the gorgeous Park Hyatt Hotel (which owns the course). The back nine does almost the same thing, but plays at least a shot or two harder.

If Aviara has an "amen corner" it's Nos. 13, 14, and 15. The 13th is a semi- blind, sharp dogleg-left par 4 with an uphill second shot to a plateau green, bunkers staring you in the face but the bottom of the flagstick out of view. From there, you'll see what's in store for you next at number 14, a downhill par 3 of almost 200 yards with a pond fronting the green and bunkers right or left. It's the best of Aviara's challenging selection of par 3s.

The 15th has everything a great par 4 should. Starting with a daunting tee shot with a hazard on the left and bunkers on the right - - they are the lesser of two evils, believe me - - a good drive still leaves a 150-200 yard approach to a large green that slopes right to left and putts devilishly fast from above the hole. (And uniquely, in perhaps an Arnold Palmer nod to The Old Course, it shares a huge putting surface with the 12th, another fantastic par 4.)

Besides the golf course, there are some other things you should know about Aviara. The resort and hotel itself are truly world class, and for that reason many celebrities and golf professionals enjoy staying and playing there while in town for a fitting at one of the major manufacturers, or just a little break from Hollywood. The beautiful surroundings and proximity to the golf industry’s hub in Carlsbad have made Aviara the backdrop for a number of print and television commercials. Kip Puterbaugh, a perennial "top 100" teacher in the U.S. runs the Aviara Golf Academy at a dedicated location at the top of the practice range; adjacent to his school is the TaylorMade Performance Lab. The "Callaway Experience" (available through Aviara) offers accommodations, unlimited golf, daily breakfast, a Callaway custom fitting session, and new driver. Titleist players could also use Aviara as their home base when visiting the world class Oceanside fitting center or “TPI” – The Titleist Performance Institute. The latter is the industry standard for golf fitness training.

Guest fees are in the $200 plus range on weekends, but afternoon rates under $150 provide a nice savings and plenty of time to finish the round before my favorite time at Aviara, sunset. I always tell my friends to arrive early to enjoy the meticulous grass range, putting green and complimentary coffee and muffins. After the round, don’t forget to grab a famous Aviara cookie…

Having lunch, my friend and I decided that the 18th is probably one of the best par 4s in San Diego, or Southern California for that matter. A lake on the right side that starts at the landing area and extends all the way to the green is clearly visible from the tee, attracting a slice like a magnet. Bunkers through the fairway on the left make a good aiming point for most players. Even if you've split the fairway with your drive your work has just begun. Staring down your 175-yard approach shot with a little waterfall and rocks on the right and a huge bunker on the left Arnold Palmer might again come to mind as you contemplate laying up somewhere. There's no bail out, so you might as well do as the title of one of Palmer's early biographies advises, and "Go for Broke".

But if you’re 200 yards out, near the lip of the fairway bunker, consider this Arnold Palmer advice from the 1973 title’s forward:

“A bold shot?

“Yes. You must play boldly to win. My whole philosophy has been based on winning tournaments, not on finishing a careful fifth, or seventh, or tenth.

“A reckless shot?

“No. In 18 years of tournament golf I feel I’ve never tried a shot I couldn’t make.”


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Founder of amateurgolf.com. Member, Olympic Club, El Camino CC and Torrey Pines Mens Club. Always looking for a good game and love to play all types of courses, muni or private. More...
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