It's the course everybody loves to hate. And for the life of me, I don't know why. But then again, I might not be the right one to ask because I've never met a golf course I didn't like!
So allow me to address the negatives that fly around the golf gossip mill -- and we all know it's as bad as any -- before giving you the amateurgolf.com take. Those "digs" are, not necessarily in order:
1) Carlsbad spent too much money on it, at $65 Million all-in. 2) It has a crazy routing, forcing golfers to take carts. 3) Some of the greens have more tiers than an adjustable rate mortgage. 4) You can lose a dozen balls out there.
Let's start with the price tag. My take is that many golfers, by nature, expect a lot from an expensive course, especially in the hub of the golf manufacturing industry. They want to be mad at Carlsbad for spending so much. Their complaints, by nature, rise exponentially with their score, and walking purists won't truly enjoy any course that forces a cart on them.
Without a doubt, the record-setting (for a city-owned course) investment ruffled a few feathers, especially among non-golfers. But the fact is that the original price, when the course was conceived 20 or more years ago was a quarter of that amount. The development process was almost thwarted, and the routing forced to be a lot less "flowing" by a complicated California Coastal Commission review process. Many cities might have given up, but the perseverance of then-Mayor Bud Lewis and his City Council made the vision a reality.
When you think about it, a very diverse city economy like Carlsbad's deserves a public course, and some day it will be paid for. I once met Mayor Lewis briefly at a restaurant and we spoke about the course. He pointed at my young son and said "We built it for him." I see high school golf team members hitting balls at the range all the time.
The only other Carlsbad public golf options before the Crossings were an old-school par three course in a retirement community or the La Costa or Aviara Resorts. The former is known to fans for hosting, until recently, an annual PGA Tour event. (It is about to reopen after a major renovation.) The latter, the beautiful Park Hyatt-owned Arnold Palmer design is also among the best in Southern California. But both layouts are unaffordable for many locals to play on a regular basis.
Now Carlsbad residents and visitors have an 18-hole facility kept in great condition year-round, with a 20,000 square foot craftsman style clubhouse, three practice greens, and a a huge lighted range. What's not to like?
Some people take issue with the layout. Without a doubt there are several quirky holes, and an equal number of greens that make the first-time visitor wonder, 'What was architect Greg Nash thinking?' But I think the biggest thing Nash did wrong was build opening and closing holes that can start or finish your round with a big number, simply by making a small mistake.
No. 1 actually isn't too bad from the white tees, where what lies ahead is visible. The back tees (especially the black) turn the hole into a dogleg left and make the carry over a cavernous barranca (canyon) seem much more daunting. (Playing tip: just let a driver loose towards the fairway trap from the blacks, and if you're really long just do the same with a 3-wood.)
The 18th is a 400-yard par 4 that also has a challenging fairway to hit, with bunkers on the left and hazard on the right (almost all hazards by the way, are marked with blue stakes - entry prohibited). But it's the second shot on 18 that can ruin a round. A strangely contoured bean-shaped green is fronted by a barranca and doesn't offer any "bale area" to speak of. If the pin is in the back-right, the approach shot looks like something out of a 'Golf in the Kingdom' calendar. Play The Crossings a few times, however, and these holes become nothing more than places to be cautious of the risk of making a big number. If you're out of position, don't be a hero and you probably won't make more than a bogey.
In between the start and finish, there are ocean views on almost half the holes, pleasant Carlsbad weather to enjoy, and a variety of almost links-style holes. There are some power lines and large towers, but no houses on the course. For being so convenient to the 5 Freeway its an amazing piece of property and if you get the first tee time of the day you will feel like you have your own private club.
One of my favorite holes is the par-4 3rd, where a treeless, hilly, football field-wide fairway is unlike anything in the area. One lone bunker in the center of the fairway plays tricks with the mind, more than anything else most days. The two tiered green offers great approach shot strategy depending on where the pin is -- I like the back tier where a player friendly backstop rewards a well-struck shot, funnelling the ball back towards the hole.
Follow the path to the 4th tee, and you'll be treated to ocean views behind and views of most of the back nine off to the side.
The course's name comes from the many bridges required to take you around this marvel of modern engineering, which covers somewhere in the range of 500 acres. The 12th hole, isolated from the rest, requires a drive over one of those bridges, where the green greets you. A 400-yard cart ride down the entire length of the hole will result in your cart being parked the wrong way as you stop to hit your tee shot. It's another often talked about quirk, but the drive takes just a few minutes and the hole is worth it. If you're smart, you will check out the pin placement on the way by.
As for the dozen balls, if you lose more than a sleeve at The Crossings it's likely not the course's fault. And the money you will save over other resort courses with a greens fee that tops out at around $100 including cart for out-of-towners (much better for locals or "Crossings Club" members) will leave you enough cash to buy some new ones.
- Editor's Note: Author Pete Wlodkowski is the Founder of amateurgolf.com and resides in Carlsbad. He plays The Crossings once a week, paying a greens fee every time.