What I learned playing an LPGA course the day after a tournament
29 Mar 2022
by Pete Wlodkowski of AmateurGolf.com

A challenging shot any way you look at it - No. 18 at Aviara
A challenging shot any way you look at it - No. 18 at Aviara

The last week in March, the JTBC Classic was hosted at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad. I used to live just three miles away, and I've probably played there 100 times. And AmateurGolf.com hosts our San Diego Amateur (North) presented by Callaway Golf there every December.

When Torrey Pines hosts The Farmers, the City of San Diego leverages the course's tour setup and elevated interest by hosting four shotgun start outings on the following Monday and Tuesday. They sell out instantly. After all, everyone wants to know how they would fare on a Tour setup, and the hole locations aren't moved until Wednesday.

I've been one of those masochists, and it's a lot of fun, until it isn't. Finding a ball in deep rough can be tough without a spotter. Hitting it is no bargain either.

This year, I decided to go online and see what Monday looked like at Aviara the day after the JTBC. An 8:17 tee time popped up, and I grabbed it in about a second. My golf strategy during the pandemic has been to book the best times I can find, and work my schedule around them. This fit right in.

Like Torrey Pines, the hole locations were the same as Sunday. But unlike Torrey Pines, where the back tees are closed off -- as if I would want to play them anyway -- we could play the exact same tees as the ladies.

And you know what? Other than one or two holes, the course pretty much plays the same distance I would play it anyway -- about 6600 yards. The difference is the way they get to 6500 yards. The par 5's are played all the way back at the Palmer tees, allowing the Tour to push up the 16th hole to a reachable 280 yards, and one or two par 3's forward.

Of course, we were playing Sunday hole locations, so I expected them to be tough. But several of them were in places I've never seen them.

The first "nasty" pin was on the par-3 6th, on the extreme front right of a plateau green with a large slope in front. The tee was pushed up to 130 yards, giving it a similar effect to No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass without the water. Most of the ladies would play towards the front-center of the green, leaving a treacherous 30 foot (or more) putt. No. 6 played as the 5rh-hardest hole on the course on Sunday.

Just two holes later my third shot on the par-5 8th found the water as I went after the "sucker" pin on the extreme right of the green. And on the 18th, which played the hardest for the ladies the way it does for our players during the San Diego Amateur. The hole location near the water on the right was in the traditional Sunday position.

Less than 24 hours after 19-year-old Atthaya Thitikul earned her first victory -- in a playoff no less -- after shooting 16 under in regulation, I left the course with a score somewhere in the 80's, and a new respect for the LPGA Tour.

These ladies are good.

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