While the first two courses of my California swing were relatively easy to review, putting together a useful, accurate and fair review on Aviara Golf Course has been a struggle. And there lies the rub.
Aviara is located in Carlsbad (it’s a 30 minute drive from downtown San Diego; longer if there’s traffic) and is part of a Hyatt resort located on site. It’s been open for just over 20 years, and currently hosts the LPGA Tour’s Kia Classic.
The last time I was in San Diego I played Torrey Pines (South Course), which hosted the 2008 US Open and is slated to host the 2021 US Open and is the main course used for the (currently named) Farmers Insurance Classic on the PGA Tour. I played Torrey Pines in 2012, and paid a hefty tariff to walk the course that has the pedigree that it does ($226 to ride). Not cheap for a non-resident, but as I tell non-golfers “can you play at a pro sports stadium?” It was a memorable round, and if a round can be worth that number, then it was.
Which brings me back to Aviara. I pulled up and as soon as I got out of my car, someone had brought me a cart to load my bag onto and let me know where I could check in and the like. The young gentleman in the pro shop was incredibly polite and collected my green fee and let me know where the driving range was (range balls are included). Normally I’m not one to hit balls but, taking advantage of green grass driving range I got loose, and went to the putting green to roll a few.
When i got to the practice green the starter was waiting. Could not have been nicer. I asked a passing question about the greens, and I got as detailed an explanation about Poa Annua as anyone has ever given. If you’ve played golf in coastal Southern California, odds are you’ve putted on it. Their micro-climate is perfect for it, and so on.
Aviara has four sets of tees to suit a number of golfers; given that they probably get a lot of “occasional” golfers this makes a lot of sense; while I played from the second-furthest back (the “back” tees…just under 6600 yards and a 135 slope), most average golfers will find plenty of challenge from the “middle” tees (just over 6000 yards and a 129 slope).
After a couple fairly mundane par 4’s to start things off, you get a short par 3 that’s all carry over a water hazard to a long but narrow multi-tiered green.
The course doesn’t have a traditional routing; it’s cut into a residential development and around parts of the resort but at no point did I feel like I was cutting through someone’s back yard or that I was encroaching on the Ron Burgundy Suite.
The back nine is decidedly tougher than the front nine, and on the day, it took me 5 more blows to get home than it did going out. A tight par 5 that plays longer than on the card starts things off, followed by a shortish par 3 and a couple medium-range par 4’s.
A par 3 that requires another carry over water leads to the concluding holes…arguably the best of the bunch. The 17th is a monster par 5 (568 from the back tees and 554 from the middle tips) that requires three good shots to get home, followed by the 18th which is their signature hole.
The 18th is the only hole that has naturally occurring water in play; it’s on the left if you get really wild going left. My pull hook landed dry but with 200+ yards left to the green.
The photo may capture the water hazard that captures anything right, but no photo can adequately show the undulation in the fairway. Memorable? Yes. Annoying? Youbetcha. Something for a touring pro to have to navigate with a one-shot lead on Sunday? Most likely.
At the finish another member of the staff was there with warm cookies…had I played later I’d have availed myself of them (they looked delicious and smelled pretty good too), but being hungry and wanting an actual meal meant I was going to have to pass.
All in all, everyone I met at Aviara could not have been nicer. Courteous, polite and hospitable people doing good work with smiles all around.
However, it’s not Torrey Pines. It never was, never is, and never will be. It’s a beautiful course kept in immaculate condition (Kevin Kienast, who’s the course superintendent, does a great job).
If I have one complaint, it’s the cost. For $200+ an ocean view would be nice.