Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad: Beautiful natural scenery surrounds you
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The idea of great golf co-existing with beautiful natural scenery and expertly groomed grounds filled with dozens of native plants and blooming flowers, goes back hundreds of years.
To enhance the great natural scenery provided by oceanside cliffs, canyons and mountains, designers have always looked to include what didn't come naturally. The prime example being the former Fruitlands Nursery in Southeast Georgia which became much better known as Augusta National Golf Course.
Designer Arnold Palmer utilized much the same tactic on a very hilly and attractive piece of land in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego, where he fashioned Aviara Golf Club.
Lacking the dramatic seaside vistas of nearby Torrey Pines or Pebble Beach just up the California coast, Palmer did the next best thing, creating his own natural beauty with enough plants and landscaping to make any golfer (or landscape architect) green with envy.
The course, which opened in 1991, would be just another piece of steeply rolling terrain without the extensive varieties of flowers, brushes and shrubs, but that would be like picturing Augusta National without the color green; it's just not possible to separate one from the other.
The 180-acre site simply comes alive with color and beauty thanks to a year-long planting and maintenance schedule, as well as generous assistance from Mother Nature. Everything from yellow daisies to the vivid hibiscus and huge purple Batiquitos plant line almost every hole along with huge oak, pine and pecan trees.
Mix in a couple of waterfalls at the par 3 third hole and par 3 12th and you have an inviting recipe for alluring golf which will take the sting out of most poor scores.
But with all the talk of flowers with their warm and fuzzy feelings, golfers shouldn't get the idea that this par 72 course, which measures 7,007 yards from the back (Palmer tees) is some kind of 1960s easy-going pushover. If a stern test of golfing skills, all outstanding scenery aside, is in order, then Aviara can be your kind of place.
There are enough enormous bunkers, lightning fast greens, uphill and downhill shots, to test your golfing mettle. Palmer is not famous for doing especially tough courses, but there are enough places to get in trouble at Aviara that you may wish you had time to stop and smell the flowers.
Batiquitos Lagoon, which supplies much of the area's wildlife population, also serves as a backdrop to holes 1 and 18 and can been seen from some of the higher points on the course.
Turtles can be found on many of the holes, especially those with waterways, along with dozens, if not hundreds, of rabbits, some skunks, ducks and birds of several species.
The opening two holes at Aviara, both par 4s, are a fairly tame beginning to this course, each offering open fairways along with large greens and bunkers to be avoided.
The fun and scenery really begins on the par 3 third which has two water features with four different sets of tees.
There is a large pond, which sits squarely to the left of the green and must be confronted and crossed from three of the four tee boxes. A smaller lake sits to the right of the green, with the water trickling down to a small waterfall on the right side. There are thick trees to the left of the water on the left side, with more trees and large bunkers to the rear and right of the green.
It's basically an all-or-nothing shot off the tee box with little room for lay-up, so golfers must be careful not to be seduced by the beauty and whirlwind of activity around the green. A good shot can be rewarded with par or better, but there are plenty of danger spots on this hole.
The par 5 fifth hole is a classic example of how to route a hole according to the natural flow of the land.
The hole slopes from left to right off the tee with a large bunker guarding the right side where golfers may be tempted to cut the corner. About midway toward the green, the fairway moves sharply uphill making the second or third shot often a blind one and adding at least one club to your shot selection.
Another massive bunker guards the front right of the green with the putting surface blanketed by a massive array of wildflowers on the backside with a wooden staircase leading from the greenside cart path to the large green.
The par 3 sixth hole is another uphill rise off the tee box with bunkers on the right and a large ridge running through the front third of the green. It makes it very possible for a shot landing short of the flag set in the front portion of the green to roll back off the putting surface and onto the fairway. Proper club selection is critical on both holes 5-6.
The final three holes on the front nine all play downhill, requiring a large drive off the tee box and all reward balls which are kept in the fairway. The most interesting is the par 5 eighth with an active stream running diagonally across the fairway just before the green. High-risk golfers may choose to confront the water and go for the green in two, but most will choose to lay-up and take a simple pitch to the green with their third shot.
The back nine features more of the same in the beauty and challenge department and it may actually be the harder of the two nines with less room to land the ball off the tee box and more control needed with woods and long irons on some drives and approach shots.
The beauty is well represented by the par 3 11th hole; this may be the prettiest layout on the entire course. A noisy waterfall runs along almost the entire length of the hole on the right side, starting out at the green and rolling down to a good-sized body of water near the tee box.
The flowers in full bloom are a stunning sight, and three large bunkers behind the green complete the highly picturesque scene.
The challenge is portrayed in the tough par 4 18th hole. There is very little room to land your ball off the tee as a huge lake dominates the right side with hills, bunkers and native animal nesting grounds all along the left. Once you find the fairway, there is still a very narrow opening to the green with water all along the right and large bunkers on the left.
Another plus for Aviara is the impressive service. From the minute you check into the 32,000 square foot clubhouse, you are treated like a country club king for the month, even if you're only visiting for a couple of hours. There is fruit and water waiting at the check-in stand, a full range with all the balls you care to hit and a helpful valet to remind you when your tee time has arrived.