Aviara Golf Club at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad: Good things come to golfers who wait
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Good things come to golfers who wait. Aviara Golf Club at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort took nearly a decade to build because of ecological concerns, but golfing enthusiasts soon found out a little patience made the wait worthwhile.
Since opening in 1991, this Arnold Palmer design has received much acclaim from some of the industry's most respected publications. The Golfer Magazine rated the resort among the top 100 in the world in its 1999 travel issue.
Conde Nast Traveler honored the resort as one of the "50 Best Golf Resorts." Its latest, and possibly greatest, award was handed out by Golf Magazine when Aviara was named the 70th best public course in the country on the prestigious list of the "Top 100 Places You Can Play."
Palmer realized he had to design a gem to keep up with the other famous golf courses in the area just north of San Diego, like the La Costa Resort and Spa, also in Carlsbad, and Torrey Pines Golf Club, in nearby La Jolla, CA. Aviara, a 7,007-yard, par-72 championship design, holds its own, attracting thousands of golfers each year.
"This is a special piece of land," said Aviara Director of Golf Jim Bellington. "It took a lot of effort to fit the golf course into the land. Since we opened in 1991, we've had instant maturity. It looks like the course has been here a long time and it's like we belong here."
Nestled into 180 acres winding through three valleys, Aviara is also adjacent to the Batiquitos Lagoon, a wildlife paradise. Developers took care to preserve this environmentally sensitive wetland, which is home to more than 130 species of shorebirds, waterfowl and a variety of natural vegetation.
The golf course uses recycled water for 95 percent of its irrigation needs, showing its commitment to the environment. Palmer also kept much of the natural vegetation intact, allowing native wildflowers to grow to the edge of the fairways and greens. The splashes of reds, yellows, and oranges by these plants provide an incredible distraction to the round.
But Palmer didn't stop there. He added grand landscaping that would make any Better Homes and Gardens subscriber drool. Cascading waterfalls and streams seem to surround every green, especially the par-3 holes. The views from the 149-yard third hole and the 201-yard 14th hole are marvelous. For these reasons, some people consider Aviara to be the prettiest golf course in California.
"Aviara has a beautiful setting," Bellington said. "There is a lot of color and nice water features that add to the aesthetics. A lot of the rock-scape looks natural."
Just because the course is pretty, though, doesn't mean it's a pushover. There's some bite to this layout. Water comes into play on at least eight holes, including the 18th, which was voted as the most difficult finishing hole in San Diego County by the local PGA Professionals in 1991. With the mild, sometimes wet weather year-round, the rough is often thick and difficult to whack out of.
From the tips, the slope plays to 137 with a 74.2 rating, which is tough enough to take on even Palmer himself, but the King also had the average golfer in mind when he designed the green and white tees, which play nearly 500 and 1,000 yards shorter, respectively.
"The course is very playable," Bellington said. "The course is challenging, but it does not have to beat you up. A lot of new designs are beyond the level most people play at."
After a group of solid starting holes, No. 5, a 543-yard, uphill par-5, can bring players to their knees. The hardest hole on the course bends to the right around a waste bunker and then climbs steadily up the valley floor. The 195-yard sixth hole continues the climb, forcing a blind tee shot to a green some 50 feet or more above the tee.
The climb rewards golfers with No. 7 and No. 8, two downhill holes that can turn into birdies with smart play. No. 8, a 536-yard par-5, is a delightful test. Your approach must fly water to the green.
The 18th hole, a 443-yard par 4, can be brutal. Two bunkers and the lagoon lie in wait on the left, while water lurks right. Even a long poke off the tee leaves a testy 200-yard approach shot to the green, which is bunkered front and back and guarded by the water on the right.
Fred Borst, a San Diego-area resident, says he enjoys the course, but the service at the resort is what really keeps him coming back.
"You don't expect them to be as friendly and accommodating as they are," Borst said. "The staff is outstanding. The people make you feel at home. It's a treat that's worth the money ... The course has got something for everybody. You will not score as well here as you normally do, but that's part of the fun. It gives you all you can handle."
The Kip Puterbaugh's Aviara Golf Academy, which includes video analysis and on-the-course training, is also among the list of amenities here.
But golf is only part of the experience of a Park Hyatt Aviara, especially one so ideally located. With the Pacific Ocean, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and the Legoland theme park all within shouting distance, this is an ideal stop for any family.
The 331-room resort, complete with its Spanish colonial architectural design, sits atop a hill, providing picturesque views from each balcony. Eating options abound with the Vivace, an Italian restaurant complete with more ocean views; the California Bistro, which serves food all day long, or the Argyle, which is inside the pro shop, overlooking the 18th green.
What resort would be complete without a fitness center, six lighted tennis Courts, and an outdoor pool and whirlpools. The spa features sauna and steam rooms, more whirlpools, and 11 treatment rooms available for massages, scrubs, and wraps.
January 11, 2000