Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif. lives up to the high expectations of Park Hyatt Aviara Resort guests
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Though its name derives from a made-up word, there is nothing contrived about the excellence of Aviara Golf Club at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort. Formed from a combo of "aviary" and "tierra" (Spanish for "land"), the 1991 Arnold Palmer design meets the lofty flight of guest expectations.
Set amid the macro southern California backdrop of a golf manufacturing nexus (Callaway, TaylorMade and Cobra-Puma are all headquartered in these parts), the more immediate surroundings of the ecologically protected Batiquitos Lagoon provide a round that requires little manufacture to be enjoyed.
"The way the course is designed is for that private experience," Aviara Director of Golf Renny Brown said. "Even on our busiest days -- especially on the front side -- you won't know if we're busy or slow; you won't know if there's 100 people out there or 250 people playing golf."
Though such privacy comes at a premium for the daily-rate player, cost isn't boss at Aviara. Rather, with a host of getable fairways, continually massive green structures and ceaseless plantings of diverse color and shape -- this proves a thesis of resort-style play.
But don't think Aviara is a pushover. Home to the LPGA's Kia Classic since 2013, the world and the world's best have rounded the grounds with increasing interest.
"It's brought an international crowd to the course, especially immediately following the event," Head Professional Johnny Walker said.
"Having 12 hours a year on the Golf Channel is invaluable," Brown adds. "On a monthly basis, we hear from guests who found out about us from the watching the tournament on television."
Don't be distracted by Aviara's scenery
The continual beauty and preserved grounds across Aviara Golf Club bring myriad trail hikers and ample bird watchers to the property.
And though it's easy for the player to be subdued by the comely course with its oft-benign tees and garden collection of par 3s, don't allow focus to stray.
"The fairways are pretty wide and forgiving; there's some trouble to be found out there from the tees, but if you're a fairly straight hitter you'll find room," Brown says. "Really, the defense of the course is in the greens."
So big as to feature a nine-day pin rotation, the undulating putting surfaces are coupled with some subtle, green-guarded mounding to make wedge and flat-stick play a serous scorecard leveler.
"Experience on these greens is key," Walker says. "A good tip out here is looking back to the fairway; you see which way the fairway is tilted is probably the way the green is tilted as well."
Long preceding a malevolent home hole, Aviara eases into its routing across a superb front that features a fine run of play.
"I think the par 5s and par 3s offer a really special collection of holes," Brown says. "With all the flowering and planting and water features, the par 3s are pretty stunning."
The 149-yard, par-3 third is a stunner with its dual streams flowing to either side of the green. Two holes later, the uphill, 543-yard fifth is the top handicap hole that proves getable with prudence.
"The key is keeping the ball out of the bunkers on the right," Brown says of the fifth.
The long, uphill, par-3 sixth ensues before the terrific, downhill seventh asks for a club-down play to the left.
On the 536-yard eighth, mid-handicappers should avoid big eyes and play for a three-shot hole.
"It's a downhill par 5 and a great risk-reward hole," Brown says of the eighth. "A decent player, a 10-handicap or less, won't be intimidated having to hit a wedge over water, but a longer, better player will have that temptation to go for the green in two. But you might make an eagle, an easy birdie or an eight and think, 'What the heck just happened?' You have to know your 'go number' for the second shot."
On the latter side, Aviara rediscovers momentum on the par-3 14th before culminating in a finisher that counts among the toughest in the region.
"Par is a very good score on the 18th," Brown says of an intimidator that demands a studied tee shot and exacting approach over water. "That hole has ruined many a good round."
Whether the round concludes with a well earned par or understandable snowman, know that a cookie in the cart barn awaits all scorecards. A cookie!
Aviara Golf Club: The verdict
Though Aviara doesn't play along the coast like some of its area neighbors, the round really does present a private feel for a public tee sheet.
Playability meshes well with the natural beauty, and while the sticks will get a true test at 7,007 yards, those from the forward tees will find ample par opportunities from generous fairways. The course will especially appeal to ladies at 5,007 yards, including seven par 4s charting at 294 yards or less.
Full practice facility and extensive Golf Academy are on site, and the terrific Argyle Steakhouse should be experienced after your round.