Memorable Champions Course at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa still fit for the pros
Omni La Costa Resort and Spa's Champions Course, former home to the WGC-Accenture Match Play, is a memorable resort golf course that is a tougher play than its sister golf course, the Legends.
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Before the WGC-Accenture Match Play moved to Tucson in 2007, it was played in southern California at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa, just north of San Diego.
It wasn't that the layout at La Costa wasn't long enough or pretty enough or challenging enough; it was just that it seemed to be played during the wrong time of year. For the past couple of years, the pros were playing lift, clean and place as the course took on heavy rain in February. So off they were to Arizona and presumably drier days ahead.
And if you remember watching the Match Play on television, what you remember was probably La Costa's Champions Course. Because it was the original nine holes of the Champions Course that formed the back nine of the tournament setup, and it provided a truly dramatic finish that made for some great matches.
Omni La Costa Resort and Spa: Classic golf design
The original 27 holes at La Costa opened in 1964. They were designed by Dick Wilson, who also penned the TPC Blue Monster at Doral in south Florida.
Over the years, La Costa played host to a bevy of professional events, including the PGA Tour's Tournament of Champions before it moved to Hawaii.
In the 1980s, Joe Lee was brought in to design an additional nine holes, which is on the other side of the tunnel and now comprises holes No. 4-12 on the Champions Course.
"They really did a good job on the outer nine integrating it with the other 27," said Dave Doerr, director of golf at La Costa. "I think it was pretty impressive."
Indeed, if you didn't know the history of the courses and played all 36 holes for the first time, you probably wouldn't guess that the outer nine came more than 20 years after the original layout. And while the original nine on the Champions – holes No. 13-18 – get most of the notoriety, the newer holes are fairly intriguing as well.
For example, the uphill, par-5 sixth, plays a good two clubs longer than the yardage calls for, and the long green slopes severely from back to front. Hit it high past a front pin when the greens are running more than 10 on the Stimpmeter, and you can be in real trouble.
"You putt it downhill, and you can almost putt it back to the snack bar," Doerr said.
The 199-yard, par-3 eighth is almost all carry over water, the ninth is a challenging dogleg right around a lake and the 11th is a nifty little par 4 with water running down the entire right side.
Back through the tunnel at La Costa
The 13th is where you get to start emulating the pros again. One of the prettiest holes on the golf course, this little dogleg-right par 4 wraps around a wetlands-type lake. Three fairway bunkers on the left serve as aiming points, depending on how far you hit your tee shots.
The 14th, at 447 yards, is one of the toughest holes on the course. A stream that crosses the fairway twice can come into play on the drive and the approach. And the short, par-4 15th not only has water to deal with but also seven fairway and greenside bunkers.
One of the most famous and picturesque holes at La Costa is the 16th, a 189-yard par 3 that plays over the property's central lake. With four fairway bunkers and some interesting pin positions, it made for great match-play drama over the years.
The 540-yard 18th was also a good match-play hole. For the pros, reaching it in two was no problem as long as they are in the fairway, even with a stream running in front of the greenside approach. The green features plenty of slope and potential flagstick positions.
The Champions Course at Omni La Costa Resort and Spa: The verdict
The scorecard says the Champions Course is slightly more difficult than La Costa's Legends Course.
That might be because it has more forced carries, but the Legends is definitely tighter while playing to similar length (just less than 7,100 yards).
I found that the Champions was more enjoyable because there was more room off the tee and a little more scenery. Doerr pointed out that the outer holes, while they don't get the exposure of the tournament holes, might be more aesthetic because the homes are set farther away from the golf course.
In any event, the new and old holes blend seamlessly.
March 19, 2010