It just doesn't get much better than a round of golf at Aviara Golf Club – fun and scenic holes which are challenging but fair, excellent conditions, near perfect greens, upscale facilities, and unparalleled service. All of which is why Aviara Golf Club is recognized as the #1 Golf Resort Course in Southern California by Condé Nast Traveler and one of the best resort golf courses in America by Golf Digest (#18 in the "Top 75 Golf Resorts") as well as having won Golf Magazine's "Gold Medal Resorts" Award.
Aviara is an Arnold Palmer design that opened in 1991 as the centerpiece to the AAA Five Diamond Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad. Palmer created a masterpiece that leverages the natural terrain and overlooks the beautiful Batiquitos Lagoon which is an ecological reserve that is considered one of the most important wetlands in the United States.
Playing at Aviara is as much about golf as it is about the scenic beauty – it's like chasing a golf ball through a beautiful botanical garden as the course meanders through three natural valleys with 7 lakes, cascading waterfalls, bubbling brooks, a variety of stately trees, and stunning colorful fauna of reds, whites, lavenders, purples, and yellows.
If you can take your eyes off of all that eye candy, you'll enjoy a fun and challenging course with nearly 300 feet of elevation change; fairways with berms, mounds, and contour; plenty of bunkering; and challenging green complexes. Plus Aviara Golf Course has lots of subtle illusions that can cost you a stroke, some of which include: prevailing winds to manage, elevation changes which can add 300 to 400 yards, heavy sea coast air which impacts your distance, and uphill greens.
Like most Arnold Palmer designed courses, he made Aviara Golf Club challenging but fair and very playable. This is one of those courses that won't beat you up but it can challenge your course management and putting skills. As such you may not turn in one of your best rounds, but you'll still have a memorable round, a great time, and want to come back again, and again, and again.
Each hole has some unique characteristics and is a little different from any of the previous holes and the par 3's are stunning. For example #3 is a jaw dropper – a 149 yard carry over a sparkling pond to a green with a cascading waterfall along the right side, a babbling brook protecting the left side and vibrant red, yellow, and white fauna lining the back. All of the par 3's are equally scenic and most of the other holes are equally impressive.
Some of the other features you'll encounter that make this a memorable round include:
- uphill and downhill shots to well guarded greens
- several birdie opportunities for risk takers
- bunkers of all sizes and shapes, most of which are strategically placed
- fairways with berms, mounds, and plenty of contour – some may feel like a roller coaster ride
- a friendly marshal who hands out Tootsie Pops to cheer you up
- green complexes that can add a couple stokes to your round
- four finishing holes that are outstanding but can ruin your score if you don't deploy some good course management and club selection
The fairways are near perfect and most have some contour, slope, or undulation – expect some uneven lies. The fairways are lined with trees and plenty of beautiful landscaping. The fairways range from ample to wide open and most have a playable rough. Some huge mansions overlook the course and line some of the fairways.
The greens were also in very good shape when we played and they did seem a tad challenging with bunkers, slope, undulation, and some tiers. The speed was good, around a 10 to 11, and they ran true.
The bunkers were perfect – soft, thick, white sand, with resort lips that are are manageable.
In addition to good conditions, fun and challenging holes, and some beautiful holes, Aviara Golf Club has a number of little things that make playing here very special. In addition to a marshal with Tootsie Pops, there is free coffee in the morning as well as delicious apples and lemon ice water, chocolate chip cookies in the afternoon, perfect service, a great pace of play, a very good GPS, and service that is unequaled. Our starter, gave us a good overview of the course and kept us laughing for a good 15 minutes. Plus Aviara has an elegant two-story, 32,000 square-foot Spanish colonial clubhouse with locker services, a bar lounge with a fireplace, and the Argyle Steakhouse which has both indoor and outdoor balcony seating.
If you're looking for a special treat, then book a room at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort. The resort sits on 200 acres of verdant hillsides and rolling valleys and has 329 spacious guest rooms – including 44 suites – each of which features a private balcony or landscaped terrace offering magnificent views. Plus you'll find excellent resort amenities like acclaimed dining at four on-site restaurants, a full-service spa, swimming pool, tennis courts, and a fitness center.
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Service is first class all the way, the clubhouse is upscale, the pro shop is very well equipped, and the practice facilities are very good. Aviara is also home to Kip Puterbaugh’s Aviara Golf Academy, the second longest-running golf school in the United States, with six instructors leading one-, two- and three-day golf schools. Puterbaugh consistently ranks as a Top 100 golf instructor and Top 25 U.S. golf school in Golf Digest. The course is also home to a TaylorMade Performance Center.