Aviara Golf Club

Aviara Golf Club is much like a supermodel with a Mensa membership — there’s a lot more there than meets the eye.

The 7,007-yard, par-72 beauty, located in Carlsbad, Calif., gives you the feeling you’re playing golf in a gorgeous nature preserve. In fact, you essentially are. The tough Arnold Palmer-designed layout (75.0/144 course rating/slope) — which will host the LPGA’s 2013 Kia Classic March 21-24, as well as in 2014 and ’15 — overlooks the Batiquitos Lagoon ecological reserve, which serves as a lovely backdrop.

Palmer carved the 180-acre course through, up and down natural hillsides covered with native wildflowers bordering the wide fairways and large greens. The visual cornucopia of brilliant hues provides a calming effect as golfers tussle with a plethora of bunkers and water hazards — including ponds, streams and beautiful cascading waterfalls — that are positioned as extensions of the lagoon, which harbors more than 130 species of shorebirds, waterfowl and a variety of natural vegetation.

Development of Aviara — which uses recycled water for 95 percent of its irrigation — took nearly a decade because of ecological concerns. It was worth the wait.

The telegenic course has also been featured in golf equipment manufacturers’ print advertisements and television commercials as Carlsbad — 45 minutes north of San Diego — is home to more than 35 golf companies, including Callaway, TaylorMade and Titleist.

Having played this challenging, fun course many times, I’m particularly fond of the four par 3s, especially the 149-yard third, 189-yard 11th and 201-yard 14th, which all feature carries over beautiful water features guarding the putting surfaces.

My Achilles hole is the 536-yard eighth. A stream flanking the fairway’s left side beginning 120 yards out becomes an alluring green-front pond that my approaches, whether a fairway-wood second shot or wedge third, have never been able to resist.

Actually, I’ve also enjoyed minimal success on the beastly final three holes. The 418-yard 16th is a dogleg left with a severe right-to-left fairway slope. A pond guards the left side of the monstrous, narrow green, measuring 64 yards from front to back. The 585-yard 17th, the course’s longest hole, requires the first two shots to thread stands of eucalyptus trees. The fairway of the 443-yard 18th doglegs right around a lake which transitions into a lovely rock-and-waterscape feature guarding the narrow, 50-yard-deep putting surface. My lone par on that hole came when I sank a long putt well after sunset, illuminated only by a golf-shop light and the moon.

Yes, even in the dark Aviara is beautiful.

The Lowdown

Aviara Golf Club, Carlsbad, Calif.
Phone: 760-603-6900
Website: www.golfaviara.com

Rates: $105-$245 (Park Hyatt Aviara resort guests can book tee times up to 90 days in advance/public can book 60 days in advance)

Packages: Golf package information is available by calling 760-603-6900 or visiting www.golfaviara.com. Callaway Golf Experience Package information is available by calling 760-448-1234 or visiting www.golfaviara.com/newsspecials