Highlight Hole: No. 3 at Aviara

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Editor’s Note: You can find my overview of the playing experience at Aviara at the San Diego Tourism Authority’s web site: bit.ly/1ydQlF4

The short par 3 3rd at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad is the course’s signature hole, and for good reason. It’s as fun to play as it is botanically beautiful. The hole is at its peak this week for the LPGA’s KIA Classic. You know it when the reddish/orange tree in the backdrop is in bloom. It’s simply stunning.

The hole has a longish green that slopes back to front and is surrounded by a creek, ponds, a waterfall and a dazzlingly array of colorful foliage. The green is accessible by a wooden bridge, which only adds to the ambiance.

The hole is played from split tee boxes, which change the challenge and perspective on this hole. It plays to a max yardage of 149 yards and 147 from the blue tees.

Members will tell you that while a front pin may make the hole play shorter, a putt back to a front hole location is a slippery proposition. The better scoring opportunities are middle and back.

This hole also provides a preview of what are arguably the strongest group of par 3s in San Diego. Each are beautiful, and only the uphill par 3 6th doesn’t involve a carry over water.

Simply seeing No. 3 live and in peek condition might be worth the price of admission on its own this week. People I sent the above photo to this week thought it was photo-shopped. Nope. It’s just that good – naturally.

What follows is a photo tour of this spectacular par 3. I hope you enjoy the views.

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from bridge

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Maderas: Maria at the Kia – Getting to Know Maderas Pro Maria Hernandez

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On most any other beautiful Tuesday in San Diego, Maria Hernandez would’ve probably been a fixture on the course or the range at Maderas Golf Club.

This Tuesday, however, she took her talents north to prepare for the LPGA’s Kia Classic at Aviara Golf Club.

This is Hernandez’ fourth Kia Classic appearance and second time playing Aviara. Her career and perseverance over illness and injury were captured quite nicely in Tod Leonard’s Union-Tribune piece:
www.utsandiego.com/news/2015/mar/24/lpga-tour-maria-hernandez-tough-road/

So we chose to quiz the Spaniard Hernandez more on her tournament preparation, her love of Maderas and her relationship with her coach, Chris Mayson, whom she credits greatly for her evolution as a player.

Q. What do you like about Aviara?

A. It’s a good course. Big greens. The course conditions are always great. The rough is high, so you want to be in the fairway.

Q. How do you assess your game right now?

A. I had a great practice session today. My game is getting better. I had a good start in Phoenix (the last tournament) but didn’t play that well the second and third round. I’m playing great, but my scores aren’t showing it right now. Everything else is pretty good.

Q. What are you and Chris working on right now?

A. Mostly making my swing more consistent. For years, he’s been making swing changes to do that. As I’ve become more consistent, we’ve focused more on putting and short game and just playing freely.

Q. How many years have you worked with Chris? How did you two meet?

A. This is my fourth year. I went to Purdue and so did he. We started talked about it and then decided to work together after my first year on tour. My previous coach was in Spain and I needed someone who was able to support me more often.

I love working with him. He’s such a great teacher and communicator. He’s supported me so much through everything. And he knows so much about golf.

He’s the best person I’ve ever been around, not just coach.

He’s been a great coach for me. He’s rebuilt my entire swing. He’s done a great job with me. I can’t imagine being with anyone else.

Q. How do you like practicing down at Maderas? How does it prepare you for Aviara?

A. It’s a great golf course. They treat me unbelievable. The conditions are always good. It’s a great course to practice on because it’s tough. The greens aren’t as big as here, but they are still very good.

It feels like home for me there. They treat me great.

Whenever I’m in San Diego, I’m always there.

Q. Do you have a favorite hole or memory from playing the course?

A. I made an eagle on No. 14, the par 5. I remember the flag was in the way back. I holed out from the fairway. That was a great feeling. I didn’t even know it went it until someone told me. I didn’t see it. I just found out in the hole.

Q. Do you walk Maderas?

A. No, no. (Laughing). They let me ride the cart, and I don’t doubt them.

Q. What’s are your goal for the Kia?

A. I’d like to have a great week. I just want to control what I can control and hopefully it adds up. With the weather issues we’ve had recently, it’s great to have beautiful weather. I’m looking forward to a week of 18 holes a day and no delays.

JC Golf: Take The Par 3 Challenge For a Chance to Win Three Years of Free Golf

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Your prowess on the par 3s at the Reidy Creek executive course in Escondido could pay off in a big way In April.

At 10 a.m. on Masters Saturday, April 11th, a group of lucky golfers will tee it up on the par 3 18th at Reidy Creek for a chance to win up to three years of free golf.

A hole-in-one in the finals of the Reidy Creek Par 3 Challenge will win three years of free golf at Reidy Creek from JC Golf. A closest to the pin that doesn’t hole out will still be awarded one year of free golf.

Spots in the finals are earned through three qualifiers that are taking place in March. The next one is Friday, March 20, at 3 p.m. The final opportunity is Sunday, March 29, at 9 a.m. Admission to each qualifier is $35.

In the qualifiers, players play their normal 18-hole round and simply mark their tee shots as they would in a closest to the pin at a charity event. Each closest to the pin flag won earns one shot at No. 18 in the finale.

On the day off the finale, each winner will take their earned chances at No. 18 for a shot at the big prize. That hole will be a fitting place to spend Saturday during the Masters. The hole has a feel of Amen Corner, with a green sounded by water and accessed via a stone bridge.

Also on the day of the finals, bbq will served and a beer tasting will take place for participants, who are invited to stay and watch The Masters.

For information about the event, call 760.740.2450.

For more information about the course, see my overview of the Reidy Creek playing experience: http://socalgolfblog.com/2014/05/04/jc-golf-five-reasons-to-play-reidy-creek/

JC Golf: Highlight Hole – No. 18 at Rancho Bernardo Inn

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One of the most distinctive finishing holes in all of San Diego, and not just JC Golf, is the 18th at Rancho Bernardo Inn.

This closing par 5 starts with an elevated tee shot that can involve carrying a culvert and ends with an uphill approach to a triple-tiered green fronted by a creek and surrounded by two ponds with fountains.

The green view is the glimpse of the course that greets golfers at Rancho Bernardo Inn, and it’s stunning.

But for all its scenery, it’s a hole that requires more strategy than any other on the course. Rancho Bernardo Inn Director of Golf Bryon Penfield says No. 18 is one of the ultimate examples of a hole solved over time and rarely on the first try.

“You’ve definitely got to strategize there,” Penfield says. ”If you’ve playing it for the first time, you might get into some trouble.”

The hole is equal amounts trouble and temptation, which is another reason the hole is a local favorite.

“That hole is the most talked about amongst our regular players and guests,” Penfield says. “It’s got a unique design. It’s not your every-day golf hole.”

William Bell, the architect of Torrey Pines and many other public courses in Southern California, designed Rancho Bernardo Inn.

“His courses usually have some character,” Penfield says, “and No. 18 is a great example.”

Curiously, No. 18 was a much different golf hole when the course opened in 1962. Penfield says only a lake is present in photos of the hole’s original design.

“It was all grass and a lake,” Penfield says. “William Bell came back and added the water features later.”

And the lost ball count was forever changed.

The hole plays to 544 yards from the black tees, 527 from the blues and 508 from the whites. Not matter the tee, the tee shot immediately presents a challenge and a decision that makes this hole play as two different games – the first being a lone-drive contest.

A culvert crosses the fairway and comes into play off the tee. From the black tees, Penfield says it’s a 260-yard carry to cross, all be it often with a tail wind.

(Rule note: There is a bridge for golf cart crossing at the canal. For the most part, everything left of the bridge is considered a free drop by local rule and to the right is the water hazard. The area is marked in red.)

This is where the hole tempts the ego perhaps at the better judgment of strategy. It’s a macho moment to carry the culvert, but it doesn’t always prove to be the best play, Penfield says.

“There are a lot of different strategies there depending your length. Some guys will just fly it,” he says. “I’ve learned to play it as a three-shot hole.”

As have I. “Successful” crossings have sometimes left me blocked on the right side by trees. The rule here, Penfield says, is not to comprise your second shot with your first. Play short of the culvert and to the left of the fairway bunkers.

“The second shot is really big there,” he says. “Even if you make it, you’re still 220 out to an uphill, three-tiered green looking at creek and waterfall. That’s a challenging shot, probably a hybrid for most people. But a good par 5 does present that challenge.

“What people don’t realize on their second (laying up) is that the fairway slopes severely right to left. You’ve got to know to land it on the right side. If you’re even middle left, it might trickle into the water.
“You’ve got to pick your spots on every shot on 18 starting right from the tee shot. It’s a hole that always has you thinking.”

Penfield favors an iron shot on the second.

“The best way to do in most cases is to drive it short of the channel, then take a 7-iron or so layup and try to be between 80 or 90 yards in. Then you’ve got a full sand wedge to an uphill green.”

The mistake many make on their third is to under-club and bring the water into play, or they try to get too precise to a front-pin on the triple-tiered green.

What few realize, Penfield says, is that the hole offers a significant bailout area long and left. He factors it on the occasions he does try to go for eagle.

“If I go for it, I set up left and try to hit a cut. That way, if I don’t hit the cut I’m still OK,” he says. “But I’ve made it a couple times.”

Those who’ve reached in two, however, are far outnumbered by those who’ve found a watery grave for a potential birdie or par.

That sinking feeling is something nearly everyone who plays the hole has experienced, Penfield says, and it seems to only make them more determined the next time.

“We give people a golf course that makes them think a little bit,” he says. ““Our men’s and ladies’ clubs have played that hole for years and it still keeps them guessing. But that’s what a good golf hole should do.”

What’s been your experience at No. 18? Strategies? Successes? Failures you learned from? Please share your stories with us.

SD Tourism: Touring TaylorMade and the Other Golf Equipment Companies in Carlsbad

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Editor’s note: This post is part of an occasional series for the San Diego Tourism Authority. I’ll post the link after it goes live at www.sandiego.org.

As the home of the headquarters of TaylorMade Golf, Callaway and Cobra, Carlsbad is akin to the Silicon Valley of the golf equipment industry.

The game-changing birth of the metal wood occurred in Carlsbad and those companies been leading the technology boom that has revolutionized the game ever since.

Carlsbad presents a rare opportunity to visit all three of these influential brands at once. They are all headquartered within a few miles of each other.

TaylorMade, however, is the only one still offering regularly scheduled public tours. They take place every Tues. and Thurs. at 10 a.m. Cobra books private tours by appointment, while Callaway only books club fittings.

The following is a look at highlights and tips for taking the TaylorMade Tour, followed by information for booking appointments at Callaway and Cobra.

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Touring TaylorMade

As most any golfer knows, TaylorMade is the world’s leading equipment manufacturer. Their campus encompasses two buildings – only one of which you see on the tour – and the driving range, the hallowed Kingdom, a domain for the pros and other elite players.

The TaylorMade tour offers some insight into the company’s latest club technology – the new R15 driver is under glass in the lobby with the club head dissected– as well a peek at the manufacturing process and an overview of golf’s technology revolution.

A rotating team of TaylorMade volunteers hosts the roughly 45-minute tour so your experience may differ depending on their experience. For instance, our host was an engineer named Matt, so we got a more technology-based tour.

Regardless of the host, be prepared to provide your ID and sign an electronic confidentiality agreement while you’re waiting. Note: No photos or phones on the tour.

While you’re waiting for the tour to begin, you can peruse the latest TaylorMade equipment, which is on display in the lobby along with the staff bags as such TaylorMade Tour players as Justin Rose, Jason Day and Sergio Garcia.
The tour begins with a bit of history about not only TaylorMade but its parent company, Adidas, a high-performance sports apparel manufacturer. For golf, the most pertinent history is the story of Gary Adams bringing TaylorMade to Carlsbad to pursue his dream of launching a medal wood to supplant the wooden clubs of the past.

That history is displayed under glass in the next story of the tour – the Wall of History. There, 12 clubs are exhibited that capture the evolution of the metal era. There’s everything from TaylorMade’s first driver, the head of which is about the size of a modern-day rescue club, to the latest, the state-of-the-art R15.

In between, you witness club head sizes growing, metal materials changing and then club adjustability coming into the picture. Even for those who know their club history, there’s likely something to learn and appreciate here.

The next stop is the manufacturing floor, where 10,000 clubs are assembled each day. You see everything in production from putters to drivers and learn what a golf assembly line looks like. The manufacturing floor shares space with the massive warehouse where thousands of equipment orders are being processed and shipped daily.

The tour concludes with a look at one of the most exclusive parts of TaylorMade – The Kingdom. Golfers are usually only granted access here with permission of a club pro and to be professionally fitted.

Otherwise, this is where TaylorMade’s professionals come to get their equipment updated in a state-of-the-art environment and to practice on the driving range.

The Kingdom has a country-club feel all its own, complete with a posh lounge just inside the entrance. Worth perusing: the guestbook at the front desk. Inside, you’ll find photographs and signatures from touring pros and celebrities who’ve visited The Kingdom. It’s a veritable Who’s Who.

Who was Adidas’ first sponsored athlete (hint: think track)? Where does TaylorMade gets its name from? Why did Gary Adams chose to relocate his company to San Diego? What does the R stand for on TaylorMade’s drivers?

If some of those questions pique your interest, the TaylorMade tour has answers for you.
If your visit coincides with one of the professional tour events in San Diego, you might end up keeping company with a tour pro. To register for a tour at TaylorMade, call 760.918.6000.

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Touring Cobra

Cobra Puma, the company represented by the stylish Rickie Fowler, has designated times of the month when tours are available, but they are by appointment only.

Cobra has more modest facilities than TaylorMade, but there are still things to be seen, including the hitting bay and swing simulator the pros use at Cobra. There’s also a warehouse and merchandise area where the colorful array of the Cobra Puma product line is displayed.

The tour can take 30 minutes to an hour depending on what guests want to see. Working in a club fitting can add another hour or two.

To schedule a tour, a fitting, or both, call 760.710.3502.

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Getting Fitted At Callaway

Callaway Golf no longer offers public tours, but the headquarters does accommodate club fittings.

To learn more scheduling a fitting, go to www.callawaygolf.com/golf-clubs/custom-fitting/ and look under the custom fitting tab.

Maderas: Golf Digest Rates Maderas’ Mayson Among Best Young Teachers

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Golf Digest recently recognized Maderas Director of Instruction Chris Mayson as one of its top 40 teachers under the age of 40.

Being named one of America’s Best Young Teachers came after a bit of a wait for Mayson and some valuable feedback from the nomination process two years prior.

“I got asked to apply two years ago,” Mayson says. “I was mostly known for teaching elite and professional players but the feedback I got was that I didn’t teach enough amateurs, which I thought was pretty interesting.”

That critique prompted Mayson to expand his client base.

“I started teaching a few more amateurs and that experience has made me a better teacher,” he says. “I’m now able to coach a broader range of players.”

Mayson now coaches the USA Junior National Team in addition to his Maderas duties and his coaching of professionals, including PGA and LPGA tour pros. Mayson’s professional clients have included PGA Tour winner Brendan Steele, LPGA major winner Sun Young Yoo, LPGA Tour champions Beatriz Recari, IK Kim and Hee Won Han and European Tour winner and NCAA champion Maria Hernandez.

As for amateurs, in the last seven years Chris has coached 45 juniors to scholarships at universities, including Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona, San Francisco and San Diego St.

According to Golf Digest Senior Editor Peter Morrice, the ranking is partly based on impact on growing the game.

“We’re confident we have identified the instructors under the age of 40 who are making the biggest impact on the industry,” Morrice wrote. “The competition was very strong.”

Mayson says the recognition is both an honor and an obligation.

“It’s an honor to be included among such great teachers,” he says, “but is also makes me motivated to stay on the list and continue to achieve new things. I want to continue to educate myself so I can continue to provide the high levels of service I believe I’ve provided so far.”

You can learn more about Chris and the academy at www.chrismaysongolf.com.

Maderas: Stay Tuned For Chris Mayson’s Lesson Series on KUSI

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If you tune into KUSI on Saturday nights in March, Maderas members will see a familiar face.

Maderas Director of Instruction Chris Mayson stars in a series of 26 lesson clips that will start airing in March. (We’ll update this post with the start date when we have it.)

Here’s a sample of Mayson’s lesson pieces: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FdtlBe9sVv0.

If you miss the episodes when they air, you can track them down on YouTube or under the lesson tab on KUSI’s web site: www.kusi.com.

The Maderas blog will also be tracking the series and re-posting here periodically, so stay tuned.

Mayson was recently named one of Golf Digest’s top young teachers for 2014-15.

JC Golf: Trick Shot Showman Craig Hocknull Returns For Golf Fest 2015

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Photo courtesy of www.youtube.com

Out of all the tricks in Craig Hocknull’s bag of amazing golf trick shots, the most impressive one at Golf Fest last year might’ve been one the crowd never knew about: Hocknull performed both shows with a significant injury.

“My thumb was broken,” Hocknull said, referring to the recurrence of an injury that forced him off the professional tours and for a time threatened his performing career.

But that context also makes the compliment he received for his performance at Oaks North all the more impressive. One of the show’s vendors told him, “You know you’re one of the best ball strikers in the world, right?”

A healthy Hocknull will return to Golf Fest on March 6-7 to perform his Outback Golf Show at 1 p.m. each day and amaze audiences again with his unique ball-striking display.

Watching videos of Hocknull’s shows evokes comparisons to a one-man golf X Games. Hocknull hits balls rapid fire. He hits shots from his knees. He hits balls off tall tees and with crazy clubs, including one with a hammer head and another with a whippy seven-foot shaft.

Seeing the shots on video is one thing, Hocknull said. Seeing them live is another.

“I hit each ball solid and for distance,” he said. “A lot of people can hit the ball, but they don’t have the control or hit it as far as I do. I can shape shots.”

Hocknull, who teaches in Arizona and has been a teacher of the year, is in his 13th year of performing and does around 20 shows a year. Hocknull is from Australia’s Outback and got introduced to the game at a young age. His show contains a lot of Aussie themes and elements – and audience participation.

Hocknull often hits balls thrown, or bounced, to him by audience members.

“That’s one of my signature tricks,” he said.

After coming to America to play college golf at Jackson St., Hocknull started to dabble with trick shots after he began his teaching career. He found the routine came easily to him.

“I was able to do most of them the first time I tried them, or within a few swings,” he said. “It was all pretty natural.”

After adding a little showmanship, such a golf magic tricks, Hocknull had a career.

Hocknull said his primary purpose is to entertain, but he hopes the show recruits people to the game.

“I went people to leave the show shaking their heads about what they’ve seen, but also to realize how much fun golf can be.”

He said he’s caught kids on the driving range after the show trying to toss balls in the air and hit them or emulate other parts of his act.

With his hand healed, Hocknull said he’s eyeing a return to competitive golf and possibly the Web.com Tour.

“It won’t be this year because it takes time to line up sponsors,” he says, “but I figure to have a good year competitively.”

Until then, the show goes on.

To purchase advance tickets or learn more about the show, go to www.golffestshow.com.

To learn more about the show and see Craig perform, or to book him for an event, go to www.outbackgolfshow.com.

Highlight Hole: No. 8 at Aviara

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As a rule, downhill par 5s in golf are just fun. Throw in some scenery and you’ve really got something special.

That’s what you have in No. 8 at Aviara in Carlsbad, home of the LPGA’s KIA Classic.

No. 8 plays to 519 yards from the blues and 489 yards from the whites, but you can throw those numbers out because of the topography. It plays much shorter.

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The tee shot is one of those that gets your juices going. There’s nothing but downhill and an interstate-wide, tree-lined fairway in front of you. Ideally, you want to be right here for the best approach angle and the good news is that you can go even more right than it seems. But the left side is manageable too; you just won’t be harboring hopes of getting home in two.

Strip one 290-300 on the right and you’re in the go zone here, but with an asterisk. The green is fronted by water – a creek to the left that fills a pond on the right. If the pin is front right, you’re laying up. A narrow green and surrounding water make it too much of a risky play.

However, pin middle or left and you’re likely thinking eagle, as the LPGA players undoubtedly do.

I’ve never gone for it here. My usual play is driver then 6- or 7-iron to a comfortable wedge shot. The approach amphitheater is one of the best on the course. At about 150 yards, you have a waterfall in the left, creating a bucolic setting.

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Looking down on the sizeable green, this is an approach shot you can feel comfortable sticking from a ways out, but I’ve always felt most comfortable about 100-120 yards out on the right side. A correctly judged shot should leaves you with a look at birdie, though there’s always that putt, which at Aviara tends to be slippery.

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The walk to the green from behind gives you another view of this beautiful hole to appreciate, looking back over the water and up the fairway.

The par 5s at Aviara, as at most courses, are your chance to really make a mark on the scorecard, but that’s particularly true at the 8th. You’ll be kicking yourself a bit if you let this one get away. No. 8 falls within a trio of downhill holes at Aviara that set up for a strong close to your front nine.

The recommendation here is to play the percentages, take a little time to appreciate the views and best of luck with the putt.

FIO and AT & T Salute Military Service With Ultimate Fan Experience

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From left: JR Luna, Director of Retail Execution, AT&T Southwest & Hawaii; Anthony Jay Johnson, U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer; Art Felix, Director of Sales, AT&T; and Loren Mansell, Business Operations Director, AT&T.

Story and photos courtesy of Gable PR

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Anthony (Tony) Jay Johnson enjoyed the golf opportunity of a lifetime this year when he won a day at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines with 19 of his friends and family, hosted by AT&T.

To recognize a service member or veteran who has served or is serving our country, AT&T and Farmers Insurance Open hosted a contest during January where all current and former members of the United States Armed Forces were encouraged to submit a “patriotic selfie” and/or brief description using #ATTSalutes of why they or someone else who has served or is serving deserved a day at the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open. Johnson was nominated by a friend and won the contest.

Johnson, a resident of Tierrasanta, recently moved to San Diego with his family to be stationed at Afloat Training Group, where he is responsible for checking on-ship systems and protocols. Johnson joined the Navy after graduating high school over 20 years ago and has been deployed seven times, mostly in the Arabian Gulf.

On Sunday, Feb. 8, Johnson attended the golf tournament with his wife, four children and other military members and retirees that he has befriended throughout his travels. The group was hosted in the Pacific Club, a semi-private venue on the 18th fairway, and treated to all-inclusive hospitality and phenomenal golf viewing valued at $6,000. AT&T executives also attended the event to celebrate with Johnson and thank him for his service.

In November 2013, AT&T announced that it was stepping up its veteran recruiting efforts with the goal of hiring 10,000 veterans and their family members into career opportunities over the next five years, consistent with its commitment to equal employment opportunities. In 2013, AT&T hired nearly five times as many veterans as compared to 2012.