Morgan Pressel’s 64 on Friday tied the Aviara Golf Club course record set by Dori Carter in last year’s Kia Classic. Above we’ve provided a look at Pressel’s record round. (If you trouble viewing the scorecard, click to enlarge.) That’s a lot of circles. Congrats, Morgan.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A year ago, the PGA instituted its answer to the NFL’s long-standing “Punt, Pass and Kick” youth skills competition with “Drive, Chip & Putt.”
The competition culminated in the finals being held at Augusta National the week of the Masters, which got the attention of youth golfers everywhere – and their parents.
Seeing the finalists on television at the Masters, including 11-year-old Lucy Li, who played in last week’s LPGA U.S. Open, has already sparked a rise in this year’s turnout. To handle the anticipated increase, the Southern California PGA has expanded the number of Southern California local qualifiers from 10 to 14, including one for the first time at Encinitas Ranch on July 7th.
Finalists in the four age divisions for boys and girls at Encinitas Ranch will advance to a sub-regional on Aug. 18th at La Costa Resort and Spa and then on to Torrey Pines on Sept. 13th to compete for the trip to Augusta.
Matt Gilson, Player Development Manager at the Southern California PGA, took a few minutes recently to answer some questions about this year’s competition.
Q. Southern California had two winners at last year’s inaugural competition at Augusta. What was their experience like?
A. Everybody had a blast. They got to meet (past champion) Adam Scott and (current champion) Bubba Watson. Going to the Master is every golfer’s dream come true. And they got everything covered for them and one parent, including tickets to the practice round on Monday. The whole package was really good.”
Q. How much has seeing all that one TV stirred interest this time around?
Sign-ups were a little slow because we were competing with school, but they’re starting to pick up. We’re definitely seeing an increase in participation. And I’ve seen kids who’ve never picked up a club before now going to the range the week before. There’s definitely motivation there with kids realizing they could end up on TV.
Q. Besides the increased number of qualifiers, how has the competition changed in year two? And what are the age categories?
Last year, we maxed out our qualifiers at 120 participants and this year it’s 200. The age ranges are 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 with both boys and girls division. And those ages are determined by how old they would be on April 5th, 2015, which is the date of the national championship, so the youngest age to enter would be 6 if they would but 7 on or by April 5th, 2015.
Q. How does the competition work?
It’s a nine-shot competition that starts with putting. There’s a 6-foot putt, a 15 foot and a 30 foot. The hole is surrounded by scoring rings that provide points for how close they get. The max is 25 points for a holed putt.
They then have three chip shots, from about 12-15 yards, to a hole with scoring rings out to 10 feet and a make, again, is worth 25 points.
Then they have three swings on a 40-by-300-yard grid on a driving range. Beyond 300 yards is 25 points.
The highest total score wins and the top three in each age division advances from that age group’s qualifier to the next round. The top two in the sub-regional advance to Torrey Pines and the boy and girl winner in each division advances to the championship at Augusta.
Q. How do players or parents register, and how much does it cost?
Registration is free, and players sign up at www.drivechipandputt.com.
Q. What’s the atmosphere like at these events?
It’s competitive, but we still want kids to have fun. That’s the most important thing.
The view of No. 18 from last year’s tournament
As finishing holes go in San Diego, few, if any, come much tougher than No. 18 at Aviara.
This dogleg right par-4 wraps around a lake that runs along most of the fairway and to the green, providing a serene and aesthetically pleasing finish, but also one that’s been known to swallow a lot of golf balls.
This hole was a major factor in the LPGA’s KIA Classic last year and not just because it hosted the two-hole playoff won by Beatriz Recari. It played as the toughest hole of the tournament, averaging well over par.
Aviara Director of Golf Renny Brown says the hole plays unusually tough for the tournament because of a unique circumstance.
“From the fairway, the grandstand build-out blocks the wind, so the flag doesn’t move. A lot of girls were coming up short last year because when the ball would get above the grandstand, the wind would knock it down,” Brown says. “They had trouble gauging the wind.”
The wind on 18 blows off the Pacific Ocean and Batiquitos lagoon, making it play even longer than the 413 yards from the blue tees, which is what the Kia uses.
The tee shot alone is challenge here to say the least. Besides water on your right, you’ve got out of bounds and bunkers lurking on your left. With the wind blowing, this fairway can feel very small.
According to a review of Aviara at worldgolf.com, Arnold Palmer once described this as the toughest finishing hole he’s ever designed.
It quoted Palmer as saying, “You have the lagoon on the left and a pond and waterfall to the right. Even if you hit a strong drive, you have to think on the approach, because the fairway narrows to 20 yards.
“It took me a long time to realize you need to be safe and go for the back of the green (on your second shot) to stay away from the water.”
At the Kia media day, Recari offered her professional opinion on how to play 18 from the tee.
“You have to play to the right, just inside the bunker,” Recari says. “I usually hit driver, but I hit 3-wood there last year (in the playoff) because the wind was up.
“If you land it to the right of that bunker, you’ve got a good chance.”
Recari plays a draw, as do I, which makes a driver a nervous play here for me. I took Recari’s advice on media day and pulled 3-wood. I hit the best shot I’ve ever hit on 18 and, though a little too close to the lake, I had 160 to get home and a good lie. And then … yank. OB.
I’ve done this the last three times (grrr) I’ve had played this hole. I suspect the wind is at work, though it mostly factors in in that it leaves me one club longer than what I’d prefer – my 7 iron.
Therefore, unfortunately, I can’t speak to going for birdie or par here, but Brown has a tip about reading putts on 18.
“Forget about putts breaking to the ocean,” he says. “Once you’re standing on the green, look back toward the fairway and use that tilt to judge the putt.”
Speaking of putts, new this year is a plaque on 18 honoring where Recari hit her winning putt from the fringe last year.
As well all know, hitting Aviara’s helipad-size green is one thing; putting them is another.
And given how straight the female Tour players hit it, putting is everything at the Kia, Brown says.
“The winner out here is going to be someone who’s top five in putting,” he says. “The greens are so massive out here that it becomes a putting contest.”
While 18 has a fierce reputation, Brown says it’s actually the second of closing one-two punch for the women, given that No. 17, a par-5, is the longest hole on the LPGA at 565 yards.
That leaves the drivable par-4 16th as the best last stand for birdie. Because if it comes down to 18, you’re really going to earn it.
For my part, I plan to stake out 18 this week until I see a birdie, just to see what one looks like there. And while I’m waiting, maybe I’ll go see if any of my old approach shots are still buried beneath the brush on the Batiquitos trail.