Tag Archives: Carlsbad

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 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. Tours are given on Thursdays.

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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.

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.

Maderas: Aviara Golf Club Joins Troon Golf; Five Highlights of the Course and Experience

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Aviara Golf Club at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad has joined the Troon Golf global network of more than 200 courses.

Currently the annual host of the LPGA’s KIA Classic, Aviara is routinely rated one of California’s top resort courses and is the only Arnold Palmer design in San Diego. Impeccable landscaping and being situated next to the Batiquitos Lagoon define the property, which also features dramatic elevation changes on the front nine.

Each hole is truly a unique experience at Aviara.

“Aviara Golf Club at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort is a spectacular property, and we are excited to be involved,” stated John Easterbrook, executive vice president of operations at Troon. “Located in an ideal golf destination, we are confident that our services and expertise will contribute positively to the facility’s success.”

The property’s amenities include: a two-story, 32,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial clubhouse and the adjoining Argyle Steakhouse with indoor and outdoor balcony seating; showers, locker rooms; an upscale golf shop, driving range and an oversized practice putting green.

Troon players, including Maderas members, can now enjoy playing privileges at Aviara.

For those Troon members unfamiliar with Aviara, we provide the following five highlights of the course and overall playing experience.

1. Immaculate landscape – On the first tee, the starter welcomes you to an 18-hole botanical garden, and that’s exactly what Aviara is. An amazing array of plants and flowers accent every hole. The course is truly a visual treat. There’s always something in bloom at Aviara.

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2. Oversized greens –
Aviara is known for having greens the size of helipads. Get ready to stroke some of the longest putts you’ve ever hit if you can’t knock it close.

The greens are the course’s defining characteristic, which is funny considering they were originally a construction mistake. The construction crew doubled the size of the greens on the front nine. Rather than tear up the greens, course officials chose to double the size of the greens on the back to match.

The result is what you might term a happy accident, as players now look forward to the sizable undulating greens at Aviara.

3. Outstanding par 3s – The strength of the course is its par 3s, which many consider as a group to be the best in San Diego. Three of the four feature carries over water and are, again, impeccably landscaped. No. 3, a short par 3 with ponds in front and right, is considered the course’s signature hole. No. 6, the only one without water, is the toughest of the bunch. It’s a long uphill, a nearly 200-yard carry, to a blind green. An ocean crosswind can complicate matters even more here. The two par 3s on the back are all carry over water, with No. 14 being from an elevated tee box. You will want an iron and a camera phone on the par 3s because they are truly beautiful golf holes.

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Left: No. 11. Right: No. 14.

4. Sweet Treats – Aviara loves to tempt your sweet tooth. There are fresh-baked cookies available next to the putting green and a special treat waiting for you on the course. The course marshal usually greets you on the 8th green with a bucket of Tootsie Pops. Hopefully you’re walking off the green with birdie, but if not, you’ve at least go a consolation prize.

5. No. 18, a beauty and a beast – Besides having the best par 3s, Aviara may also boast the toughest closing hole in the county. This dogleg right offers a beautiful view of the Batiquitos Lagoon from the tee. Savor the view because you might not like what happens next. There’s water right, OB left and likely an ocean breeze in your face. Ideally, you want to place you tee shot just inside the fairway bunker on the left and we recommend clubbing down to a 3-wood if necessary to do it.

You just want to be in the fairway here and not the water. Then you’ve got a long, narrow approach into a green where water is still in play on the left, cascading down a gorgeous waterfall. Par is a great score here, but here’s guessing it’ll take you a few rounds to card one. After playing this course nearly a dozen times, I’m still waiting.

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No. 18 at Aviara during the KIA Classic

To book a tee time at Aviara, call 760.603.6900. You can learn more about the course at www.golfaviara.com.


Photo Post: An Inside Look at SKLZ

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You’re going to be reading more about SKLZ on the blog very soon, so I’m going to fast-forward the company story for now except to say that SLKZ is a company involved in the training of elite athletes. They produce unique training products meant to enhance athletic performance and those training tools are then employed in intense workouts that take place at the SKLZ headquarters in Carlsbad.

Today, I just wanted to take you inside the SKLZ facility, which has a heavily industrial feel, start with its front door. Beyond that, we’re going to show you what an elite athlete training facility looks like, but we advise you to take the tour on your own if you can because the entire place is an experience. SKLZ is located on Faraday Ave., not far from TaylorMade Golf.

You can read more about them at www.sklz.com.

To the tour …

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Even if it’s automated, merely walking through the front door at SKLZ is a confidence builder. It feels like you just opened something with the tonnage of a bank vault door. It sets the ton for what you experience inside.

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This is the main gym floor, equipped with the latest in weight and resistance training equipment. You can’t see it very well here, but the far wall is marked with a bunch of black streaks. Those are from medicine balls being flung against it. When you see where those marks are, you know we’re talking about some serious strength.

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Step out about and you discover the facility’s 50 yards of artificial turf. I trained here for my golf workout piece for Southland Golf. Among the exercises, my trainer had my balance on the goal line. I was doing half OK until he said, “Now close your eyes.” Uh, oh.

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This is the other half of the field, just to show the rest of the space. You can do a lot training with 50 yards of turf. We did plenty in just 15 minutes.

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As any good training space should, SKLZ is decorated with a number of motivational murals. I love this stuff.

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This is the best photo representation of what SKLZ does. These are the their golf training aids. They also work with football, baseball/softball, basketball and soccer. They are in constant creative mode, developing products that can help athletes reach their full potential.

My training piece in Southland Golf should be posted. Look for it on the blog under the Southland Golf tab.


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Friday Photo Post: Huge Waves in Cbad/Oside

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After more than two years of living here now, one of my self-styled favorite California credos has become: When in doubt, walk the beach.

Given my recent travels, I was away from the beach for a week and thus suffering dreaded beach withdrawal. After sending out a virtual blizzard of post-PGA Show emails on Thursday, I needed to rest my fried creative brain. So I closed my laptop around 3 p.m. and pointed by sandaled toes westward.

What I witnessed on the beach over the next three hours reinforces what I tell people about CA: Its ability to wow you in an instant is part of what makes it such an incredible and, for me, inspiring place. Seemingly mundane can turn magical in a California heartbeat. And that’s what happened Thursday.

I walked out to an ocean that at first glance appeared normal. It was doing its usual rhythmic, splashy, beautiful thing … until it turned into something else: a performance.

The more I walked north, from Carlsbad’s beach to Oceanside’s, the more I noticed that the frequency of the waves was becoming more intense. The waves were literally coming in waves – in sets of four or five.

Then the size of the waves became noticeably larger, which is something I might’ve missed two years ago (Note: the blog neither surfs nor swims).

The noticeably agitated state of the ocean was doubly confirmed to me when a tank-topped California blonde male passerby and I had the following conversation:

Him: “Dude, where’s the beach?”

To translate Californian, he wasn’t asking where the beach was, because that question is just silly. We all know where the beach is.

He was asking, “Where did the beach go?” Moreover, “What’s the deal with the ocean?”

I related to him something a surfer told me near the Oceanside pier minutes earlier. Apparently hurricanes near Hawaii are sending us massive surf. The surfer was reporting 8-foot waves and said his surfer buddies were abandoning the water.

“It’s getting rough out there,” he said.

And it was. I watched the surfers for a good 10 minutes and it was like witnessing an amateur bull-riding competition. No one was staying up for more than three seconds.

You have to understand that this is really aggressive surf for Carlsbad/Oceanside.

Anyway, I tried to capture this event in pics – and nearly lost my iPhone doing it (more on that shortly).

Land-locked photogs won’t appreciate this, but taking interesting photos of the ocean isn’t that easy. You can’t just point your camera phone at the water and get great pics, which I know sounds absurd, but it’s true.

To get something not mundane of the ocean, you need two things: perspective or scale. Or both. Perspective defined: elevation (a lifeguard tower, a cliff, etc.). Scale defined: boats, rocks, people – something other than water compared to water.

Again, I know this sounds totally ridiculous, but I’m going to spare you posting about 50 boring ocean photos from yesterday that completely failed to capture what was happening to make my point.

Instead, I’ll post these, which are my amateur best. Trust me, it was a rad day to be on the beach. And, yes, that’s the first time I’ve ever used rad in a blog post. I was saving it. And today is supposed to be a rad ocean day as well. Now to the swell swells …

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This is the one of the entrances to Carlsbad beach. As the cops say, “There’s nothing to see here.” Well, nothing except normal, beautiful, awesome. This is what it looks like nearly every day.

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This photo probably looks like nothing, but trust me, it’s something. This was the first indication of more frequent waves than usual.

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This is what a pier getting pounded looks like. And it took the perspective of the pier to really properly capture what was going on.

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See?

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And this is what it looks like when you nearly lose your iPhone in the ocean. I had waded out into the water a bit to try to get a closer perspective on the pier. In that instant, a ropey strand of kelp washed up and wrapped around my ankles like a python. I briefly couldn’t move and then a wave hit me waist high and nearly took me out.

I immediately retreated to the beach. I have no business being in a turbid Pacific Ocean.

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Some of us stopped to appreciate what was going on. But many others just kept on doing their California thing, meaning …

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Running.

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Reading.

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And walking where you’d normally walk despite the fact that normally dry area is now engulfed in waves. This isn’t the best photo to show that, but it’s my best pic of the horizon. Photo editors have to make these sorts of tough calls. That’s what the blog pays me for. Or, more accurately, doesn’t pay me for.

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And this concludes our virtual day at the beach. If I get something good later, I’ll update and, as always, keep you posted.

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The Year in Par-3s, Part III

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Photo courtesy of www.sandiegogolf.com

I conclude my three look at 2013’s most memorable par-3s with three more holes that made indelible first impressions.

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No. 3 at Aviara Golf Club (Carlsbad)

As a group, the par-3s at Aviara are the best I’ve played in San Diego County.

They’re a sensational mix of distance, difficulty and beauty. The long uphill par-3 6th is the only one not played over water, and it’s undoubtedly the toughest of the bunch. How often do you say that about a course?

The answer I’m probably supposed to give in this space is No. 11, since it’s the signature hole and certainly botanically beautiful, as almost all of Aviara is.

But I’m going with No. 3, which is plenty gorgeous in its own right, because it was the more memorable hole from personal experience and from attending the LPGA’s Kia Classic.

As you can see from the photo, No. 3 is a short par-3 played to a green, by far one of the smaller ones on the course, with water looming left and right. It can also be water short and right depending on where they put the tee box. This holes has multiple tees that vary how the hole is played tremendously, which is one of the things I really love about it.

I remember walking up on this hole at the Kia and just marveling at it. It’s a short par-3 that is beautifully framed and accented, but this beauty is tougher than it looks.

At the Kia, I watched this hole be feast or feminine for the pros. It’s a terrific tournament hole to watch because you get such a great range of golf.

Personally, I found the water right (Splish!) and then right (Splash!) again the first two times I played it. The third time, my ball finally found the green on the right side, leaving me a devilish downhiller that I nearly sank for birdie.

Amongst my golf friends who play here, No. 3 is one those holes that becomes like soap in the shower: Birdie slips away time after time on this hole even when you think you’ve got it down and know every putt by heart.

Another cool thing about this hole, and the course itself, is that you can really appreciate the change of seasons here. It’s beautiful year round, but, as you can see at top, spectacular when the course is blooming.

You may not par all the par-3s at Aviara, but changes are you won’t have to think too hard to remember them.

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No. 16 at Barona Creek (Lakeview)

I might nickname this hole “The Speed Bump” because it kept from me shooting what should’ve been a pretty nice number on the back nine at Barona twice.

It’s not a long hole – just a shade under 140 yards – but I can’t seem to club it right, and, as you can see, save for leaving it way out left, there’s no good miss here. The myriad of deep bunkers short and long, not to mention the deep native grasses, have the pin here protected like Fort Knox.

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This hole and the one I posted from Wilshire CC have a lot in common, but this one’s tougher.

If I can solve No. 16, I’m confident I can break 40 on the back at Barona as long as the green speeds are reasonable.

I look forward to giving it a go on what certainly was one of my favorite courses this year. I have yet to find a golfer who’s played here who doesn’t speak longingly about going back.

There is a seductive quality about the course and a challenge that, intentionally, always seems just a round away from being met. I plan to meet it in 2014.

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No. 17 at Dove Canyon CC (Dove Canyon)

California is blessed with an abundance of elevated par-3s, so much so that people seem to take them a bit for granted, like par-3s are just born that way. Being from the Midwest, I can tell you they aren’t.

That said, I can’t imagine anyone taking 17 at Dove Canyon for granted.

When you come to the tee on 17, especially the back tees, you can’t help but do a double-take and then just laugh. It looks like you’ve discovered the Grand Canyon of golf. It’s a golf hole that seems a bit preposterous, yet totally great.

You’re so high up that the flagstick stick looks small, like you might be mistaking it for a landscaping stake or something.

It seriously feels like you’re hitting it off a 10-story building. And no matter where you tee it up, I deem it to be about a two-club drop.

From the blue tees, I hit an easy 8-iron that nearly flew the green. I surely could’ve gotten home jumping on a pitching wedge.

But the tee shot is only half the story here. The green has dramatic drop-offs on the front and back. My ball landed beyond that back tier. Figuring I’d have to muscle it up the five-foot rise to get it to the hole, I watched my putt clear the ridge and shoot right past the hole. A two-putt comebacker left me with a bogey.

This is really the kind of hole where you’d love to take a shag bag to the tee and just drop wedges and short irons to see if you could get lucky. It certainly rated as one of the most fun holes of the year.

I also recall that as I walked off the green, I spied a speck of white in the bushes. I plucked out a lost ball stamped “The Olympic Club” – you know, that little place where they played the U.S. Open two years ago?

One of my rules is that you can tell the quality of the course you’re playing by the lost balls you find. And this is the course were I saw the 20 deer.

Yes, Mr. Nicklaus has created quite an experience here. And hats off to you on No. 17.

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Highlight Hole: No. 5 at La Costa (Legends Course)

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La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad recently completed a $50 million renovation that included an extensive makeover of both 18-hole championship golf courses.

I was part of a media contingent on Tuesday that was the first to play the renovated Legends Course (formerly the South Course). You might recall the South from its days of hosting the PGA Tour’s Accenture Match Play, which was last held at La Costa in 2000.

I have now played both renovated 18s and will have more to say about them in future posts, but for now I just wanted to give you a little glimpse of the new look of the Legends Course.

This is the par-4 5th, the last of the five par-4s the Legends Course opens with. No. 5 is a mid-length par-4 – 370 yards from the blues and 346 from the whites – that plays even shorter due to the downhill. It’s a bit of a breather after what’s actually a pretty tough stretch of opening holes, but, overall, it’s indicative of what you get on the Legends Course.

You can see the reworked bunkers waiting near the landing area, and this is how bunkering tends to be at La Costa – more strategically placed than plentiful.

There’s plenty of room left, but I pushed my tee shot right and flirted with a drainage ditch on the right side. Fortunately the healthy rough held me up 2 feet short. I had a pitch over a tree to what is the Legends Course’s best defense – small greens.

This is one thing that really didn’t change much during the redesign. Whereas the greens on the Champions Course are pretty sizeable, the Legends Course greens remain quite small by modern standards but true to the original design from 1969. Let’s just say you earn every GIR on the Legends Course.

Unfortunately, my approach hit the bank next to the green and bounded off into the bunker. I ended up making an unsatisfying five given that I was within 50 yards off the tee.

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Not the ideal approach at No. 5

There are certainly tougher holes – although this is the No. 5 handicap, which surprised me – on the Legends Course but this one is undoubtedly pleasing to the eye.

The originally routing on the Legends Course remains intact, but the greens on Nos. 1, 12 and 15 were slightly relocated during the renovation and the 17 green was moved most significantly, closer to the water. That doesn’t me mean much to those of us, like me, who barely knew the old course (I only played it once) but members are certain to appreciate the changes, which actually made the course play a little shorter. It’s now 6,587 from the blue tees and almost 7,000 from the tips.

No. 15, a dandy dogleg left par-4 with a carry over a creek on the second shot, starts what the pros used to call “The Longest Mile in Golf,” named for the lengthy finishing holes, often played into a stiff ocean breeze, that stood between them and the finish. I can tell you the wind was dead into us on Tuesday and it wasn’t pretty on the scorecards.

While La Costa is a private club, it is open to public play. My understanding is that daily play for members and guests will rotate between the two courses with the members having sole access to one course each day.

If you’ve played the South Course (Legends) in the past, you may find one thing disappointing when you return. The signage that used to commemorate famous shots from the pros – such as Phil Mickelson driving the green on 15 (really????) and Tiger Woods being the first player to reach the par-5 17 in two – are gone.

It’s a shame that history won’t be marked going forward, but I guess the reasoning is that it isn’t the same course, which, in the case of No. 17, for instance, is certainly true.

Still, the Legends is a serious test of golf and La Costa, especially with its glorious Christmas tree, sparkles as a venue and gives you that feel of being in one of golf’s special places.

If you play the renovated courses and read this, feel free to post your comments on the new-look La Costa as there are certainly many who are more familiar with the courses than I and can give a more informed take.

For more extensive details about the renovation, you can go to www.lacosta.com.

Equipment Insider: Talking Golf Shafts With John Hovis of Fujikura

This is the first of what will become an occasional series, in conjunction with world-renowned Vista-based golf shaft manufacturer and supplier Fujikura, about golf shafts, the fitting process and fitters. In this first installment, we profile Fujikura’s John Hovis, a veteran fitter and manager of Fujikura’s Fit-On Studio. John provides his insights about the shaft-fitting process and what can be gained for your game.

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Name: John Hovis

 Hometown: Phoenix

 Family: Lives in San Marcos, Calif., with his wife and four kids, including twin daughters

 College: Golf Academy of America and entered the PGA apprentice program at Kapalua after graduation

Career at Fujikura: He started in 2003 in product development and as a tour rep. John currently works in product development and manages the fitting studio in Vista and continues tour-related responsibilities involving product supply and repair.

 Years of fitting experience: 21

How to maximizing your fitting session: Know what you want to work on and what club(s) you want fit – driver, woods, irons. Be prepared to answer questions about tendencies, ball flight, misses, etc. What’s the change/improvement you’re seeking?

Fitting philosophy: We work with the swing that walks in the door. We want you to walk out very confident that you can take to the golf course what we produced indoors.

Fit insight: We test our designs on tour first, but if it works there, we know it’s going to work for every flex down the line.

Famous fits: A lot of former and current football, baseball and hockey players. They mastered their sport and then were humbled by golf, and they like that challenge. We’ve had LaDanian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk, but Leslie O’Neal (former Chargers defensive end) was an interesting fit.

His swing was all force, all big muscles, and we used a very stiff handle to handle his very hard down swing. Then we needed to help him time it at the bottom with a softer shaft tip so that so he’d deliver that clubface squarely.

 Future of fitting: The advancement of materials, particularly graphite, is really exciting. In the grand scheme of things, graphite iron shafts are still relatively new. There have been huge strides the last five years to make them play like steel.

Graphite iron shafts have gained in popularity on tour, but the benefits are great for the amateur player as well. The dampening effect of graphite is great for joint pain, arthritis, back pain, etc. Graphite can decrease the amount of stress on every shot for all of that, and maybe that allows someone to play a little longer, practice a little longer.

The stigma of inconsistency graphite used to have is gone. It’s miles beyond and really where amateurs should seek to make a change.

Highlight Hole: No. 14 at Aviara

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Prior to teeing off at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, the starter informs you that you’re about to enter an 18-hole botanical garden that also happens to be a golf course. The Hyatt resort course more than lives up to those lofty landscape expectations, providing impeccable natural accents to nearly every hole, but especially the par-3s.

Aviara gives numerous worthy candidates for a Highlight Hole feature, but I decided on No. 14 because it captures the essence and challenge of Aviara and because it’s a hole you might miss if you go as a spectator for the LPGA tourney. The hole is at the most remote part of the course, but the setting is entirely worth the trip.

No. 14 plays up to 190 yards from the blue tees, but it played closer to the white-tee distance of 164 on Sunday. Save for the water on the right, this doesn’t look like a tough tee shot. For one, look at the size of that green. As many greens are at Aviara, it’s spacious, to say the least. But I can tell you from experience, it’s one whale of a putt if you hit the green in a different zip code than the hole. You’re primed for a three-putt.

And 190 off the tee is different story than 164. It’s advisable to club up here as I’ve been told it plays long, though I’ve only played it twice. I’ll keep the technicals brief on this one because playing the hole is only half the experience.

The green view is stunning. That pond is fed by three waterfalls, which become visible once you reach the green. And then you get an elevated view of the entire water feature when you tee off on No. 15. It’s a magnificent little corner of the course and begins a terrific stretch of holes to the finish that provide a great balance of scenic and score-able, save for perhaps No. 18, the No. 2 handicap hole.

I botched 14 by pushing my tee shot right into thick rough near the water. After a  tough chip, I two-putted to bogey a hole that played probably as easily as it can play that day. Short tee. Pin away from the water. Reasonable green speed. Oh, well.

I look forward to next time and wish you well on your first if you haven’t played here yet. You should always stop to smell the flowers, as the say, when playing golf, but that’s especially true at Aviara.

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View of the shared water feature from the 15th tee box.

Power Trip: The Par-5s at The Crossings

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The green on No. 7 at The Crossings

         Opinions vary about the Carlsbad’s city course, The Crossings – usually in direct proportion to people’s ability to make the canyon carries – but one group that unilaterally loves it here are the big hitters.

         The reason why? The par-5s.

         If you’re long off the tee, you’re a little – or even a lot – longer here thanks to a natural assist on three of the four par-5s. That power boost gives you the green light to go for those three holes in two, although I know people who’ve made all four, but challenging the water on No. 7 seems more an ego play than smart strategy.

         Length comes in handy for sure on some of the par-4s as well – particularly the brutish uphill No. 6 – but the reward, especially emotionally, isn’t the same as really sailing one on holes 4, 15 and 16, the holes with the elevated tee boxes, and then pondering the possibility of eagle as you drive to your ball.

         I’ve made three of the four par-5 greens in two and am here to show you the way home and take a closer look at what many probably consider the four most fun holes on the course.

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         No. 4, 572 yards (blacks), 567 (blues), 561 (whites) – No matter where you tee it up, you’re aiming at the same place: just to the left – five yards or so – of the driving stake. Carry the canyon, hit it there and at between 260 and 270 yards, there’s a speed slot that will reward you with 25 or even 30 more yards and a level lie to go for the green.

         About that green: it’s the size of a helipad, unusually large for a par-5, but that’s what makes it all the more tempting. About the risk: see that sand trap just off the right side of the fairway before the green? It comes up faster than you think. Fly it and you’re OB.

         If you end up short of the green here, your ball settles into a collecting area, perfect for a pitch in with birdie still attainable.

         This is your most likely hole to land an eagle.

         No. 7, 556 yards (blacks), 546 (blues), 529 (whites) – The Crossings’ signature hole, located just past the end of the Callaway driving range, has a slightly downhill fairway that leads to a beautifully landscaped waterfall finish.

         Really, any tee shot that doesn’t land on the street left here, or too high on the hillside on the right, will do because you’re laying up on your second, but for the thrill seekers that want to challenge the water and try to get home in two, you’ve probably go to be slightly left to give yourself an angle and not be blocked by the hillside.

         I’m normally driver/6-iron/wedge here into a green with a ridge dividing it into upper and lower tiers. The one way I’ve messed this hole up is get greedy on my second shot and pull it into the bunkers on the left. That’s not an approach shot you want. I’ve splashed down every time.

         Otherwise, the approach shot can produce some interesting outcomes here. My last wedge in caught the ridge and pulled back to within a few feet of flag. I’ve seen people use the natural backstop here with mixed results. Sometimes it releases and sometimes … well, have fun chopping it out of a severe downhill lie toward the water.

         It’s the least likely of the four to eagle, but probably the most likely to birdie because it forces you to play smart.

          No. 15, 543 yards (blacks), 520 (blues), 492 (whites) – Another elevated tee to a downhill fairway, and the trickiest tee shot of the four par-5 tee shots. The fairway is a dogleg left and you don’t have nearly the room right that it appears. In fact, it seems to run out at around 250 yards and then sends you sailing into the canyon. You need to adjust left – and possibly left again – and choose an aim point that fits your shot shape. I originally took it at the bridge in the distance and drew it back. I’ve since adjusted even inside that. I’ve had the edge of the distance office building suggested as the line for those who hit a fade.

         You really can’t go too left here as the hill brings you back to the fairway most often. But again, a big drive here will catch the gravity train and really go. I’ve seen a 400-yarder here.

         The second shot involves a ravine carry, but that’s non-factor if you’re really in eagle range. I’ve gotten home easily with a hybrid here and actually, for me, this has been the most reachable green of the four.

         The biggest obstacle to eagle is that mounded/tiered green and pin placement. Left is a definite eagle pin, but reaching the lower right side takes either extreme marksmanship or one lucky roll on the green.

         The green makes me rank this as the second most probably hole to yield an eagle.

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         No. 16, 558 yards (blacks), 550 (blues), 492 (whites) – Even if you don’t play the tips, you might want to hit one here just for the view, which catches more of the gorge than the blues and whites. It’s one of my favorite views on the course.

         Tag one here and you’ll watch your ball soar above the valley and hopefully settle in with 230 or less to get home. The left side of the fairway takes off a little distance, but the right gives you a better angle on a hole with a dogleg left at the end.

         In all likelihood, you’ll have a blind approach. The green resides to the left of the pine tree on the cart path and is elevated and surrounded by bunkers. It’s a smallish target but I’ve landed a hybrid there with no trouble. Last time I played, I nearly reached with a 5-iron after teeing off from the blacks. My ball failed to draw, however, and I landed in the cluster bunkers to the right, but I was able to get up and down.

         The layup is the smart play, but other than a possible OB, a missed run at the green is plenty salve-able here. Eagles are more rare here than 5 & 15, but birdies still abound. 

        Anyway, if you’re feeling on your game with your driver, now you know where to go to squeeze a little more out of your long game and hopefully have birdie or better on your card to show for it.