Tag Archives: highlight hole

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.

Highlight Hole: No. 7 at Encinitas Ranch

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For the most part, Encinitas Ranch is a fairly straightforward golf course. What you see is what you get. The one exception is the par-4 No. 7.

No. 7 is the only truly blind tee shot on the course, and it’s one of those quirky layup holes that’s tough to club right and can be quite penal if you club it wrong.

The tricky tee shot colors how a lot of people view this hole, which is unfortunate since it closes with (besides the ocean) probably the most impressive view on the course – a green ringed by gorgeous trees set against a stunning panoramic view of the valley.

Let’s say this: If it was a par-3, I think people would think more highly of this hole.

Anyway, about that tee shot …

The only thing you see from the tee is a fairway that comes to a plateau. In the middle of the fairway is a tall, red aiming pole.

What you don’t see is a dramatic downslope past the pole that narrows significantly on the left, so much so that if you carry the hill on the left, you’re destined to go OB into a canyon, likely with the help of the cart path.

So we want to be right, right? Yes. And long. Because if you’re short, you’ve got another blind shot for an approach.

So, depending on the wind, you’re looking at about 220-240 yards – the hole plays 365 yards from the blues – to get yourself an approach with a look at the pin. That’s hybrid/long iron for most people. (Note: You’re seriously pushing your luck if you go 3-wood, much less driver, here.)

Anyway, I think the mistake people make here is thinking everything rides on the tee shot. The other day, for instance, I hit a solid hybrid that the wind trapped and sent back down the hill, leaving me 170 yards or so out. I walked up the hill, chose my aim line and then walked back and dropped a 6-iron approach onto the front of the green and made a two-putt par.

I recall another blind approach I hit here that nearly found the hole.

Remember those trees behind the green? They’re your friends. Pick one as your aim line, trust it and hit your shot. But knock off a club for the elevation unless you’re into the wind. I’ve seen people fly approaches into the back traps and that’s not an out you want.

So I guess the moral is, don’t sweat the tee shot, embrace the challenge if your second shot is blind and don’t forget to appreciate the view regardless of what ultimately goes on your scorecard.

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Highlight hole: No. 17 at Cross Creek

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I’m not sure this photo quite captures what a cool little hole this really is, but this is one of my favorite par-3s in the area. This is No. 17 at Cross Creek in Temecula. It’s a gem of a hole on a hidden gem of a course. Cross Creek is on the other side of the mountains west of Old Town Temecula, where there’s little reason to suspect a golf course exists.

But one does, and it’s worth checking out. The secluded location and lack of nearby homes makes for a serene golf experience on a course that just seems to roll along the countryside giving you consistently great and unique golf holes one after the next.

You come to No. 17 after a pair of testy par-4s, and this little par-3 is off to the right of the 18th tee box, kind of off in its own little world, framed by the trees and fronted by a creek. It’s got a gently sloping green that provides for multiple challenging pin locations.

The hole plays 170 yards from the tips and a mere 137 yards from the golds. It’s tempting to go pin-seeking here because that’s exactly what the hole’s tempting you to do. But beware that if you clear the creek but end up short, the rough you’re in is ankle-high and no picnic to get out of. On the other hand, go long here and you’ve plenty of room to recover and save par. In other words, when in doubt, take an extra club.

The wind can also tricky on this hole. The day we played, the Santa Ana’s were howling, but the 17 green seemed protected from the wind enough to be unaffected, although we could feel the wind on the tee. But the winds were also coming from an unusual direction that day we were told. Wind behind you can make a big difference here.

Anyway, if anyone reads this who has played this hole and wants to toss in their two cents, feel free, but this is the hole I think of when I think of Cross Creek. I’ve made birdie, par and bogey here and each one has given me a different appreciation for the challenge this hole presents. I look forward to it every time.

Highlight Hole: No. 18 at Sherwood CC

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I was fortunate enough to be included in a media tournament on Monday at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, where the field for Tiger Woods’ 2013 Northwestern Mutual World Challenge was announced. The tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, will host 18 of the world’s top players, including Woods, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Graeme McDowell, on Dec. 2-8.  You can find the full field and ticket information here: www.worldchallengegolf.com.

This is the 15th year Sherwood has hosted the event, but Monday was my first time ever experiencing it beyond TV. It’s quite a place to say the least and would be well worth the trip just to bask in the beauty of the surroundings and appreciate Jack Nicklaus’ masterpiece course design, much less to experience elite golf.

I’ll be writing two or three Sherwood-related posts this week, but wanted to start with this because this is what you see first when you emerge from the clubhouse. What a glorious and impressive site it is, and in one snapshot, it captures all the elements that make this course a mesmerizing golf experience: spectacular mountain views, majestic mature trees, strategic use of visually stunning water features. You get incredible and awe-inspiring combinations of the three over and over here. Oh, and views of a bunch of multi-million dollar homes, too. Probably worth mentioning that.

Anyway, No. 18 is a downhill par-4 (we played it at 412 yards, but it’s 446 for the pros) off an elevated tee that plays to a severely sloped green accentuated by a waterfall on the left and fronted by a pond. On your second shot, if you’ve avoided the trees on the right, or the opposite fairway – No. 9 – you’ve likely got a long iron or more into a green that is sloped heavily front to back. The hole has Sherwood’s stately clubhouse as a backdrop. I went driver, 4-iron here and ended up peering down on a front pin with a long, slick downhill put, but I was only too happy to not be in the water. I three-putted, but that the didn’t spoil the fun of executing the approach shots.

No. 18 is a stunning finishing hole, whether you’re looking at it from the fairway or the clubhouse, and a marvelous way to end a truly unique round of golf. I can’t wait to go back in December and watch the pros play it.

Thanks to the folks at the Tiger Woods Foundation and Sherwood for being first-rate hosts, and thanks to my boss at Southland Golf for thinking to include me. My appreciation goes out to all of you.