From club hub to courses: Teeing up in Carlsbad

From club hub to courses: Teeing up in Carlsbad

Situated along seven miles of primo California coastline, Carlsbad isn’t just where golf’s work world goes to punch the clock. Perched 90 miles from the din of L.A. and 120 miles from the summer sizzle of Palm Springs, the beachy region of San Diego’s North County proves a mellow getaway for travelers seeking sand of either the oceanside or bunker variety.

Home to 13 golf companies -- including Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist, Linksoul, Honma, Aldila and Scotty Cameron (technically in San Marcos) -- a segue from clubs to course presents a trio of diverse championship options for the golf visitor. Coupled with nearby post-round options for couples and families, the offerings of local breweries and bustling Legoland (maybe both are an understandable stop for some parents) round-out a visit for all comers.

Keeping pace of play with the SoCal golf hotbed, multiple improvement projects are defining Carlsbad tee times for future guests.

Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

The classic 36-hole La Costa property is readying for a big-time revamp. Starting in October 2022, La Costa’s Champions Course will close for a full-on renovation (range included), the work of ever-active Gil Hanse. Upon conclusion, the course will start a three-year run as host of the NCAA Championships for both men and women from 2024-26 (with rumors circling of La Costa becoming the event’s permanent base).

From 1969-1998, La Costa served as home to the PGA Tour’s annual Tournament of Champions, before playing host to the WGC Match Play Championship from 1999-2006; the grounds also debuted the LPGA’s JTBC Classic in the event’s inaugural year of 2010 and again in 2012 (the tournament is now played across the way at Aviara Golf Club – see more below).

Course brass sees ample opportunity in the rework.

“The coverage will be huge, and I think it will put us back on the map. It’s been about 16 years since we’ve hosted the match play and, since then, we’ve been forgotten a bit,” says Mike Mulford, membership head golf professional at Omni La Costa. “With Gil Hanse doing the work, I think we’ll be, other than Torrey Pines, the spot to come to.”

The chalk of college golf best ready for the update.

“Gil is gonna change some layouts and routing on many holes and update the course to modern yardages; make it a little longer and tougher for the NCAA,” Mulford continues. “We also had many coaches out here last year and they gave their input on what their players see, as far as yardages and bunkers and such. The irrigation also needs updating, and they’ll be regrassing everything.”

The Champions, sister course to the pleasing, target-style play of La Costa’s Legends Course, dates back to the Dick Wilson and Joe Lee design from 1964. Between 2011-13, both courses were renovated by the tandem of Steve Pate and Damian Pascuzzo.

The upcoming overhaul will, broadly, eliminate ample cart path and take the course to about 7,500 yards from the tips.

More specifically, while referencing yet-to-be-released specs, Mulford sees the new run of Nos. 7-9 as a prime example of the big changes to come (to contrast with existing holes, please swing here).

“On No. 7, that green will be moved back; it was a 465-yard hole from the tips, and now it will be 515 yards,” Mulford details. “Then, on the par-3 eighth hole, the current tee will be entirely shifted to the left and, though the hole will be much shorter, the green will also be much smaller. And, the water feature which now plays along the right side of No. 8 will be gone; there will be a barranca feature, a steep, native area run-off instead of the water.”

Heading to the turn will present little reprieve.

“Then, on the ninth -- which is probably the toughest tee shot on the course right now – there will be some extension of the fairway and elimination of bunkers,” says the pro. “But I’m sure the hole is still gonna’ be tough, as it’s an uphill play.”

Aviara Golf Club

Home to the LPGA’s JTBC Classic (formerly the Kia Classic) since 2013, the peach of a Park Hyatt resort-style play from Arnold Palmer (circa: 1991) is enjoying its own makeover.

In April, Aviara began a full course regrassing project (two holes at a time), which will conclude in the autumn of ’22. With a $5 million price tag, the environmentally-led agronomy endeavor is replacing cool-season roughs with warm-season Bermudagrass. Once completed (slated for October) and again overseeded, the re-open to a fully-carded 18 no doubt aims to see the lauded grounds thrust up its annual standing on every California “Best You Can Play List” around.

For those awaiting the re-open (the course presently plays with a modified card during construction), the biding will be worth the time.

With the project intended to provide more consistent playing surfaces (in concert with less chemical usage), Aviara’s charm should only find enhanced allure. Sporting resort fairways followed by massive greens (so big as to offer upwards of nine different pin positions), the pairing of getable par 5s and attractive/muscular par 3s feels like a garden party throughout.

The Crossings at Carlsbad

While the city’s resorts get the most pub, it’s a city-owned course which may make the most elevated Carlsbad impression.

“Carlsbad is still kind of unknown as a golf destination; but once people get here, they realize it’s not all about Torrey Pines in San Diego,” says Tate Stull, general manager at The Crossings at Carlsbad. “Up in the North County, we’ve got three amazing golf properties.”

Acknowledging a 15th anniversary in ‘22, The Crossings at Carlsbad is something of a trip – in more ways than one.

Drawn across seven-plus miles of cart path, the 2007 design from Greg Nash routes through elevated, rustic and environmentally-protected land which oft-dictates the memorable traverse.

“We’re unique, in that we’re a municipal golf course, but the amount of investment in this place makes it like few other munis in the country,” Stull says. “We’re spread out across 400 acres of coastal property, with ocean views, foothills, an awesome clubhouse and no homes on the course. You don’t find that very often.”

Named for a series of bridges across the grounds, the course finds further take-off with its adjacency to McClellan-Palomar Airport, a bustling executive hub just over a mile away.

Just to be sure to measure the jet fuel on a host of dramatically-elevated tee boxes.

“On many of the par 4s, you can hit long irons from the tees, which is probably the smart play,” explains Stull. “Definitely some risk-reward holes out there.”

A fun run on Nos. 8-10 provides thesis of club selection and scoring opportunity.

Tipped at a mere 303-yards, the par-4 eighth all but begs for a ravine layup toward an uphill green; ensued by the pitchy, 139-yard No. 9, Crossings’ latter half begins with the elevated 339-yard par-4 10th, which is an additional ask for clubbing prudence.

With a dedicated local base of play, the game’s enhance of popularity is finding more Carlsbad visitors “crossing” over.

“Golfers who know about La Costa and Aviara, they come and find us and they’ll often walk away calling us a ‘hidden gem,’” concludes Stull. “It’s pretty common for us to get, ‘We didn’t know you guys were up here – this place is great!’ As more and more people are discovering Carlsbad as a golf destination, more people are discovering us at the same time.”

About the author

Judd Spicer

Judd Spicer

Judd Spicer is an award-winning writer, co-host of The Press Box radio show on ESPN 103.9 FM-Palm Springs and contributing columnist to The Desert Sun newspaper. A Minnesota native, he relocated to the Palm Springs area in 2011 to pursue his Champions Tour dream. Sporting suspect accuracy off the tee, he refers to his 56-degree as his Magic Wand. Visit or @JuddSpicer for more.