Day 3 – Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Resort www.parkhyattaviara.com
We awoke on our third consecutive day of golfing with eager anticipation and very high expectations. In the weeks leading up to the trip to ” So Cal” we had this marked as a key day. I had heard about Aviara or as I like to call it now “Awe-viara” back in the early 90’s while working in the golf business from a local businessman who use to play it on his winter holidays. Now some 20 years later, I was about to enjoy this beautiful 18 degree day playing this world class resort course. With its many plaudits and accolades, Aviara is the real deal and having worked at an award winning 5 star golf resort in St. Andrews myself, I was setting a very high bar. I felt that anything short of perfection might compromise my review. I took into consideration a couple of factors, the time of the year being mid December and recent weather related challenges due to excessive droughts in this part of the U.S.
I wasn’t really expecting perfection, but a certain degree of excellence to be honest. Looking back the only flaw the entire day was driving past the entrance to the course twice which caused us to be running a little late to have a decent warm up time. I found the dark coloured entrance sign to be really poorly positioned amongst the bushes surrounding it making it difficult to see. That was the only single negative for the next 5 1/2 hours of our day there.
After finally getting parked and thinking to myself that being rushed was not the start we desired, we headed into the pro shop to check in. I opted to play the “lost tourist” card to explain our tardiness, whereby 1st Assistant PGA Professional and Tournament Coordinator Donovan Browning took matters into his own hands and within 5 minutes in coordination with the All Star starter ” Joe” quickly amended our tee time back 45 minutes. He also instructed his colleague Blaze to rendezvous with us on a power cart at our vehicle and within no time we were loaded up and directed towards the outstanding practice range. It was simply exquisite; with an awesome artificial grass mat system, pyramids of new balls, complimentary tees, ornate wooden club stands and an attendant right there at the range. The range rose uphill with a selection of flagged target greens marked exactly to the yard for accurate club selection. And ahhhhhh, yes at Awe-viara, a clock to keep you informed on how long you had before teeing off.
Fully warmed up, we set off for the first tee and were immediately greeted by Joe whose role as starter seemed more like that of Maitre’ D, firstly he eloquently introduced to our playing partner Mr. Javiar Molinar, originally from Mexico City. During our conversations we learned that he knew a fair bit about Canada and that his daughter had spent one year of schooling as an exchange student, in of all places the very friendly, but frigidly cold city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Javiar, a member of Aviara, was the perfect host and both Myra and I enjoyed his company all day. After Joe gave us the overview on pace of play, pin locations and other useful guidelines we began our round. He was a real gentlemen in pointing all the rest room stops for Myra too. I wanted to show this majestic course, home of the LPGA Kia Classic, the respect it deserved and play it well and although I had a few mental lapses in finishing the round, I opened by playing the first 5 holes in even par and threw together a string of 3 pars in a row on the back to show some skill to the golf gods watching over us.
The course itself is part golf resort part botanical gardens with an abundance of amazing waterfalls and gorgeous flowers as well as Eucalyptus groves scattered about the course. The GPS system on the carts also had a fantastic feature, indicating how far ahead the group was in front of you even on blind shots. We moved along at the perfect pace, sharing many stories and laughs as well as a few grunts from the men when we didn’t hit it in the “sweet spot”. As it was, the shot of the day though definitely went to Myra recording her first official chip-in on the 9th hole, with a delicate pitch from the long grass, green side down a little slope and right in the cup. The LPGA touring gals would have reacted the same, as she did a little fist pump and her “happy” dance as both Javiar and I gave her a congratulatory hug. As we headed to towards the cart to drive to the 10th tee, Robert, The Candy Man, gave her a tootsie roll which is an Aviara tradition and of course I grabbed a couple too.
When we got to the breathtaking 14th hole a down hill Par 3 there was Joe, who after his starting duties were complete, acts as a Players Assistant on the course, parked behind the green watching us play this world class hole. We didn’t disappoint him either, as another good chip from Myra secured a good bogey and Javiar and I both made great pars from 190 yards, no easy feat. Although it wasn’t deafening Joe put his hands together and gave all three of us a golf clap after we tapped in each of our putts. What a guy, what a day, what a golf course.
During the round Kathy, the beverage cart lady offered a warm smile every time she saw us and the grounds crew were quiet and kept their distance at all times when we were shooting or putting.
Every aspect of the course from a design and playability aspect was of the highest standard. The greens were flawless, I gave them a 10 out 10 and stimped at 11.5 so my 33 putt total was not that horrible – considering. The bunker shaping was superb and getting out was not difficult with the quality of the sand they have in them. Fairways, tee boxes and the rough were continuos with the entire course and facility. Superintendent Mr. Kevin Kienast has truly earned his stripes in maintaining this masterpiece with a very capable team under him.
We headed in to the pro shop after wishing Javiar a very fond farewell to thank Matt, who was manning the pro shop late in the day. Not only does the pro shop possess a very professional, outgoing and friendly staff, it also is spotless and tastefully decorated. Its appearance is really cosy and mixed with a beautiful line of mens and ladies clothing which would make a boutique owner in Caesars Palace mall green with envy. Although Aviara might seem out of the budget for some, days like ours there are more about the entire experience, the service, the setting and the quality of the course, facilities and people justify the value you are getting in every way. To Mr. Renny Brown, PGA Director of Golf who accommodated every request I made for Myra and myself a very warm Canadian thank you and continued successes.