The Crossings at Carlsbad in Carlsbad, CA
Tee Time: May 27, 2013, 10:03, 72 F, breezy
Designer: Greg Nash (2007)
Playing Partners: Ron and Thomas
Tees: Blue, Par 72 (71.0 rating/129 slope/6,467 yards)
Course Handicap: 13 (11.6 index)
Stats: 85 (44-41); 32 putts; 4/14 fairways; 2/18 greens; 2 penalty strokes
Well it only took 8 years of legal battles, but The Crossings at Carlsbad in Carlsbad, California finally opened in 2007. Thanks to fights with environmentalist groups, the designers had to route 5 miles of cart path up, under, down and over the acres of nature preserve that line the golf course. The drive between holes 11 and 12 alone is nearly a mile on its own. The place is named the “Crossings” after the 5 bridges that are scattered about the area, doing their best to avoid disturbing the wetlands, brush and bird habitats that make up the immediate scenery. Even after all the concessions given to the hippies (who probably still aren’t satisfied with the deal, God forbid if just one field mouse gets uprooted…), the city of Carlsbad still put together one fun golf course. All you have to do is drive one street past Legoland for a roller coaster ride crazier than any attraction at the Land of 10,000,000 Blocks. The decision is worth it. Especially because instead of the obese families littering Burger King wrappers, screaming children covered in melted chocolate ice cream and lines for Fun Town, you get a calm atmosphere, views of the Pacific Ocean on the horizon, an ornate clubhouse and a brisk pace of play.
The opening drive at The Crossings is a pretty intimidating one, especially for first timers. I was lucky and got paired up with a couple of septuagenarians who knew all the little tricks to playing here. Still, teeing off over the brush to a blind landing zone is a tough way to start the day. Take the first of the bridges out to the 2nd hole, an uphill par 4 at 344 yards but with a large greenside bunker waiting to punish missed greens. A second consecutive climb at the par-4 3rd is a bit steeper than the 2nd, but the reward is the best view of the Pacific on the entire golf course. A couple miles to the west, the rolling foothills come to an abrupt end at the shore and flatten out into the smooth, calm waves of the coast. It’s hard to believe at first, but the front nine is actually the flatter of the two sides. There are still changes in elevation, but luckily the two par 3s are smooth. The shallow green at the 195-yard 4th is not an easy one to reach, especially with the mound in front that kicks low shots off the back. The shorter, 113-yard 9th can be a welcome breather, but if they tuck the pin into the back, where the green narrows considerably, bogeys can bite. The postcard hole here in Carlsbad is undoubtedly the par-5 7th, snaking 546 yards into the most diabolical green in history. There are four levels, with steep drops between each stage that make long putts impossible. It feels like a pyramid, the highest tier is the smallest, surrounded by the next highest and down to the bottom. I bet a topographic map of this putting surface would look like Hot Springs Mountain at first glance. The ridges wreak havoc with reads, especially with a lake to the green’s front. The waterfall that frames the hole is gorgeous though. These kinds of waterfalls seem to be coming into fashion lately, as most high-end courses I’ve played that opened after 2005 have something like this.
The back nine is the roller coaster, especially the opening 10th and 11th. Straight is key at these, and really at every hole. The local rule is anything in the brush is unplayable and to be treated like a lateral hazard, marked by blue stakes. This is because of the environmentally protected areas and with the short rough you can run up a couple penalty strokes easily if you’re not careful. Judge the wind as best you can, too, because the ball will get almost 10 seconds of hang time on these two tee shots. And then there’s the long trek to the 12th, a dogleg right par 4 that would be much more difficult if you didn’t take the opportunity to scout the layout of the hole on the drive to the tee. The short, straight 13th is one of the easier holes on the course, but with those blue stakes lurking immediately behind the green, don’t relax too much. The par-3 14th is another nasty green, with a steep drop from the upper tier to the lower. The long, downhill par-5 15th is tricky because off the tee driver is not the right play. With a gulch carving through the layup area, this is a delicate three-shot hole. Don’t worry because the par-5 16th is a solid birdie opportunity. This time playing downhill and friendly to drivers, getting on or near the green in two is possible and not too much trouble lurks around the putting surface. Work back up to the clubhouse for the 18th, a dogleg left par-4 with a tough back-to-front sloping green, but it is short enough to attack with a short iron.
#17, Par 3, 167 yards, 16-handicap, My Score: 3
When I stepped up to the 17th, I immediately decided this was no time to pin-seek. The large, oval green slopes left-to-right toward a massive canyon of brush and other local vegetation. When the pin is on the right, as it was this day, it’s a scary shot. Miss right, and I mean an inch off the fringe, and the ball is lost forever. Right into the base of this ten-thousand-foot crevasse, near the base of a glacier. Not really, but it won’t be coming back. Fortunately, anything played to the middle of the green should kick a bit to the right and feed down to the hole, which takes a little bit of the sting out of playing it safe.
Layout: B; I like the elevation changes, but with all the driving, at times it feels being on a safari tour at the San Diego Wild Animal Park instead of a golf course. There are some memorable holes here.
Amenities: B-; a very nice clubhouse and great restaurant selection. The practice areas are useful, but you have to pay for balls and the chipping green has a sign warning not to practice lob shots. I take it some people had been blading Srixons into the snack bar. Plus my GPS didn’t work at all, at one point on the back nine I was over 2,000 yards from the pin…
Staff: A; friendly people at every location, they really add to the experience.
Difficulty: B; first time through would be an A, but overall the course is fair and there are chances to get on a roll, especially knowing the layout after a tour or two.
Scenery: B+; the Pacific Ocean being visible is nice, and the isolation of the course offers a natural experience so close to the freeway. Might just be me, but that dry brush and chaparral doesn’t do much for me scenery-wise.
Value: A-; at $69, the course is fairly priced and provides a great experience. It easily has the atmosphere and amenities of a $100+ golf course, so take advantage of the best bargain in the San Diego area (believe me, I looked all over, this is it)
Overall GPA: 3.28 (B+); a fun layout that provides a unique experience. Dramatic elevation changes, a great atmosphere and I can guarantee you’ll never see more miles of cart path in your life.