Four Seasons Aviara Resort, Carlsbad — This Arnold Palmer design relies on an excessive number of flower beds and other nonsensical accouterments to justify the excessive price. If mountainside golf and lavish water features are your thing, then get down to Carlsbad as soon as possible.
La Costa Resort, Carlsbad — This 36-hole track is still enjoyable to play, but the Dick Wilson and Joe Lee 1960s architecture looks like most architecture from that era: tired. The resort needs to turn consulting architect Brian Curley loose on these potentially excellent courses. Start by dealing with the drainage issues that sent the PGA Tour to Arizona for the WGC Match Play Championship. La Costa's aesthetics could be enhanced by creating wetlands and coastal sage scrub areas along with a healthy dose of native oaks and sycamores so the golfer feels as if they are in Southern California instead of Sarasota.
Ojai Valley Inn and Spa — George Thomas' design has gone through so many renovations that were it not for ad campaigns invoking his name, one might forget that this giant of course design ever set foot on the property. The once-rustic layout is still beautiful, but it's now upscale. That translates to improved course conditioning and excellent service. But with those manicured and modern-looking Carter Morrish bunkers, calling this a Thomas course is unfair to the master's legacy.
Pelican Hill (North and South Courses) — Both layouts took bland to new heights, which might explain why the courses are undergoing renovations before reaching their 15th birthdays. Architect Tom Fazio was in his Shadow Creek phase when building it, so that meant way too many pine trees lining the strategy-free fairways. That aesthetic might be fine for the Las Vegas desert, but when you are asking people to pay $250 for ocean views they can't see, it's time to break out the chain saw.
Trump National of Los Angeles — Under the previous ownership, this was going to be a solid upscale daily fee with a great restaurant facility, amazing Catalina Island views and several fun holes like the (still) awesome par-four 13th. Donald Trump has raised the tackiness bar with bombastic Greek sculptures, offensive waterfalls drowning out the ocean sounds and to top it off, his gold crest glued all over the Spanish clubhouse façade. All he has delivered are excessive prices and a functional 18th hole with an epic second shot. The rest of the course is about the same, and it isn't comparable to Pebble Beach, contrary to what The Donald says.
— Geoff Shackelford