Rustic Canyon GC, Moorpark. Gil Hanse with Geoff Shackelford, 2002.
Just about as good as it gets for golf—affordable, playable, fun, challenging, variable, walkable, beautiful. I live over 400 miles from this course and yet the itch to play it is ever-present. This course offers a bit of everything—reachable par 5s, monster par 5s, drivable 4s, drive and pitch 4s, long 4s, and a great set of 3s that require clubs from wedge to long irons. The fairways are hugely wide but if you want reasonable approaches you need to drive it well, the bunkers are artful and penal, the greens amazing and reward repeated plays.
Juxtapose the ninth and tenth holes—consecutive par 5s that look pretty similar on the card—nine plays uphill at 565 yards, 10 plays uphill for 571 yards (if you aren’t playing from the tips then nine tends to be a bit shorter than 10). But nine is a hole operating vaguely on the principal of something like the second at Talking Stick North—the fairway is hugely wide, but the green’s contours can make you look foolish if you choose to simply blast away without care as to where you place your ball. Meanwhile, the 10th features a Sahara-like bunker that must be carried and avoided on the second shot and a narrow green that is 50 yards deep.
Drivable par 4s like the 3rd and 12th also offer wildly different takes on a similar theme. The third has six bunkers and three clear potential routes–you can lay up to the high left side, which requires challenging bunkers with your drive but leaves an easier pitch, lay up to the right, which removes a lot of the risk on the tee ball but leaves a much tougher pitch, or try to drive the green. Meanwhile there are basically just two bunkers at the 12th and they both simply define the left side of the hole. The options are entirely about how much risk you want to take on in trying to get close to the green (you will have to challenge the bunkers) or, if you want to play safe, determining how far back or how far to the right you want to stay. Sometimes when the architect doesn’t make the choice for you it makes the decision that much harder.
I just don’t know what’s not to like here.
California 1st Quintile