Ojai Inn

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Ojai. George C. Thomas & Billy Bell (1925) with many revisions, most notably by Jay and Carter Morrish (1999).

In his landmark book, Thomas bragged heavily on the quality of the site he was given here and the course he laid out upon it. The site is truly special. Or was?

Unfortunately, over the last century the resort has mostly just abused this layout. WWII did some damage, as it did to so many courses in Southern California, and the hotel has expanded and various designers have had their hands here tinkering or making changes to accommodate new buildings or even “restoring.”

Ultimately, the course Thomas really built in 1925 seems largely lost to history—I haven’t found anyone who can explain where you started or how the routing got to the tee of the famous third hole (now the 16th, “restored” but poorly so). And even a full scale restoration couldn’t account for all the land lost to new hotel and resort buildings.

#16 has views forever but as a restoration of the original Thomas hole it comes up short

For all of that, it feels a bit churlish to complain too much, because the course that exists here is really good in spots and often quite fun. What they now play as the front nine offers some really excellent holes—the run from the second to the eighth is excellent, even when you can see that the holes used to be better.

The holes to the north of the resort that now start the back nine are lovely in their way as well—but they’d be much better if they were still the front nine holes and so didn’t carry a sense of anti-climax coming as they do after the much more dramatic stretch.

ojai 8
#8 is a short but uphill par 3 tucked between hillside and creek

But even the best holes here just leave you with a vague sense that they could be better or that the rest of the course is failing to live up to this potential. Somehow is this was an RTJ Jr. course built 25 years ago I might appreciate it more.

But the history here cannot be denied and everywhere you look, you get the sense that their glory days are behind them.

California 3rd Quintile [2017]

#7 plays across a creek and uphill to a green guarded by a tree and a deep bunker