Olivas Links GC, Ventura. Forrest Richardson, 2007.
Parts of this course are less than a mile from the ocean and though you can’t see the Pacific from here you can feel its influence with the ocean breezes that blow through and keep the golf fascinating. The course itself—which Richardson reworked from an old, more traditional William F. Bell routing—is interesting enough that you can play it on calm mornings and it will still keep your interest, but the soul of the place is that it really is a links and so it’s when the wind is blowing that it shines.
There are not a lot of bunkers and they tend to be small, but they are small pots that are placed to make you think your way around them. Wide fairways help keep the ball in play when it gets blustery but the greens are big with rolling waves and humps that make them play smaller. It’s linksy golf, the kind best played on the ground. Of course, this is southern California, so if they’re having a rainy winter, that won’t be happening. But even when a bit on the soggy side, the course is enjoyable.
Some of the best holes here are the pairs that look similar on the card but will confound in the wind. The sixth, often a beast of a part 4 into the west wind, followed by the seventh, which plays short as you ride with that wind at your back. But good luck judging how to get a short club to stop on this green, the back half of which falls away.
The par-3 fifth plays to the east, the par-3 eighth back to the west. The par-5 fourth downwind (usually) to the east, but when you get back to 14 you play back along the same way to the west.
Then there’s the flexibility within holes themselves. The 13th is a par 3 that on the card can play 200 yards or 150 and the green is 45 yards deep. The first time I played the course in a fresh afternoon breeze, I hit driver from the back tree to a back pin. A few months later, with the tee up a bit, the hole cut in the front, and no breeze, I hit a 9-iron.
What a treat for the people of Ventura to have a muni like this available to them.
California 4th Quintile