Another Weekend. Another Golf “Ad-Ventura.”

Well, it was another busy golf weekend and another out-of-town adventure. This weekend, I headed up to Ventura. It’s really not a super far drive for me (1:45, give or take, depending on traffic), but just far enough to feel significant. Anyway, I had signed up for an outing put on by Greenskeeper.org and the LA Golf Group (through Meetup.com), the latter of which I recently joined to further expand my social networking in the local golf community.

The event was set for Sunday at Buenaventura Golf Course, which I had never played (though I had been to a wedding there many years ago). I also happen to have some family that lives in nearby Ojai, so I figured it was a good opportunity to visit with them and make another little weekend golf trip out of it.

I hit the road super early on Saturday morning and went to Olivas Links, which is not too far down the street from Buenaventura. It’s another course I hadn’t played, but have always wanted to check out. There weren’t too many other “dawn patrol” golfers out there, so I got out pretty quickly. I was paired with two other singles and we were second off the tee behind another twosome. So the pace was great with nobody pushing from behind and a fast group staying plenty ahead of us.

I thought it was a decent track overall. I wasn’t blown away by it, but it’s a nice clean links layout. Just not as dramatic or interesting as some other great links style courses I’ve played in recent months (Wild Horse, The Rawls Course, Stevinson Ranch). I thought the back nine was definitely more interesting than the front as it winds through some wetlands areas and brings more trees and hazards into play. Only real complaint would be the smells we encountered throughout much of the front nine. One of the guys I was playing with told me the course is right between a mushroom farm and a sewage treatment plant, so depending on the winds you can get some funky smells out there. Well, it wasn’t too windy out today, so the air was nice and heavy with whatever smell it was (I think it was the sewage plant). It was so bad at points, I almost threw up a couple of times. Very unpleasant, to say the least.

The conditions were very nice from tee to green. The grass is pretty green, fairways are very good surface to hit from and greens were consistent speeds—running medium fast. In the morning, the greens were still pretty soft, as well, so very receptive on approach shots. There were a number of little ground-under-repair areas in the fairways all marked off, which shows the course is doing its best to help any bad spots recover.

Overall, a pretty nice course and a good change of pace with the links design elements. Seemed a little expensive for what it is ($59 to walk on a Saturday, and it is a nice easy course to walk). Not bad, but there are other places I’d rather play for the price.

Some pictures from Olivas Links (6/23/12):

Most of the holes at Olivas have adirondack chairs instead of benches by the tee boxes. Kind of their signature thing here.

I finished my round at Olivas a little before 10:00, so I knew I wanted to play again. My original plan was to drive over to Seabee Golf Course in Port Hueneme. It’s part of the Naval Base there, but is open for public play (or so I thought). Before I drove over there, I checked GolfNow on my phone and they had plenty of tee times listed, so I didn’t figure I’d need to lock one down in advance. I’m glad I didn’t because once I got to the base, things didn’t work out too well. I drove up to the gate and the guard informed me that I could not get on the base without the proper pass. I needed to be “sponsored” by someone at the course. He sent me over to the documents office in order to procure the necessary paperwork.

When I went in there, they told me I needed to call the course. The guy there took about 10 minutes to look up the golf course’s phone number as if nobody has ever come in asking for it before. He wrote down the number for me and I went outside to make the call. The number he gave me was wrong, so I ended up looking it up on my phone and then calling again. The guy in the pro shop told me that they just told him this week that they were no longer able to sponsor guests and there wasn’t anything he could do for me. So naturally, I referred to the GolfNow tee times and asked, “What if I had made a time on GolfNow?” He basically told me I would have been screwed.

It was a very strange and confusing encounter. I really didn’t expect much from the course itself anyway. It was cheap and seemed convenient geographically, but I did drive by it on the way to the gate and it looked pretty boring. I would still like to cross it off “my list” someday, but won’t be rushing out there anytime soon until I have a better understanding of how their system works for civilian guests.

I went and grabbed an early lunch to figure out my next plan. By the time I finished eating, it was almost 11:00, so that made my decision pretty easy. I had recently bought a deal voucher on GroupGolfer.com for Sterling Hills in Camarillo. It was good after 11am on Saturdays. It was technically a voucher that could be used for unlimited play, so I was planning to save it for another day I could go up and play 36. But after the denial at Seabee it was the best backup option I had. It ended up working out very well because Sterling Hills is clearly superior to Seabee in every conceivable way.

I called over to the course and they said it was wide open, so I should just come on out. I headed right over and they let me go right out to the first tee by myself. The weather was perfect there, so I was surprised it wasn’t very crowded. I did run into a couple in front of me and joined up with them on the third hole. There were plenty of foursomes in front of them, so it made sense to play together and enjoy a nice relaxed pace.

When I’ve asked others about this course, the excitement level is never too high. So my expectations weren’t too high going in. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The course was in really nice shape and I personally enjoyed the layout quite a bit. Interesting green complexes (“amoeba-like” as JohnnyGK puts it) and a good variety of holes. The back nine is more visually compelling and challenging as it runs up and down some hills. There are a few funky holes out here (#6 with all the water and skinny/awkward landing areas and #18 with a severe dogleg left at the end both come to mind).

The conditions were nice and green out there. The front nine fairways were super fluffy, which meant not much extra roll on drives, but very nice to hit approaches from. The back nine fairways were a bit more dried out but still in nice-looking shape. The greens were in good shape, but a little inconsistent in terms of speed. Some definitely seemed to run a little faster than others.

Overall, I really enjoyed this course and it was a great deal with the GroupGolfer discount, even though I only played 18 holes. Not sure I’d want to pay full rack rate here (at least not on a weekend), but it was well worth the visit Saturday.

Some pictures from Sterling Hills Golf Club (6/23/12):

I spent the night in Ojai at my uncle’s house. Had a great time visiting with him and my four cousins. We ate a great dinner at Casa de Lago in Oak View, which is always a must-stop if I am in the Ojai area. Excellent Mexican food!

Sunday morning, I headed back into town and out to Buenaventura Golf Course. It was another beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky and a nice breeze coming off the ocean that got a little stronger as the day went on. I had signed up with the LA Golf Group and joined their league. This event was a skins game set-up. Some people were just out there with GK for a casual outing and some of the groups were playing in the LA Golf League event. Even though it added more pressure on me during the round, I figured it would be more fun to be a part of the skins game. I ended up winning seven skins within our foursome, so not a bad debut. I missed a lot of opportunities, as well.

This was a fun course. It is not very long (it is par 70 with only three par-5 holes and five par-3 holes), but depending on the wind some of the holes definitely look and play longer than the scorecard shows.

This is definitely a “target” golf course. It’s important to stay out of the trees and give yourself good angles to the pins, because the greens are what bring the challenge to this track. There are a lot of big mounds surrounding the greens, often obscuring the approach view. Hard to tell exactly what you are aiming at without any local knowledge. Not a lot of run-up opportunities for low-ball hitters like myself either. The greens have a lot of undulations and severe slopes, and they had several downright evil pin placements for us today, so that made for some very difficult multi-break putts.

Conditions were decent overall, and from what I hear, a vast improvement compared to what it used to be like out there before they resodded many of the fairways recently. There were some sketchy areas where the new sod is still maturing and a little inconsistency from fairway to fairway, but overall pretty nice surfaces to hit from. I wasn’t in a sand trap all day, so I cannot comment one way or the other about the bunkers.

Overall, this was an enjoyable course with some fun and challenging greens. We got a great deal with the GK group ($34 to walk, and it’s another nice course to walk), so it was well worth the price we paid yesterday.

Some pictures from Buenaventura Golf Course (6/24/12):

On the way home, I stopped at one of my new favorite Mexican restaurants—Lupe’s in Thousand Oaks. I discovered it coming home from another Central Coast trip earlier this year and enjoyed eating there again. A little expensive, but the food is excellent and worth the splurge.

After several weekends in a row that have involved a lot of golf and a lot of driving, I am looking forward to next weekend, which will definitely be a more relaxing one. If I do play this week, it will be more local. Of course, plans always change and the Golf Nomad spirit can’t be held down for long!

I am signed up for the Malibu Golf Club GK event in late July. I’ll have my free birthday round(s) in early August. And I have my next big trip coming up in mid-August, where I’ll be heading to Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. So still plenty of great golf on the horizon!

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