Another Long Day in Ventura County

This past Sunday, I headed up for another long and fun-filled day of golf in Ventura County. I was set to play in my second LA Golf Group event in the afternoon at River Ridge (Lakes) in Oxnard, but as usual, I decided to make a full day of it. I didn’t really want to deal with mid-day traffic going through Los Angeles—plus, when I drive that far I want to get the most out of the trip—so I knew I’d try to play a morning round up there as a tune-up.

The obvious choice would have been to play the other River Ridge course (The Vineyard) that I still haven’t played yet, but they didn’t have any online tee times listed in the morning, so I had a feeling it would be too crowded. I had to expand my scope a bit to find another course up there I hadn’t played yet—one that was relatively inexpensive, not likely to be too crowded on a Sunday morning and not too far out of the way. I settled on Mountain View Golf Course in Santa Paula…

Mountain View Golf Course • Santa Paula, CA • 7/22/12

My expectations weren’t too high for this course, but I called the night before to make sure I wouldn’t have any issues walking in the morning. The guy I talked to said “come on out” and when I asked him about conditions, he said they were “excellent.” In fact, he said it was so nice right now that if I wasn’t impressed, he’d give me half my green fee back after the round! I knew the course was in a nice setting against the mountains and had seen some nice pictures of it when in great shape, so his claim and their website’s claim as “Ventura County’s best kept secret” were enough to entice me.

Well, “excellent” may be a relative term for this course. It was in OK condition at best. It is pretty much your average cheap muni conditions. The fairways were decent with some patchy areas, plenty of brown spots and a lot of thin muddy areas early in the morning. The rough wasn’t too bad where there was grass, but there were some bad areas, too. The greens were firm and fast, but had lots of little dead areas and soft/muddy spots. The tee boxes were fine and the one trap I was in was pretty wet, but the sand was decent. Overall, it was not the worst conditions I’ve seen, but definitely very far from “excellent” in my opinion. I never did track that guy down for a half-refund, but his claim was definitely way too bold.

I had no problem getting on early in the morning as there was hardly anybody out there. In fact, it was too quick! I played through one threesome on the front and then breezed through the course in a little over two hours.

The course itself is a pretty funky little layout. It’s not very long, but is pretty tight and has some odd hole setups. Parts of the course feel like they were designed by Sarah Winchester with fairways that blended together, oddly placed trees, beat-up old cart paths that criss-crossed everywhere (a few seemed to lead to nowhere) and many awkward angles. It was hard to tell where you were going on a few holes. I can imagine it being a dangerous set-up when the course is really busy because there are a lot of places where errant balls can come from many directions. I enjoyed the back nine layout more than the front and the conditions also seemed to be better on the back nine holes. The scenery is kind of nice around the course with the mountains all around (especially once the morning fog lifted). The course itself is nothing too great, in my opinion, so I doubt I will ever make my way out there again.

You win some, you lose some. Such is the life of a Golf Nomad.

Some pictures from Mountain View Golf Course (7/22/12):

My morning round was so quick I had plenty of time to kill before my afternoon round. I went into Mountain View’s bar/restaurant, where they had a few televisions showing the Open Championship. It actually worked out well because I was able to see the final groups play the entire back nine. I was happy for Ernie, but sad for Adam Scott. To play so solid for 3 rounds and 14 holes and then fall apart at the end was rough to watch.

I left there and went to grab an early lunch at The Habit in Ventura, then headed over to River Ridge. I still got there too early, so I was waiting around a lot as people slowly showed up. I spent a lot of time on the practice green, but it really didn’t help me much out on the course because I had trouble with the speeds all day…

River Ridge Golf Club (Victoria Lakes) • Oxnard, CA • 7/22/12

I had played the Victoria Lakes course at River Ridge once last year (free birthday round). I didn’t hate the course, but I didn’t love it either. Lately, it’s been getting a ton of great reviews on Greenskeeper.org. People have been raving about the conditions and the layout, so I was wondering if I missed something the first time around. I was looking forward to playing it again, as well as catch these peak-season conditions.

Well, I didn’t quite get those pristine conditions I was expecting (at least visually). They had recently aerated the fairways and tee boxes, so everything was kind of dried out. It didn’t affect play much, though, as the fairways were still great to hit from. The rough was very nice and not cut too deep, so it wasn’t too penalizing. The real challenge on Sunday was the greens. They had them running at legendarily fast greens for the recent Oxnard City Championship. Apparently, they’ve been trying to get them back to “normal” speeds in the past couple of weeks, but haven’t had much luck. They were still running super fast on Sunday (12 on the stimp meter, according to a sign on the starter’s hut).

The greens here are pretty big and have plenty of undulation, so when paired with these crazy-fast speeds, it was quite an adventure. There were plenty of three-putts (and even one four-putt from myself) from our group. The pace was very slow (over 5 hours) and the wind was howling, so it made for a long day. Our group still had a lot of fun out there, though, so it was an enjoyable experience. The LA Golf Group is a great bunch of guys, so I look forward to many more events with them.

Again, the course design didn’t blow me away. Every few holes the vibe of this course changes with different stylistic choices. What I did find interesting is how much of the course I had remembered. I knew which holes were coming up, which ones were most challenging and which ones were most fun. That’s normally a sign of a good course, so there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on.

Overall, it’s a solid course with a layout that offers plenty of challenge, fun and variety, so I don’t have a single bad thing to say about it. I’ll probably never love it as much as many people I know on GK, but that’s the beauty of golf. It’s why I love playing so many different courses and comparing my own thoughts with those of others.

Some pictures from River Ridge Golf Club (Victoria Lakes) (7/22/12):

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