I’ll start this post by stating that I’ve never played three rounds of golf in the same day. I’m not sure I ever will again, but it’s what happened Tuesday on my birthday. Perhaps I just wanted to feel “young” again or perhaps I just cannot refuse free golf (especially on courses I haven’t played). Whatever the inspiration, I went for it and loved every minute of it!
Tierra Rejada Golf Club • Moorpark, CA • 8/7/12
My first stop was at Tierra Rejada. They offer a free round on your birthday, though you do have to pay the cart fee of $15. Normally, this course is up there in price, so it seemed like a perfect time to finally check it out and take advantage of that deal. I met up out there with a couple of buddies from Greenskeeper.org for a “dawn patrol” round. We went off at 6:00 am and were the first group out. We did let a single play through us on the front. Otherwise, nobody else pressed us from behind and we enjoyed a nice pace at 3.5 hours.
The course was in nice shape overall. The fairways were lush and nice to hit from, though they were watering heavy in the morning so it was a bit soggy for us. The rough was nice—not too deep or punishing. The greens were in excellent shape. They were soft and receptive from all the watering, but super smooth and quick on top. Putting was very tricky with all the undulation out here. The tee boxes were mostly level, but not bad considering how the course is built into the hillsides. I hit into a number of bunkers and the sand was very damp in the morning.
I know a lot of people dislike this course and I do understand why, though I thought it was a fun course that had a lot of aspects I really enjoyed. It does have its quirks with a few overly funky holes, but I don’t mind something a little different from time to time. It makes you think about strategy on your shots in places, but the layout is actually more forgiving that it looks. There are plenty of forced carries, but pretty wide landing areas. The greens are tricky with lots of undulation and quick speeds. I enjoyed the dramatic elevation shifts and scenic views on the front nine. It is definitely a beautiful course with plenty to enjoy visually. The back nine a little less exciting once it flattens out.
I probably wouldn’t ever pay full rack rate here, but for the right deal (as in a free birthday round), it’s a fun departure from the norm.
Some pictures from Tierra Rejada Golf Club (8/7/12):
From Tierra Rejada, I headed toward Oxnard. One of the guys I played with in the morning had also recently celebrated his birthday and Tuesday was the last day he could use his free round voucher at River Ridge Golf Course. I was already planning on playing there for my second round because I wanted to check out The Vineyard course. Last year, I played the Victoria Lakes course there as my birthday round, so this year it was The Vineyard’s turn…
River Ridge Golf Course (The Vineyard) • Oxnard, CA • 8/7/12
We got up there around 10:30 and checked in with the pro shop to see what the wait would be. Their next available time on Vineyard was 11:22, so we decided to take that and grab a bite to eat in the cafe there. I had an excellent (though very messy) turkey burger.
We teed off on time and enjoyed a nice afternoon round pace. All in all, we finished in right about four hours. The weather was nice here with a cool ocean breeze. Even though the surrounding scenery is the same on both courses, there is definitely a different feel on the Vineyard course with a mostly links style layout along the ridgeline for the first half of the course. Then there’s a few flatter holes, also with a real links flair. The vibe starts to change on the 13th hole as you head into the “turn” and then head across the street for the final five holes, which are flatter with the homes all around. This part of the course is a more standard “residential” layout with water in play on a few of the holes. The Vineyard course is a solid layout with a good variety of hole designs and distances, but not the most amazing layout I’ve ever played.
The course was in OK shape. The fairways were very dried out and I had a lot of firm/thin lies. The rough was being punched in some areas, but it didn’t affect play too much. You just had to brush away the aerated turf pellets at times. The fairways and rough seemed much lusher and greener on the final six holes, though. I wasn’t in any bunkers, but they appeared to be pretty nice. The greens were in good shape—lightly sanded, but rolled smooth and quick as expected. The greens were probably the highlight of this course with some big undulation, quick speeds and tricky pin placements to keep you frustrated.
River Ridge is definitely a good birthday deal with two enjoyable courses to choose from. You do have to pay the cart fee ($15) if you choose to ride, but that’s still a great value!
Some pictures from River Ridge Golf Course (The Vineyard) (8/7/12):
Now, one of the more interesting features of the Vineyard course this time of year is the fact that the Dallas Cowboys training camp is literally right next to the course. So there are always festivities going on over there, even though the players weren’t out and practicing yet when we went by.
By the time we finished at River Ridge, I was pretty wiped out both mentally and figuratively. I had printed out a birthday round voucher from Elkins Ranch Golf Course up in nearby Fillmore (just in case), but it was a longshot that I would actually play a third round. I was pretty exhausted.
As I was leaving River Ridge, I looked at the traffic maps on my phone and saw nothing but red on every possible route. I figured it would be a three-hour drive home from Oxnard to Irvine in bumper-to-bumper traffic. So just out of curiosity, I called Elkins Ranch to see what it was looking like out there. They said it was wide open and would basically be my “own private country club” if I wanted to head out there.
A couple more hours of golf sounded much more enjoyable than a few hours of bad traffic, so I went for it…
Elkins Ranch Golf Course • Fillmore, CA • 8/7/12
I have vague memories of Fillmore from my childhood. When I was very young, my family lived out in Ojai, but my grandparents lived in Lancaster. We would go out there to visit a few times a year. Generally, we’d drive along the 126 and then take the I-5 south to the 14. That took us through the small town of Fillmore with a big white “F” carved into the side of a mountain. Other than that, I remembered very little about this small town. It’s only about a half-hour east of Ventura, so it really wasn’t as far out of the way as it seemed.
I got to Elkins ranch a little before 4:30 and, as advertised, there was hardly anyone out there. I could see much of the course on the road in and from the driveway and saw only a handful of people out on the course. There were only a few cars in the parking lot. Granted, it was quite hot this far inland, but it was already cooling down this late in the afternoon.
I checked in and the staff was super friendly. They hooked me up with my birthday round, though I did have to pay the cart fee here, as well ($15, part of which was a $5 cash deposit they returned to me at the end of the round). Their normal rates here are pretty good to begin with, but free is even better!
In looking at the course from the parking lot, I could tell I would enjoy it pretty well. It looked lush and green all the way around and the surrounding mountain scenery painted a pretty picture in every direction. There was a peaceful feeling out there and I quickly got my second (or was it a third?) wind right when I got there.
I enjoyed this course the most (by far) of the three I played Tuesday. It was really a pleasant surprise because I didn’t know too much about the course going in. A twosome had just teed off on the 1st hole right as I was checking in, so they recommended I start on the 10th. I zipped around the back nine first and then played through one group when I got back on the front. I finished in under two hours, so it was a great quick round to cap off the day.
I liked the course a lot. The setting is very picturesque and rustic with the mountains, an orange grove and tall pine trees lining all the holes. The layout is solid. It’s not super tough, but it pays to keep it straight and out of the trees. There are plenty of dogleg holes that are somewhat tight off the tee, but open up as you get closer to the greens. The greens themselves are pretty basic with not a lot of protection or undulation. The course has a few minor elevation changes, but it’s mostly flat.
The conditions were superb in my opinion. I had read on GK this course was in as good a shape as ever, but I had kind of read that in relative terms…as in “normally it’s a dump, but it’s as nice now as it’s gonna get.” It was near immaculate out there. It was very green and lush from tee too green. It featured well-manicured fairways and deep rough that was definitely penalizing. The greens were in very nice shape. Much slower than what I played earlier in the day, but the surfaces still looked and played nicely.
Though it’s definitely out of the way in Fillmore, this is an enjoyable course and now is a great time to play it with the conditions as they are. I will definitely find an excuse to come and play out here again someday.
Some pictures from Elkins Ranch Golf Course (8/7/12):
I finished around 6:30 and left the course. The detour worked out perfectly because I didn’t hit a single ounce of traffic on the way home. I was looking for a good place to eat along the way and was craving some good Mexican food, but couldn’t find any inspiration. After awhile, I just decided to take a slightly different route home so I could go through Huntington Beach and hit up my favorite Mexican restaurant in Orange County: Mario’s Fiesta Maya. The food was delicious as always and it was an absolutely perfect way to end my birthday. What a great day!
Note: Mario’s Fiesta Maya location is unfortunately now closed, but there are other Mario’s locations in HB with mostly the same menu.
Now, I am gearing up for my big multi-state adventure starting this Saturday. I’m flying into Indianapolis Saturday evening and have all of next week planned out. If all goes as planned, I’ll be playing in six different states (Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee) and playing as many as 12 rounds of golf. It will be another crazy trip with a lot of driving and a lot of golf, but that’s what the Golf Nomad spirit is all about.
Like with my last road trip, I will be posting reviews and photos from the road. I’m hoping to do it nightly like before, but some of the days are pretty tight, so I’ll do the best I can so you can enjoy the adventure along with me.