Birthday Bonanza 2015

Well, it’s my birthday week, and you know what that means. Lots of “free” golf! I really only had a couple days to take advantage of the deals this week, but I made the most of it and will continue to celebrate through the weekend with lots of golf scheduled.Thursday was a marathon day and then I kept it simple today with just one round. These are all courses I’ve reviewed before, so I won’t go into great detail and I’ll post a handful of the nicer pictures from each stop.

Let’s get it started…

Elkins Ranch Golf Course • Fillmore, CA • 8/6/15

A friend joined me for Thursday’s blitz as he just recently celebrated his own birthday and the courses we played up in Ventura County offered the same basic deal (free round good up to a week before or after your birthday, weekdays only).

Elkins was our first stop and it was my second time here (previously also for a birthday visit). Here, you do have to pay $15 cart fee whether you walk or ride with the birthday deal. We chose to ride anyway. We got off first as a twosome a little before 6:00. Maintenance was out in full force and we encountered at least worker on almost every hole, but we played quickly and were done in a little over two hours.

The course is in very good shape right now, with pretty lush green conditions throughout. There were a few weak spots here and there in the fairways and rough, but I saw mostly great coverage and had consistently good lies. There was some pretty thick (and wet) rough to deal with at times. The greens were soft and rolling great at medium speeds. The bunkers were wet, but had good sand to work with. All in all, it was typical well above-average Elkins conditions.

This is a fun course with a nice setting. It’s not really ideal for a fade hitter like me on a lot of tee shots (even on the holes shaped left to right because of some trees and awkward doglegs), but it’s still not hard to score here if you keep the ball safe and hit your targets. The staff was nice and it was a good overall experience. I’ll definitely be back here again, even though Fillmore is not the most convenient location.

Some pictures from Elkins Ranch Golf Course (8/6/15):

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After a perfectly quick round at Elkins, we jumped in the car and headed up the winding back roads to Ojai for round two…

Soule Park Golf Course • Ojai, CA • 8/6/15

I played here last year on my birthday, as well, so it’s one I don’t mind making the drive for. Perhaps because I was born just down the street from the course, I have a salmon-like propensity to return around my birthday.

We were able to tee it up pretty soon after arriving and though there was a small tournament out on the course ahead and some other scattered twosomes, we enjoyed a nice pace of around three hours. Like at Elkins, Soule Park’s birthday deal requires the $15 cart fee whether you walk or ride and then they also charge an extra $1 “capital improvement” fee as they called it.

The course was in decent shape, but a step down from previous visits. The fairways had some thin spots and the rough was pretty spotty, but there was still pretty good and consistent playability throughout. The greens were very nice. They were firm, but receptive and rolling medium/quick and smooth on top. I wasn’t in any bunkers, which is a shock as I normally visit plenty on this course.

I enjoy the layout at Soule Park and in my previous visits, I didn’t fare well, but yesterday I had a great round and felt vindicated here. It is a nice, mostly secluded setting and a decent linksy design. I still find the placement of many bunkers odd and greens are deceptive on approaches with the big collar areas that surround some of them. I’m sure I’ll be back for another birthday week round in the future, though!

Some pictures from Soule Park Golf Course (8/6/15):

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We looped back around and through Ventura to reach our third course of the day…

River Ridge Golf Club (Vineyard) • Oxnard, CA • 8/6/15

This review may be a bit longer than others, but it’s not so much about the course itself. The new development here since the only other time I played the Vineyard course (a couple years ago) is that they added foot golf to the mix. It basically plays throughout the front nine and is very much integrated into the main play areas for the regular golf course.

First, let me say that I have nothing against foot golf and I understand why courses are adding it in as an option (same goes for disc golf), but it is a terrible idea to have regular golfers and foot golfers trying to share the same space at the same time. It is dangerous and confusing, and it flat out drove us nuts yesterday. More on that in a bit.

We were able to call ahead and they booked us on Vineyard at 1:15 as it was less crowded than the more popular Lakes course. River Ridge’s birthday deal is great because you do not have to pay for the cart fee. It is optional, so it’s free to walk or $15 to ride. As our third round of the day, we still opted to pay for the cart and that was helpful considering how we ended up playing this course.

The starter and marshal were great in coordinating things and letting us know there were a lot of foot golfers out on the course, as well as plenty of regular golf groups. They recommended we head out to the 3rd tee and start from there to get ahead of some foot golfers. When we got to that tee, we encountered a huge group of foot golfers ready to kick off (at least a tensome!!!). We kept rolling until we found an open hole (the 5th) and then we had to jump ahead again. We kept skipping around to find open holes and eventually found a nice gap ahead of everyone to play the back nine mostly as normal.

When we came back around to the 1st tee, there were groups waiting and more foot golfers out on the fairway. They let us go ahead of the other groups, which was nice, and then the marshal directed traffic ahead as we ultimately played through/over/around that foot golf group. It wasn’t the smoothest experience, but we eventually got all 18 in. Though the process was exhausting and frustrating, our aggressive moves paid off as we finished in a little over three hours. It just wasn’t that fun, though, with such chaos and confusion. Check out our unusual hole routing: 5, 7, 10, 12, 11, 13-18, 1-4, 6, 8-9.

It was a shame the experience was so frustrating because the course was in great shape. The fairways were lush and green (some fertilizer/dye has been applied to boost the color presentation) and they were great to hit from. The rough was not much of a factor, but had pretty good coverage in the places it mattered. The bunkers were good and the greens were excellent, rolling much quicker than they looked—as is usual at River Ridge.

This was my second time playing Vineyard and likely my last until they do something different with the foot golf thing. I just think there may be better ways to manage tee times to avoid overlapping play and dangerous situations. Designate certain hours/days for one or the other to be played and then everyone can be happy. Foot golfers following similar etiquette as regular golfers would also be a nice thing to push. This wackiness on Vineyard also seems to be driving more players onto the Lakes course, so that gets even more crowded.

I do enjoy the course. It’s nothing amazing, but is a solid layout all around. They do have the 13th hole playing as a temporary par-4 because the Dallas Cowboys training camp area has expanded to take up a big chunk of the fairway. Now, it is kind of a silly lay-up hole when it’s normally a really fun par-5. We were told that is only temporary, though, and will go back to normal as soon as the team leaves town. I guess this is the last year for the Cowboys in Oxnard anyway.

Okay, enough of my rant. Fine course, nice conditions and annoying experience. I’m glad we got to play for “free” because if we had paid full rates I would have been even less tolerant.

Some pictures from River Ridge Golf Club (Vineyard) (8/6/15):

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We had just enough time and energy for one more free round yesterday and it turned out to be an ironic twist of fate…

Lindero Country Club • Agoura Hills, CA • 8/6/15

Just in case we were feeling extra crazy after 54 holes already, we had printed up our free vouchers for Lindero, as well. I didn’t have much energy left in me, but would have been dealing with rush hour traffic heading home, so we decided to make the stop, kill a little more time and make the absolute most out of the day. Why not?

As we walked toward the pro shop, we joked to each other that it wouldn’t be long before Lindero added foot golf as an option. Well, what do you know? There was the sign out front saying “Foot Golf Now at Lindero CC!” We laughed and then looked at each other with the exact same thought in mind. After all the complaining we had done at River Ridge, we just had to consider trying foot golf for ourselves at Lindero.

We inquired inside and the guy said it was no problem to use our free birthday rounds for foot golf. We put our golf bags back in the car, picked out our free rental soccer balls and headed out to the first tee. In some ways, short courses like Lindero are best suited for foot or disc golf being integrated because they don’t get as much foot traffic as a “real” course like River Ridge. However, we found out that Lindero is far from a beginner-level foot golf layout.

The foot golf holes are either directly intertwined or just off to the sides of the regular golf holes here. Anyone who has played Lindero will know just how much of a magnet that big, mucky drainage ditch is for golf balls (along with a couple other small water hazards). Well, they are like industrial-strength electromagnets for soccer balls. Everything slopes down toward the water and no amount of rough will stop a soccer ball from rolling downhill.

Of course, when the ball would go into the water, it would float right out to the middle and then it was a real nightmare to try and retrieve them with rocks, sticks or whatever else you could find laying around. The one man-made water hazard on the 6th hole did have a big pole specifically for this use, but you were on your own in the drainage ditch.

I will say the game of foot golf itself is mildly entertaining. I think I played one season of soccer as a little kid, where I usually looked forward to the orange slices at halftime more than the games themselves. In other words, my ball-kicking skills are far from developed. I got the knack of it at one point with back-to-back pars, but still had a terrible score overall. We had fun, partly because we were enjoying the spiteful irony of the situation, but boy was it exhausting. I am super sore today. Nine holes of foot golf at Lindero was much more exhausting than 54 holes of regular golf earlier in the day!

I know there are better places for foot golf than here (in fact, River Ridge has the best looking foot golf course I’ve seen, for what it’s worth), but we had fun with the experience and it was definitely a memorable way to end a long and crazy day.

Some pictures from Lindero Country Club (8/6/15):

That concludes Thursday’s part of my Birthday Bonanza, but I was up early to play again Friday on my actual birthday. Yesterday was about quantity, whereas today was more about quality…

The Crossings at Carlsbad • Carlsbad, CA • 8/7/15

Crossings easily has the best birthday deal in Southern California nowadays. Others have extra costs, restrictions and conditions. Here, you just have to sign up for their e-club online and you can play for completely free (cart included) on your actual birthday. And that’s exactly what I did.

I got there early as a walk-on, and they let me head out first by myself as a single right at 6:00. I encountered an army of maintenance workers on almost every hole, but I’m used to that at dawn patrol, and I didn’t mind much because they are really doing an excellent job.

By that, I mean the conditions were exceptional! It was by far the nicest I’ve seen this course out the three times I’ve played it. The tee boxes were great. The fairways were pretty much perfect. The rough was a little thicker than I’ve seen it in past, which I preferred. It is not long, but the ball really settles in and it’s a tough recovery. The greens were ideal, soft and rolling true at medium/quick speeds. I’m sure they got even faster as the day went on.

I’ve enjoyed myself on every visit to Crossings and it will be on the top of my list any time my birthday rolls around as long as they have this totally free offer. The staff was very nice and the facilities are excellent. The back nine is always a blast with some really unique holes and insane greens. The 15th green is already a circus clown nightmare (in a sadistically good way), but they had the most evil of all pin positions today—on the very back right on top of a tiny little shelf. Yikes!

Happy birthday to me.

Some pictures from The Crossings at Carlsbad (8/7/15):

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