Yesterday, I played in another SCGA member outing. This one was at North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, CA. This is an interesting area geographically because it straddles the border of Los Angeles County and Ventura County. I believe North Ranch Country Club technically sits in Ventura County, so that’s where it will go on my rankings list.
Anyway, we had a 9:00 shotgun start. The carts were all lined up nicely behind the clubhouse, but after that it became apparent that this club doesn’t host a ton of outside events. Things were a little late to get started and disorganized as players started heading out to their holes. We eventually figured it out, though.
North Ranch has 27 holes. Private clubs with three nines are becoming the bane of my existence because there’s rarely a possibility to play all three nines in these kinds of outings. So that means someday I’ll have to find a way to access this course again and pay a hefty fee just to play the nine I missed. In this case, they had us playing the Lakes/Valley combo. Oaks is the nine I didn’t get to play.
The outing had a pretty large group of players, so the pace of play was slow. We finished in just under five hours. My group started on the 2nd hole of the Valley nine. For some reason, there was only one group put on our hole (a long par-4), but two groups were put on the par-3 directly ahead of us. Again, questionable shotgun planning.
The setting for this course is very nice. Though there are some houses (or should I say mansions in some cases?) around the course, it feels really secluded out here. It is a very hilly layout with a ton of oak trees in play. They used the old trees beautifully in many of the hole designs. A lot of the fairways have kind of serpentine designs going up and down the hills and around the oak trees. I really liked the look of the course.
There are a handful of water hazards and some OB areas where streets and houses come into play, but mostly the tee shots are more forgiving than they look. Accuracy and placement are still important, and the approach shots will require a lot of precision throughout this course. The layout was designed by Ted Robinson. The signature 8th hole of the Lakes nine is a prototypical Robinson par-3 with the railroad tie walls and a big waterfall/pond feature. As always, it’s a beautiful hole but felt awfully familiar. Beyond this hole, though, I didn’t really get the Robinson “cookie cutter” feel that sometimes comes with his designs. The layout felt naturally built into the terrain, and it was very enjoyable on every level.
Easily my favorite hole on the day was the par-4 2nd hole of the Lakes nine. Overall, I definitely preferred the Lakes over Valley. Both were good, but Lakes was more intriguing. The 2nd hole features a downhill tee shot to a fairway that wraps around a bunker on the left. Then it goes down and back up as it winds around a small pond guarding the front right of the green. A tree guards the left side about 80 yards short of the green, forcing a very demanding second shot from wherever you are. It’s a beautiful hole that is also very interesting and challenging.
As one might expect, the facilities here are very nice and the conditioning was excellent. The tee boxes were fantastic. The fairways had some dappling of brown in places, but all the turf was lush, consistent and ideal to play from. The rough had a few spotty sections, but was mostly excellent. It was not really punitive as the ball tended to sit up nicely. The bunkers were exceptional. The greens were also great. I saw very few signs of old ball marks, even though we were making and repairing plenty of our own. It was especially nice to see a course where the greens are so well taken care of. The surfaces were rolling pure at medium/quick speeds, featuring a lot of subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle (Robinson) slopes to contend with.
Overall, I found a lot to love about the course at North Ranch and I look forward to coming back to play the Oaks nine someday. If you ever get a chance to play out here, it’s worth checking out. In terms of overall style and scenery, it’s probably the next-best-thing to nearby Sherwood Country Club. It’s not quite on that level, but it definitely evokes similar qualities and I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat.
Some pictures from North Ranch Country Club (7/25/16):