Olivas Links Golf Course (Ventura, CA on 11/23/15)

Our last round in Southern California was at Olivas Links, which is a course that gets a lot of love from the local golf community! I read about its great location, fun design, value, and nice maintenance. From what I had gathered, the course has plenty to like. You won’t find it on any top public lists for California, but I was really looking forward to playing here. Scratch that, I fell in love with the course while browsing its website before my trip!

The first thing that you probably will notice when pulling into the parking lot is the coastal feel of the area. We encountered a pleasant ocean breeze all afternoon and the area put me in a good mood. The course couldn’t be more than half a mile from the Pacific Ocean and is bordered by farmland and the Santa Clara River. In comparison to River Ridge, Olivas Links is on the other side of the Santa Clara River but closer to the coast. I grew up in Northern California and this area reminded me a lot of Watsonville. I’d make sure to consider an extra club most of the day because of the heavy, ocean air! You get some views of the mountains off in the distance, but nothing too dramatic.

As the name indicates, Olivas Links is links style with very few trees coming into play. I found this to be a nice change from all the tree lined courses here in Virginia! The course has an open feel to it with very wide fairways. There are some monster fairways here, a handful of which are probably 40+ yards wide. Some could say that a good drive isn’t needed to score, and I wouldn’t argue. I think the only time that driving the ball here could be problematic will be in a strong wind. There aren’t a bunch of hazards and just some minor undulation in the fairways so I don’t see Olivas Links as a course where someone is going to make too many big numbers. There is a chance to play well and recover. That’s indicated on the scorecard as the champion tees (our choice) play 6530/71.6/127. Even the tips only have a slope of 130.

The biggest challenge is going to be trying to get a handle on the severely sloping greens, both from the fairways and around the green complexes. Because the course is so flat the smallest rise in a fairway, a bunker, or a slightly elevated green can block the view of a green. These subtle features made it difficult to figure out exactly where I wanted to land my shots! I noticed that some greens slope off towards the back so I struggled to stop my share of chips. It would be helpful to play here a few times to know the easiest spots to chip from! Because it is a links design, you can putt from off some of the greens and use some slopes to your advantage. I wasn’t sharp with my irons so I made quite a few bogeys, but I always seemed to end up with the score that I deserved.

I don’t think there are any crazy memorable holes at Olivas Links, but there are a couple holes on the back nine that will require some strategy. The 15th is a short par 4 with a green that is almost at the golfer’s 12 o’clock. But, an out of bounds fence pinches and pushes the fairway to the left. I fanned my tee shot and ended up on the very right side of the fairway and the natural vegetation behind the fence blocked my view of the green. The left side of the fairway is best for a clearer view, but it narrows the farther you hit it so driver might not be the play. There is more rough short of the green than you’d expect while in the fairway. The next hole, the 16th, is the longest par 4 on the course with another green that is straight ahead. There are some trees that encroach the fairway after the drive and before you get to the green. Because of those trees, you will want to challenge the left fairway bunkers on the drive. If you are hitting the second shot from the center or right side of the fairway then you could have to carve a shot around the trees or try to carry them. There is a hazard to the left ~250 yards off the tee which needs to be avoided too. It is a demanding hole!

The conditions were decent, not great, but not terrible either. The fairways were soft which required more shots in the air and took away some of the “links” fun that I was hoping for. The greens had a bunch of ball marks, but that’s not surprising because it appears the course gets a lot of play. It was packed the day we played and for good reason. We paid only $29 to walk which cannot be beat, especially in Southern California! We walked in 4 hours 15 minutes which is fine, but it felt longer because of the waiting around that we did. The greens actually rolled fine, they just weren’t as pristine as a couple other places that we played on our trip. Everything looked pretty green and lush.

When I opened I said that I fell in love with the course just by looking at the website. I ended up disappointed with Olivas Links and wish that I hadn’t looked at the website at all before playing! The reason I was disappointed is that the course lacked the “wow” features of a coastal links course. I expected fairways with a ton of slope, random pot bunkers, deeper bunkers, more native grass, and more chipping areas. Instead, what we got were some very bland design features. It was a case of me setting my expectations too high! I don’t see any reason to avoid Olivas Links, and would recommend it, just don’t get your hopes up like I did.

#1 (351 yard par 4):

1-1

#2 (529 yard par 5):

2-1 2-2

#3 (356 yard par 4):

3-1

#4 (510 yard par 5):

4-1

#5 (167 yard par 3):

5-1

#6 (420 yard par 4):

6-1 6-2

#7 (395 yard par 4):

7-1 7-2

#8 (164 yard par 3):

8-1

#9 (344 yard par 4):

9-1 9-2

#10 (381 yard par 4):

10-1 10-2

#11 (378 yard par 4):

11-1 11-3

#12 (362 yard par 4):

12-1

#13 (171 yard par 3):

13-1

#14 (548 yard par 5):

14-1 14-2

#15 (357 yard par 4):

15-1 15-3

#16 (455 yard par 4):

16-1 16-2

#17 (149 yard par 3):

17-1 17-2

#18 (493 yard par 5):

18-1

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