Heading into spring, we still find mostly cool weather along the coast. To get a bit warmer, I suggest the inland valleys nearby, such as Ojai, for warmer golf. The drive alone is worth the trip, especially if you are the passenger gazing at the Pacific with the Channel Islands in clear view. At the end of the journey we find Ojai with great golf and a superb resort, which is also open to the public.
The Ojai Valley Inn Golf Club is one of the finest layouts in Southern California, having been designed by George Thomas, who’s also responsible for the Riviera, Bel Air, and Los Angeles country clubs. The course was updated in 1988 by Jay Morrish and is a classic “long short course.” While only 6300 yards, it actually plays longer with a par of 70, including many par fours over 400 and par threes over 200 yards.
Through the years, famous pros and celebrities have flocked to its fairways. Jimmy Demaret and Doug Sanders have been pros while Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Will Smith, Kevin Costner, and Michael Douglas played and play regularly. The Michael Douglas & Friends event was played here several times along with the PGA Champions Tour.
The most famous holes are no doubt the “Lost Holes” which were reintroduced in 1999 having been part of the original Thomas design. The par three 7th will command attention at just under 200 yards and slightly downhill. The approach will need to be perfect with OB to the right, lateral canyon just left, and large bunkers short. Over the years I have found it safer to shoot for the front of the green regardless of the pin position. This gives the player more landing area and a good chance to walk away with a 3 or 4 on a potentially devastating hole.
The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa has long been a weekend retreat for Hollywood’s elite. This relationship dates back to the filming of Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon, which was shot on location nearby. The inn’s classic Spanish-style architecture fits perfectly into this warm valley with large mountains rising up in all directions. The property sits atop a knoll affording comfortable views from its restaurants and most rooms.
In recent years, the inn has had a complete makeover to achieve a peaceful Mediterranean feel throughout the resort. Spanish tile floors give way to white stucco, wood beams, and red rooftops. There are numerous water fountains and the landscaping is immaculate, adding to the serenity.
The rooms are very large, averaging 425 square feet, and never too far from the activities. We were just steps from the pro shop, driving range, and 1st tee. The restaurants were no more than a wedge shot away uphill with the spa equally close downhill. The resort features the finest linens with its signature “Ojai Nest” bedding. The bathrooms are oversized and stocked with Spa Ojai amenities.
The Oak Grill is one of my favorite all time places to dine and a must for all resort guests. The views of the golf course and surrounding mountains are stunning as you dine underneath the 200-year-old oaks, which give ample protection from the sun. The food and service were excellent as was my Moroccan Grilled Salmon.
Spa Ojai is perennially ranked in the top 10 in the US by Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast, USA Today, and TripAdvisor.com. The spacious relaxed setting with its Moroccan design is sure to please and another good reason to visit.
By Courtesy Photo