Are you looking for 70- to 80-degree days for golf this time of year but don’t want to go all the way to Palm Desert? This can be found within an hour’s drive in the Ojai Valley. The drive alone is worth the trip with the blue Pacific out the passenger-side window and the Channel Islands in view on most days. Ojai features two championship layouts with Soule Park and the Ojai Valley Inn courses.
In 2005 the Soule Park Golf Course was given a new look. Architects Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner were brought in due to their success with Rustic Canyon in Moorpark. They decided to keep most of the original layout but make enough changes to give Soule Park the classic feel similar to the Ojai Valley Inn. Deep bunkers were built along with other feature shaping similar to the works of George Thomas and Bill Bell. The end result is a classic layout that looks like it was there all the time. The course is tougher now but can be enjoyed by players of all ability. Hanse has become very well respected and has been chosen to design the host course for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The biggest change to the original layout happens right at the start. The first two holes are where the old numbers 17 and 18 used to be. They now run in a different direction as well. Number 3 is the old Number 10.After that the biggest change is the loss of Hole 7, “The Monster.” This controversial hole is gone forever, and few of us will miss it. It used to be a long par five with a blind lay-up to avoid the San Antonio Creek. The remodeled layout now has this as the 16th hole, a long par four which plays to the old lay-up spot. Number 17 now plays across the creek and is a much longer par four.
The course is in much better shape these days due to the new irrigation system installed in the remodel. For more information visit soulepark.com.
Ojai Valley Inn
The Inn’s course is a classic and one of my all-time favorites. It was designed by the famed George Thomas who also did Riviera Country Club. He carved a gem out of a fairly hilly piece of land — something you just don’t see anymore. Accuracy is a must on this track with deep bunkers guarding the small greens. The “Lost Holes” have put some extra teeth into the course in recent years, especially the tough downhill par three addition.
After golf there are several spots to relax and have a libation while you total up the damages. The Oak Café has an outdoor terrace surrounded by large oak trees. From here you can view play on many of the back nine holes. For a more intimate indoor experience, try Jimmy’s, named after former club pro and Tour star Jimmy Demaret. For more information visit ojairesort.com.
Ojai is generally several degrees warmer in the spring and has little if any wind due to its unique topography. There are two ways to get there. Most will take Highway 101 down to Highway 33, which feeds right into downtown Ojai. You can shorten this a bit, especially with weekend traffic, by taking the back way in on Creek Road. Make sure you study the map. Highway 150 can be picked up in Carpinteria, and it will cut 10 minutes off the trip but does require mountain driving. If you want to stay in cell phone reach, stay on the coast.
Project X Golf
Getting the right shaft for your woods is really important for serious golfers. There is a wide array of choices on the market, and it can be very confusing. The most reliable company in this field for the past couple of decades has been Project X, whose shafts are widely played on all professional tours including 23 wins worldwide in 2013.
My wife and I both recently switched to Project X Shafts after an extensive search. Those in search of perfection will want to visit one of their Performance Fitting Centers which can be found on their website. If you do not want to get that involved, they do have a five-step online fitting process that should do the job for most. For more details visit PXShaft.com.