Teeing up on Ventura County Greens

Soule, Olivas, and Buenaventura offer pristine views, diverse challenges

By The Unknown Golfer

As people begin to venture out again, they’re rediscovering our regional golf courses. I am certainly no different; in fact, not playing golf was one of the hardest things about being confined to home for me. So when courses started to open, I was quick to get out and play, while taking all the recommended precautions.

As people begin to venture out again, they’re rediscovering our regional golf courses. I am certainly no different; in fact, not playing golf was one of the hardest things about being confined to home for me. So when courses started to open, I was quick to get out and play, while taking all the recommended precautions.

Evidently, I was not the only one who missed hitting the golf course as tee times have been a challenge to book. To make sure I balance my work and family commitments and still get in the game I love, I have had to play when I can, including walking on as a single and playing early morning and twilight rounds.

For those who are passing through Ventura County or who live in the area and are looking for a new course to play, I would highly suggest checking out one of the three courses I recently visited: Soule Park Golf Course, Olivas Links, and the Buenaventura Golf Course.

I will start by saying all three courses are doing a terrific job making sure players are safe and socially distanced. They took my payment when I booked the tee times online, so when I got to the course I simply checked in and was on my way.

Soule Park Golf Course in Ojai

Photos provided by Soule Park Golf Course

My first stop was the Soule Park Golf Course in Ojai. It had been a few years since I had played Soule Park and quite honestly, the last time I played there was quite forgettable. That was then, this is now.

Soule Park Golf Course is one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to public courses on the Central Coast. Despite an early tee time of 6:40 am, I got to the course in time to hit a small bucket on the driving range which was in great condition with lots of personal space. They also have an adjacent putting green and chipping area.

From there, I walked to the first tee and let me tell you, golf just doesn’t get much better than the first hole at Soule Park. The elevated tee, with water on the left and an incredible view of the rest of the course, is a superb way to start your day. And not to mention, the course is in amazing condition.

The fairways and greens were smooth and well maintained, and unlike most courses I have played since the stay-at-home order was lifted, the bunkers at Soule Park are in great shape. Like all courses, the rakes have been removed as a precaution, but despite the obvious footprints here and there I still played out of the sand because the traps were in such good condition.

After wrapping up a solid front nine, the 10th is another fun elevated tee shot. The par-3 has water on the right, and also makes life hard if you go left or long. My back nine got off to a nice start as I put my tee shot within six feet of the pin and drained the putt for a rare birdie.

The back nine at Soule Park is almost spiritual as you take in the panoramic views of the mountains and the creek that runs through the course — which still had flowing water as an added treat. As I walked up to the par-5 18th tee, I was disappointed that my day would soon come to an end. After a solid drive and an even better second shot, I was thinking birdie to finish my round. Sadly, my birdie putt burned the edge of the hole and I had to settle for a par, but it was still a great round overall.

The staff at Soule Park were awesome and they did have food, drinks, and carts available. I chose to walk the course and while there were a few hills, for the most part it was quite manageable. Simply stated, Soule Park is a true gem. General manager Keith Brown and his staff have done a remarkable job revitalizing the course! I give Soule Park five stars.

Soule Park Golf Course is at 1033 E. Ojai Ave, in Ojai. For tee times and more: 
(805) 646-5633 or soulepark.com

Olivas Links Golf Course

Next up was Olivas Links Golf Course in Ventura. This was my first visit to this course, and I was left asking myself what took me so long to play this terrific track? Like Soule Park, Olivas Links is in pristine condition right now. I played the champion tees which play 6,530 yards and I found the distance to be ideal for posting a low score.

My front nine went extremely well (for me). I managed to log par on five holes and birdie one on the front and, much to my surprise, I hit every fairway which made my day a lot of fun. Olivas Links is forgiving if you’re in play, but if you are not accurate, your round can take a dive in a hurry.

The bunkers are a challenge, as you would expect in links golf. My one double-bogie on the front came on the par-4 sixth hole, when I ended up flirting with a bunker and lost. The sand was in better-than-average condition but a flubbed first attempt cost me a stroke. Nonetheless, I was able to put it behind me and scramble to a par on the seventh hole.

Everything about Olivas Links was fun and it was one of the best golf experiences I have had in a long time. My early tee time did not allow for much of a warm-up, but the course has a nice practice area which I will take advantage of next time I play there. The staff were extremely helpful, and the course marshal even took time to walk me to the first tee to explain the course rules — and give me a few pointers, which certainly came in handy throughout the day.

The back nine started off well, but then the drives that found the fairway all day suddenly started going a little wide, and my final score reflected my late round errors. But, I absolutely loved this course. The greens were in great shape, and I felt like they were a good speed and read true.

I also walked this course, and it was an easy stroll. I give Olivas Links five stars as well!

Olivas Links Golf Course is at 3750 Olivas Park Dr, in Ventura. For tee times and more: (805) 677-6770 or olivaslinks.com

Buenaventura Golf Course

Photos provided by Buenaventura Golf Course

The nearby Buenaventura Golf Course is another golf course I had heard a lot about, but never had the chance to play until recently. I booked my tee time online as a single and ended up finding an afternoon time, pairing up with two friendly regulars who helped me navigate my round.

I played the Blue tees, which only played 5,521 yards. I hadn’t done much research on the course going into the round, but standing on the first tee I quickly determined that accuracy was going to be the key. Buenaventura is short and tight with fairways close to each other, so going wide off the tee was not an option.

Given that I am not a long hitter, it was quite different to have second shots that only required a wedge to the green. Despite not playing all that well, I did manage to post a very low score (for me) on the front and I had multiple makeable birdie putts.

This Ventura course was in good shape, and I appreciated the fact there were several holes where water comes into play. One of my favorite holes was the par-3 fifth hole, which surrounds the green with water hazards. Sadly, a three-putt ruined my chance for at least a par, but I left wanting another crack at that hole.

After posting a low score on the front, I headed into the back with high hopes, but things quickly went south. The afternoon winds started to pick up, and suddenly shots that were landing on the green were off the mark. And remember that water I was excited to navigate on the front nine? Well, the love affair didn’t last long as I plopped three balls into the water, effectively ruining my chance at an all-time low score.

Despite the up-and-down round and the compact course, I had a lot of fun playing Buenaventura. I’ll admit, I was on the lookout for wayward shots more than I would normally be because of the smaller course, but this round provided new challenges and shots I don’t see in most of my rounds.

Buenaventura has a practice green, but only has a couple of nets to hit into if you want to get in some practice swings. Like the other two courses, the staff here were great to deal with and helped with all my questions. Given that this course is so short, it was an easy walk. But for those who prefer to ride, carts are also available. I’ll play Buenaventura again soon. I give this course four stars.

Buenaventura Golf Course is at 5882 Olivas Park Dr, in 
Ventura. For tee times and more: (805) 677-6772 or buenaventuragolf.com

With the need to continue social distancing and the fact that other sports are struggling to restart, more people are turning (and returning) to golf for recreation and exercise. The Central Coast provides lots of options for golfers, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value than Soule Park, Olivas Links, and Buenaventura.

All three courses visibly care about the safety of their golfers and staff and I felt very comfortable in all three settings. You can bet I’ll be back on all three courses in the very near future!