Just an hour from downtown Los Angeles, the City of Ventura seems almost to be in a time capsule, with its laid-back style, acres of farmland (strawberries from Ventura are used, among other places, at Wimbledon) and its down-home feeling.
Once that was true of the city-owned golf courses, as well. Today, however, a few years after a major renovation on one and a complete redesign on the other, Buenaventura Golf Course and Olivas Links offer great values for golfers and cool temperatures when most of Southern California is sweltering.
In what are considered hidden gems by the golfers who've discovered them, each course has its own distinct character. Buenaventura GC was designed by William Park Bell, one of dozens of layouts that he either designed or worked on, a list that includes The Los Angeles CC and Bel-Air CC, among others. It opened in 1932.
Olivas Links opened in 1967 as a 27-hole facility called Olivas Park GC and was designed by Bell’s son, William Francis Bell (whose many creations also included Industry Hills GC). A year after it opened, rain washed out nine holes, leaving 18 for play.
More than a decade ago, when the city decided to renovate the two courses, it took a different tack with each. “We wanted to create, in effect, separate identities for the two layouts,” explained former director of golf Lee Harlow. “With Buenaventura, we changed the routing slightly but the biggest thing we did was to put in a new irrigation system, new turf, new greens and tees. It was, in effect, a renovation.”
By contrast, says Harlow, the other course was completely redesigned by Scottsdale-based architect Forrest Richardson (who also oversaw the Buenaventura remodel). “We kept some of the trees and the old scoreboard box next to the No. 2 tee,” says Harlow. “Other than that, it’s a completely new course with a new name, Olivas Links.”
Perhaps the most innovative step at Olivas Links was to seed the fairways, roughs and tees in paspalum (the greens are bentgrass). Among other things, this allows for the use of virtually any type of water, including reclaimed water. Moreover, the redesign reduced the amount of irrigatable land from 150 acres to about 100 acres.
So successful has been the paspalum at Olivas Links that Buenaventura will ultimately convert from ryegrass to that drought-resistant grass, as well.
Both course are eminently walkable and have large, loyal customer bases. “Our core group of golfers at Buenaventura is the retired crowd,” says Dionne Dennis, director of tournament sales. “We get a lot of walkers out here; it’s a health-conscious group.”
The city’s temperate climate makes for highly comfortable golf. “The summertime is great because you can smell the strawberries from the surrounding fields as you’re coming in on 18,” says Dennis. “In the winter, the temperatures can be 5-10 degrees warmer than at Olivas Links.”
Art and history play a big part at both courses. Olivas Links is adjacent to the historic Olivas Adobe, while the entrance to Buenaventura is graced by The Big Swing, a 12-foot tall figurative sculpture by Michael Stutz made of bronze strips intricately woven and then welded together. Both courses also have stay and play packages with the Crowne Plaza Hotel, on the beach in downtown Ventura. Visit cpventura.com for more information.