As one of the premier golf destinations, there’s no shortage of world-class golf courses in Southern California that can make for truly memorable experiences. But as any experienced golfer can tell you, no matter the quality of the course, the people you play with can completely make or break your impression of the round. I’ve had outings on gorgeous grounds ruined by partners dead-set on sucking the joy out of golf, and unforgettable moments with great friends on dog tracks. You can’t always pick who you play with, but when you know who’s in your group, picking the right course for the circumstances can help make the most of the experience. Here’s our breakdown of the top courses to checkout in the Ventura/Santa Barbara region (and before you start asking where Rustic Canyon is, we included it in our Los Angeles guide):
Best place to play with your usual weekend foursome
Soule Park Golf Course (Ojai)
If you know, you know. Ask the locals about their favorite courses and Soule Park is almost sure to come up as a hidden gem. Tucked in the Ojai Valley, it strikes an often tough to find balance of playability for novices while presenting challenges for the scratch player. The conditions are excellent year round and the scenery is unlike what you’ll find at most SoCal courses. Best of all is the unbeatable value: if you walk (and the course is fairly walkable), you can play for under $50 even on the weekend. If you haven’t already, get the crew together and make a trip up to Ojai.
Best place to play with your significant other
The Alisal Ranch (Solvang)
There are no shortage of beachside golf resorts in SoCal, so The Alisal presents a unique stay-and-play destination in the region. In addition to golf, the Ranch offers horseback riding and wine tasting opportunities, as well as the typical resort amenities (spa, fine dining, etc.). There are two gorgeous courses on the property, the River (open to the public) and the Ranch (private but guests can request a tee time during their stay), that are relatively affordable compared to other high-end options.
Best place to play with your parents
Olivas Links (Ventura)
Plain and simple, one of the greatest courses to walk in all of SoCal. Wide open fairways, not overly long, right by the ocean, and pace of play generally not an issue. Also falls into the great value category (especially if your parents qualify for the senior rate).
Best place to play with your kids
Westlake Golf Course (Westlake Village)
This is a great executive course (par 66) for beginners of all ages to start at and also includes a 40-stall lighted driving range. What sets Westlake apart for kids is the Junior Golf Program, open to boys and girls age 8 to 17 of all skill levels. Juniors in the program attend group lessons, swing and short game clinics, a rules and etiquette clinic, evening contests, and weekly tournaments. After passing a test, juniors receive a membership card that gives them a greatly reduced green fee rate.
Best place for a business meeting
Moorpark Country Club (Moorpark)
Bring your coworkers or clients to Moorpark and you’ll give them the private club experience, minus the cost of actually joining a private club. The facility features 27 holes of first-class golf, a classy clubhouse and restaurant, plus a banquet hall if you’re hosting a large party.
Best place to play with your broke buddy
Buenaventura Golf Course (Ventura)
If you haven’t figured it out already, the North Coast is chock-full of courses that provide plenty of bang for your buck. While Buenaventura may not possess some of the character of it’s sister course, Olivas Links, it’s still a quality track that you can play for around $50 during peak times (and much less during weekdays and twilight). They also offer value memberships for those who play frequently and discounts for Ventura County residents.
Best place to show off to your super wealthy friend
Sandpiper Golf Club (Goleta)
While it may not hold quite the prestige of Torrey or Pebble, Sandpiper is still an iconic California beachside course. The back nine in particular is a standout here, with some unique holes featuring risk/reward shots, not to mention the picturesque views of the Pacific as you make your way to practically teeing off on the beach. After the round, make sure to swing by the grill and grab some of the best tri-tip you’ll find in SoCal.
Best place to teach a beginner
Saticoy Regional Golf Course (Ventura)
There aren’t an abundance of short courses in the region, but Saticoy Regional is a forgiving setting for someone to start their golf journey. For starters, it’s a 9-hole facility where beginners can build some stamina before tackling a full 18. The course features three par 3s, five par 4s, and a par 5, so you’ll have the opportunity to try out a variety of clubs and shots. It’s also fairly open and features minimal hazards so errant shots aren’t overly penalized.
Best place to challenge your scratch golfer friend
La Purisima Golf Course (Lompoc)
Home to the Santa Barbara County Championship, La Purisima may be the most difficult public course in the region. Tight, bending, tree-lined fairways, undulating greens, and plenty of hazards make this a challenge from any set of tees. If you finally want a chance to take down your buddy always coming in under par, send them to the tips, which play at over 7100 yards and check in with a Course Rating of 75.6 and Slope Rating of 143.
Recommended Groups in Ventura/Santa Barbara
Great golf experiences are all about great company, but sometimes that isn’t so easy to find. Whether you’re new to golf, new to the area, or looking to expand your network of golf partners, we’re here to make it easier. These are some of the groups that come from all over SoCal to experience the top tier golf the North Coast has to offer:
Kevin is a born and raised Southern California golfer. His golf highlights include occasionally breaking 90, losing an entire dozen balls in one round, and sinking a 20 foot putt on camera on the first take. Kevin is a member of Tiny Putters Golf and his current Handicap Index is none of your business.