Originally called Olivas Park Municipal Golf Course and operated as a 27-hole facility by the City of Ventura since the 1960s, the Olivas layout was prone to flooding, so it was reconfigured down to 18 holes by the local authorities in the 1970s.
Fast-forward thirty years to 2008 and a completely new 18-hole course called Olivas Links opened for play, fashioned by Forrest Richardson and Associates.
Why the “Links” moniker? Who knows? Four large bodies of water are alien to links courses, while the interconnecting streams may be a nod to Scottish burns, but if you’ve experienced the real thing you’ll know that Olivas Links is faux. However, the coastal location adjacent to the Santa Clara River and Ventura Harbor often provide the breeze that’s synonymous with real links courses.
Several thousand rather sickly trees were removed in the process of fashioning Olivas Links. According to the architect: “The final result is a graceful, links-oriented golf course that serves as a primary public open space of a growing harbor and recreation area. The design embraced an approach to instead of fighting the land, use the lay of the land and natural features to form the basis for all decisions. The result is a course that flows and cascades over the land, rather than through it.”
If you are looking for a links-like experience at a truly affordable price, Olivas Links will tick both boxes. It’s certainly a compelling layout that cost a pretty penny to create ($5.2m to be precise), so we endorse its inclusion as a Californian GEM and we applaud the City of Ventura for the endeavour, but not for the choice of name.
One of the great reasons to be a reader of Top 100 is to browse through page after page of courses all over the world and perhaps find underappreciated gems that otherwise would escape notice.
Olivas Links is one such gem because it is such a solid course. The routing works with the land and is links-like in that it gives you many options to attack the greens with the ground game often being a fun approach.
The course threads the needle by being both fair to the average golfer while giving the aspiring pro challenges especially in the angle of attack off the tees (the course often is a pre-qualifying site for the pro tours Monday slots). The greens and bunkers are often in great shape, which is a testament to the grounds crew considering the amount of rounds played here.
The course just "works" and while not top tier (there are a few too many parallel holes stuffed in the middle of the course for my taste) it is a guaranteed good round of public golf and definitely one not to sleep on if you are in the LA/Ventura area.
Kudos also goes to Kemper who runs a top notch operation including the ancillary items (driving range, staff, etc.) which adds to a pleasant day.
This is a sweet municipal course just down the road from Ventura Harbor. Built on crepe flat former agricultural land, it now has just enough contour—and enough open vistas— to remind one of a true links course. The routing is quite intuitive, with all but one tee a short walk from the previous green. The first hole is quite straightforward. Succeeding fairways are not all constricted, but most feature a line of charm—an opportunity for the golfer to take a riskier line with the tee ball to set up a more advantageous angle for the second shot. That sort of strategic opportunity also presents itself on the second shot on two of the par fives—an area where architects are prone to falling asleep.
I got a chance to practice unconventional strategy on the dogleg 11th hole where I did my best Lon Hinkle imitation driving the ball into the adjacent 12th fairway. For those of you who may be concerned about this move, rest assured that no golfers were harmed by it. It did not, however, help my score, so I won’t be trying it again.
Most greens are protected by bunkering while also providing a partially open front allowing a more conservative running approach. Greens ran at 9.5 on my stimpmeter in January 2019, an appropriate speed for the challenging contours.
Though price does not figure into my rating assessment, I must point out that all this fun cost me only $29.