When Ventura County officials hired then-unknown golf course architect Gil Hanse to design a course for them in 2001, they probably expected to get an ordinary course not unlike the two older courses the county already owned. But Gil is no ordinary architect. He provided them with holes with such classic features as a Lion’s Mouth bunker, a Biarritz hole, a Ha-Ha wall and a Cape green (i.e. modeled after MacDonald’s original).
But the work of Hanse and colleagues Jim Wagner and Geoff Shackelford (son of Lew Alcindor’s UCLA teammate Lynn Shackelford) was more than a mere regurgitation of ancient designs. Most holes ask the golfer to think about her/his tee shot, with the 1st, 3rd, 8th, 13th and 14th providing particularly strategic challenges. The same thoughtfulness is required on the second shot at the par five 10th. The long narrow green is best approached from the right side of the fairway…..where a string of bunkers awaits the second shot that strays too far right. There are a few holes that seem flat and unchallenging, e.g. the 6th and 9th. But the stirring undulations on the green provide plenty of challenge.
Most green sites include closely mown chipping areas nearly indistinguishable from the greens (In January 2018, the greens ran at 11.5 on my stimpmeter, while the chipping areas were a mere 10.5.) Combined with the firmness of the sand-based turf, this provides the opportunity to attempt putts of over 100 yards.
Rustic Canyon is located in Happy Camp Canyon and those who get to play here regularly are happy campers, indeed. It’s one of the few truly municipal courses deserving a six ball rating.
Date: January 09, 2018