Every course has a history but some courses have history coming out of their ears. Ojai Valley Inn is one of those. Designed in 1923 by George Thomas (who also did Riviera), the course was the West Coast swing haven for Ben Hogan. Jimmy Demaret was a resident pro. There were senior tour events played here by the likes of Arnold Palmer and Ben Crenshaw.
Every where you look, there is a plaque remembering some sort of history.
Even how we played the course that day is steeped in history. We started off on 10 which was originally the first hole so we played the course in its historic progression. So what about the golf?
The "front" side of the course has a lot of holes like the one above. Straightforward with narrow fairways but rough you can escape from. Ojai is a short course but don't let the scorecard fool you as the par 3's can be 190 plus and the par 4's are either 290 or over 400.
It's also a schizophrenic course as holes 10-15 are variations on theme. Holes 16-18 are the "lost" holes and have challenging lengths and bunker placements.
Exhibit A for this is the 16th hole.
This hole is a BEAST! 195 downhill with bunkers guarding every bit of real estate before the green with OB to the right and red stakes to the left. I hit the tee shot for a life time, striping a 3 iron to within 20 feet on the green (the pin was tucked in the front) and I had to hit a perfect shot just to make the green.
The "backside" of the course is completely different in nature. Every hole has severe elevation changes and most holes have a forced carry over a gulch of some sort.
As you played the course, you could feel yourself walking with ghosts. One hole is named Hogan's alley and I could feel the Hawk and his disapproval at missed shots or Jimmy helping me hole a sand shot for a birdie.
The ninth hole (our 18th for the day) brings it all home with a par 5 reminiscent of Riviera (as many holes were) with a very narrow fairway and super tight green and you would be lucky to make par here much less a birdie.
Overall the course was a fun experience which you can't say about a lot of golf courses. Whether it was the interesting holes, the history at every turn or the fact that you could score here (playing the course several times would help immensely I think), the round was relaxing and enjoyable. I think the only negative for Ojai is the cost. The rack rate is pretty steep for the course and I would recommend searching out vouchers if you want to play it. Price aside, this was a really fun and funky course, one I am looking forward to playing again!
For more info on Ojai check it out: http://www.ojairesort.com/ojai-california-golf-resort.php