Getting on the green

Blogging about some of the world's best golf holes.

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Hole # 18, River Ridge Golf Course, Ventura, CA

Hole # 18, par 3, White tees, 166 yards

River Ridge GC, the site of my first hole-in-one. One of the most challenging holes is hole # 18, an island green with water all around. If this course isn’t on your bucket list then sign up for a free birthday round.

There are two 18-hole courses here at River Ridge in Ventura, CA. The one that I am featuring today is on the Vineyard Course. Hole # 18 is a tough yardage for most because it requires an accurate 6-iron tee shot over water to a relatively small green. Water does funny things to most golfers causing them to take a longer club . The best thing to do is to trust your swing, keep your head down and hit the ball. Let the club do the work.

I chose a 6-iron and told my ball to close its eyes. My friend Rob would smile at the ball before hitting it, hoping that it will smile back to him when he sees it on the green. Lucky shot for me, I’m putting.

Two balls in the water and two on the green, not bad stats. There is a drop area further down the cart path for the two wet players. It’s fair because they’re left with a wedge shot over water to the green. We’re all safe and we’re all putting. What a great way to finish a round! I walk away with a birdie and a smile.

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Hole #2, Olivas Links, Ventura, CA

Hole # 2, par 5, Blue tees, 529 yards

Olivas Links

Olivas Links

Teeing off on the first hole can be too much for some players. Courses where the first hole is right off the clubhouse can be be nerve racking for new players, especially when there is a gallery of other players. It’s easy to duff the ball, slice or hook your tee shot. Luckily hole # 1 at Olivas Links is a little away from the clubhouse and therefore, no gallery. Phew!

After coming off hole # 1, hole # 2 is a true test for length. At 529 yards and a strong wind blowing off the ocean into your face, keeping your head down is critical for a long drive up the center of the fairway. Stay straight or slight right, but don’t go down left. There are environmental areas here and they don’t like it when you go in there. Luckily for me, my tee shots are usually low boring types. Even with a 10.5 degrees driver, I can make it as though I’m hitting a 8 degrees driver.

My tee shot finds it in the middle of the fairway. Second shot, I take out my 4-Hybrid and advance it along. Everyone else I’m playing is doing the same. Now within 160 yards, I take out my 6-iron and go for the green. A lot of second shots end up in the long grass to the left of the cart path. It’s long fescule in there and you don’t want to go there whatsoever. Keep it in the middle or within the cart path and environmental strip that runs all the way down left.

My 160-yard club barely makes it on for a GIR. It really is a true test of your long clubs to get you on the green. The green is undulating which makes it tough to 2-putt. I would end up with a bogey. No pars on this hole but if you managed to get one, please write me a comment for encouragement.

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Hole # 4, Sterling Hills Golf Club, Camarillo, CA

Hole # 4, par 5, White tees, 468 yards

They say to shoot lower scores, you need to employ course management techniques. And on Sterling Hills GC, it is advantageous if you do, especially when you come to hole # 4. After finishing up on the par 3, you come around the corner to hole # 4, a mid length par 5. It is a tricky hole because when you set up on the white tees, you have a tendency to hit it right towards the bank of trees. Perhaps the better player has the guts to hit it closer to the cart path and slowly fade it in to the center. I set up for my tee shot, aim it to the last tree and blast away. Luckily the ball flies straight towards the center but fades slightly towards the shared bunker on the right. When I get up to my ball, I see there’s a lot tree debris around the rough. Watch out for small twigs that can fly up when you swing your club. Yani Tseng hurt her shin when a large twig flew up and hit her across her leg, when she hit down into her ball at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii.

I decided to hit my 4-hybrid because I could hit it pretty straight. My ball cleared the rough and ended up in the middle of the fairway. From there, I had a 158 yards approach to the green with water on the right and trees to the left. I decided to go with a 7-iron, fly it up to the front of the green and hope that it would bounce and roll on. My trajectory isn’t normal and is lower than most players. Surely enough, the ball dribbles onto the green for a GIR. I would 3-putt in for a bogey. Not bad. I’m just glad it wasn’t wet nor lost.

Have you played Sterling Hills lately? If so, how did you play this hole? Do you go right off the tee or are you a straight hitter? Please add your comments.

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Hole # 5, Buenaventura Golf Course, Ventura, CA

Hole # 5, par 3, Blue tees, 120 yards

Water has an effect on my balls and this hole plays no exception. Hole # 5 at Buenaventura is a nice design and tests the best iron player. It looks harmless but believe me, it has eaten many golfers up including me. The tee box is situated in front of a pond such that you see two ponds. From the forward tees, you only see one pond. The green almost sits on an island with water on the right and to the back of the green. You can bail out to the left if you want to avoid the water, but it’s a tricky chip or pitch to the green that is sloped towards the water.

I would hit a PW when the pin is located upfront. Sometimes when it is in the middle of the green, I would need a 10 iron or a 9 iron. People still look at my 10-iron as though I invented the club. I have Ely Callaway to thank for that. A lot of players would hit a 8-iron but don’t do it because the green isn’t that long and a 140-yard club can easily knock the ball into water.

If you could hit straight or execute a draw, you would be rewarded with a chance for birdie or par. Make sure your tee shot is not low to the ground, the type that hits hard and releases. There is no enough green for you to get fancy with. I would end up pulling my 9-iron into the greenside bunker located left of the hole which is equally bad. Any sand shot towards water is bad news for me. And there are no brakes to the ball when it comes out hot. I blast it with lots of sand and luckily, it trickles onto the green. I would 2-putt and end up with a bogey.

Have you played here before? If so, please share your comments, tips and adventures.