Buenaventura Golf Course in Ventura is a fun walk through a big park

By Ted Johnson, Contributor

VENTURA, Calif. -- When it comes to thinking about designing and then building a golf course, it helps to know what demographic is available. If anything has been learned from the economic downturn the past four years it's that golf courses have to have a market to survive.

Buenaventura Golf Club - hole 6
A word of advice: Don't try to drive the 274-yard sixth hole at Buenaventura Golf Course.
Buenaventura Golf Club - hole 6Buenaventura Golf Course - hole 9Buenaventura Golf Course - hole 18
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Buenaventura Golf Course

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Buenaventura Golf Course originally opened in 1932 as a nine-hole course but closed in 2004 for major renovations. The course's original designer, William Bell, was consulted for the redesign. It was transformed into a more challenging course, but the 1930s design features were carefully preserved.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 70 | 5826 yards | Book online | ... details »

Not every course has to be the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, rated the most difficult in the U.S. But it also doesn't have to be a flat, unimaginative expanse of grass and sand, either. Somewhere between those extremes a market can be found.

It's worth looking at the city of Ventura for what it offers.

Buenaventura Golf Course is less than three miles from its sister course, Olivas Links. Both are municipally owned but managed by a private firm. Both offer full practice facilities, though Buenaventura is older and has the traditional grill and banquet room.

As for the course, it measures just 5,826 yards from the tips, and I joke that the number includes a couple of tee boxes set outside the property lines. Buenaventura is 1,000 yards shorter than its sister course.

Only two of Buenaventura Golf Course's 10 par-4 holes exceed 400 yards. The average distance of the par 3s from the back tees is 162 yards, and that includes the 230-yard seventh. Take that one out and the par 3s average 146 yards. One par 5 measures 464 yards, another just 450.

It is the sort of pre-round scorecard reading that can either get a player's expectations to rise or perhaps induce boredom. But this is not a ho-hum pitch-and-putt course.

Forrest Richardson's remodeling created a parkland golf course that requires great precision off the tee without being too penal for missed shots.

Playing it a few times helps to know its intricacies, such as not to try to drive the 274-yard sixth hole (quadruple bogey, thanks). There are five water hazards in play, including one that guards the front and wraps around the right side of the green at the 137-yard fifth.

Buenaventura is a course that doesn't have much threat of out of bounds or in-course hazards like tall natural grass areas or wetlands.

In other words, this is a perfect course for women, seniors, kids, couples and anyone else who might be new to the game or wants to enjoy a casual round without too much stress.

It is a course in which the senior whose clubhead speed off the driver maxes out at 90 mph can hit the par 4s in two shots. It's a course in which women new to the game can hit the ball and have a very good chance of finding it even if it's off line.

"I like it down here, and I like the course," said Mike Gremont of Summerland, who drove 28 miles to play Buenaventura Golf Course. "It's got good holes and it's easy to walk."

That's another thing: This is a chance to get that old-time feel of walking a round.

Buenaventura Golf Course: The verdict

For those holding single-digit handicaps looking to test out a new driver, Buenaventura isn't the course for you. If you're a single-digit player and you want to have fun but use some thought off the tee as well as work on your short iron game, then Buenaventura is just fine.

What I saw when I played was groups of three and four walking and talking; a casual round of golf played among through the large eucalyptus. It's very social.

It also is a course where there are some chances for the long hitters to hit the Big Dog off the tee in the effort of reaching the green in one (say hello to No. 3, just 303 yards from the blue tees).

In talking to some local golfers prior to my Buenaventura round, they noted that the "mix of grasses in the fairway" can be disconcerting. Indeed, some fairways had Bermuda, kikuyu, rye and poa annua. Welcome to Southern California, where everything grows.

That said, from the fairways bunkering and the traps around the greens are very well executed, so even short-iron shots have to be precise. The mounding and ridges in the putting surface require studying.

For the good golfer, Buenaventura puts an emphasis on strategy rather than power. For the recreational golfer, it's a good place to learn how to manage one's game around doglegs, over ponds and bunkers without having too much stress. Of course, the 230-yard par-3 seventh is no fun, and the 560-yard 10th is the course's longest.

Buenaventura can provide just about anyone a fun round of golf, and there's nothing wrong with that in light of the fact that it's like walk through a large, roomy park. About every 300 yards, though, you'll find flagsticks.

Ted JohnsonTed Johnson, Contributor

Ted Johnson has been writing about golf for more than 25 years. Having traveled the world with his clubs, he counts himself lucky to have played Cypress Point, but Turnberry’s Ailsa, Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath in Australia and Ireland’s Royal County Down tend to rotate as favorites. And then there was the trip to Vietnam, where he found himself in Vung Tao and his luggage in Ho Chi Minh City. That’s why to this day he carries a toothbrush in his golf bag.

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