Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo: Kudos for the new kid on the block

By Tom LaMarre, Contributor

CAMARILLO, Calif. -- Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, one of several daily-fee, public courses created in the valleys north of Los Angeles in recent years, has appealed to golfers for two fundamental reasons. Unlike some of the other new courses, the Robert Muir Graves/Damian Pascuzzo layout at Sterling Hills ranks high in playability and affordability.

Sterling Hills Golf Club - hole 4
Sterling Hills G.C. can match up with nearby Spanish Hills and Saticoy C.C.
Sterling Hills Golf Club - hole 4Sterling Hills Golf Club - hole 9Sterling Hills Golf Club - hole 15
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Sterling Hills Golf Club

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Sterling Hills Golf Club sprawls across acres of lush countryside surrounded by avocado groves and citrus orchards. The layout winds through the verdant hills between Oxnard and Ventura. The versatile layout balances areas of wide-openness with target-style golf. There is contoured mounding along the fairways and some interesting elevation changes.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 71 | 6813 yards | Book online | ... details »

"The golfers in the area have not had a public facility like this," said Tim Dunnavant, General Manager at Sterling Hills G.C. "There are some good municipal courses but we are able to offer them a little bit more. "

"The response has been great. It's affordable, so anybody can come and play. It's not a private club, but our staff tries to make everyone feel like they are a member."

Sterling Hills is virtually in the shadows of Spanish Hills Country Club and Saticoy Country Club, two spectacular and exclusive private clubs, but the new kid on the block can match up.

The course measures 6,813 yards from the back tees and traverses the foothills above the Camarillo Plain. Water comes into play on five holes and the sloping greens make being on the correct side of the hole a must.

"Nobody has come out and torn the place up," Dunnavant said, pointing out that the course record is six-under par 66 by Andy Walker and Jeff Garrett. "It's a good track and it has some challenge to it. There are a lot of trees but they are still immature, so it plays more like a links course right now."

"It sets up fairly long and most of the holes go from left to right. If you miss the greens, you have to have a good touch to get up-and-down for par. The tilt of the green provides a real challenge."

Robinson Ranch in Canyon Country has its "Death Row" stretch of holes at the finish of its Valley Course, but Sterling Hills has a murderous run of holes right at the start. From the back tees, No. 1 is 433 yards, No. 2 is 417 yards, No. 3 is 223 yards, No. 4 is 523 yards and No. 4, the toughest hole on the front side, is 444 yards.

"It's a real test at the start," Dunnavant said. "It's a great stretch of holes."

The third hole is especially challenging, even from the forward tees, when the pin is in the back right corner, forcing your tee shot to carry four bunkers.

No. 4 is reachable in two shots, but trees line the fairway and the landing areas for both shots are narrow, with a large lake guarding the right side of the green.

"It's a great risk-reward hole," Dunnavant said. "If you push your approach shot right, it's in the water, and if you go left there's a bunker. But you can get there with a good shot and have an eagle putt."

The fifth hole is back up the hill, with bunkers on both sides of the driving area and on each side of the green.

No. 6 can be a bit of a breather, 378 yards from an elevated tee, but there are two lakes on the left side to clear for anyone brave enough to cut the corner, and five fairway bunkers.

The first three holes of the back nine at Sterling Hills present a series of divergent challenges which require varying skills and make club selection vital.

The 379-yard 10th hole is unique in that there is an area of rough and two bunkers in the middle of the fairway about 150 yards from the green.

"There is actually a split fairway on No. 10 with the rough as part of the design," Dunnavant said. "You can take driver and try to hit over it and have maybe a wedge in because it's not a very long hole. Or you can lay up short of the rough to about 150 yards and have a mid-iron for your second shot."

No. 11 looks simple enough at 159 yards but the long, shallow green, which angles from right to left, is 40 yards wide and makes it very deceptive. Because of the shape of the green, you can be on the short grass and not have a putt.

"That green poses some problems if you're in the wrong spot," Dunnavant said. "You might have to chip to get to the hole or putt the ball over the fringe. It's only 159 yards from the back tees, but it can be a real challenge."

The 12th hole is 409 yards of bad news up the hill. There are bunkers on each side of the fairway and a brush-filled barranca makes for a blind second shot to a tiered, sloping green. The only bailout is left, because a long bunker guards the back right.

"It can be a tricky hole," Dunnavant said. "You can take driver, depending on what tees you are hitting from, but you can definitely drive the ball into the barranca on the right. If you decide to lay up, the right side takes the most direct line even though it's a blind shot and there are bunkers over there. There is plenty of room up the left side of the hole and you have an open view of the green. It's a long green from left to right and there are two tiers, actually a big bowl in the middle, so you have to be in the right place."

Sterling Hills Golf Club has a long, strong finish with the uphill, 501-yard 16th,
the 466-yard 17th and the uphill, 523-yard 18th.

No. 17 is the toughest hole on the course, even though it plays downhill, often into the wind. A chute of trees and a narrowing fairway make accuracy a must on the tee shot, and there is a swale in the fairway about 170 yards from the green.

"You can be penalized if you hit your tee shot too far because of the gully," Dunnavant said. "You can get an uneven lie in the gully, which will make the second shot even more difficult. You want to stay from the middle to the left of the green on your approach because if your ball drifts right it can go in the bunker or down the hill."

The finishing hole is a big dogleg left par five, with a large trap and a stand of trees making it difficult to go from the green in two. There are three more bunkers waiting near the green, which measures 46 yards from back to front.

"I like that the last hole is a par five," Dunnavant said. "It makes things exciting in a tournament situation, with a chance to make a birdie or an eagle on the final hole. But if you hit your approach out to the right, you can go in the bunkers, and if you go left you have to hack it out of the trees."

On clear days, golfers are treated to a spectacular panorama. There are stunning views of the Topa Topa Mountains, snow-capped in winter, to the East from many holes. The Pacific Ocean sparkles in the sun four miles to the West, and the Channel Islands can be seen from the elevated 13th and 17th tees.

They help make for a Sterling day.

Tom LaMarre, Contributor

Tom LaMarre has been a sportswriter and copy editor in California for parts of five decades, including 15 years with the Oakland Tribune and 22 with the Los Angeles Times.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Where are you?

    Jack wrote on: Feb 9, 2005

    Sterling Hills Golf Club
    901 Sterling Hills Drive
    Camarillo, CA 93010
    Phone: (805) 987-3446
    What off-ramp from 101 freeway?


    • RE: Where are you?

      Jack wrote on: Feb 10, 2005

      Exit Central then north to Beardsley then right to Sterling Hills Drive and turn right again. The course is on left.