Olivas Links began as the Olivas Park Municipal Golf Course. Operated by the City of Ventura since the 1960s, the course was once a 27-hole layout. Floods in the 1970s compromised much of the course. City officials reconfigured the layout, in-house, to an 18-hole course that became highly used, but with deteriorating conditions. The City initiated a program in 2001 to re-build both of its courses, Buenaventura and Olivas Park. Forrest Richardson & Associates was selected to design both projects.
The approach at Olivas was much different than at nearby Buenaventura. While Buenaventura had a legacy of William P. Bell and a stately setting among mature trees, Olivas had become a drainage nightmare. Soils and turf were at unbelievably bad conditions, and only a handful of the thousand or more trees on the site were even marginally healthy. Our plan was to view the site as if there were no golf course there. Using detailed mapping of every low spot, bump and tree, we began the process of looking at the site from a fresh perspective.
Initial design concepts weighed heavily on relocating the clubhouse facilities to the eastern edge of the property. Since the existing clubhouse was determined to have outlived its service, this was no problem. An added benefit of relocation was the potential integration of the historic Olivas Adobe, a homestead and estate built in the 1800s. By configuring a new clubhouse site in the northeast corner, a host of positive improvements would be realized; better orientation of opening and finishing holes to sunlight; shared parking with the Olivas Adobe; and orientation of the practice area away from the Olivas Park Drive.
The completed course was completely rebuilt using none of the previous holes or greens. All features were built from scratch. What had become fourteen individual lakes spotted around the property were reworked into four larger bodies of water with some interconnected streams.
The site for Olivas Links is nestled next to the Santa Clara River and the Ventura Harbor. The prevailing coastal breeze keeps the area cool during the summer and warm during the winter; making Olivas Links a perfect place for year around golf. While there are trees, the predominant variety is Italian Stone Pine, an adapted variety that fits the wind swept site. We kept the holes open, making shot values a matter not always of avoiding bunkers, but much more about selecting fairway spots and angles of approach to greens.
Width is a hallmark of the new course-no longer are holes just a matter of playing down a corridor of tree lines to both edges. Where they do pinch down, the land curves and drops with the flow; nothing is forced. It all follows the natural lay of the land-everything follows the natural swales and grooves that carry water toward the Santa Clara River.
The final result is a graceful, links-oriented golf course that serves as a primary public open space of a growing harbor and recreation area. The design embraced an approach to instead of fighting the land, use the lay of the land and natural features to form the basis for all decisions. The result is a course that flows and cascades over the land, rather than through it.
Turf variety includes SeaSpray Paspalum on fairways, fescue and kikuyugrass roughs, and bentgrass greens. Tees are overseeded with ryegrass. Sprawling native areas are planted with wild grass species indigenous to the coastal area of Ventura.
Scope: Planning, Design, Approvals, Bidding, Construction Documents, Construction Observation Services
Course: 18-holes/Par-72/7,000-yards, Short Game Green, Range
Budget: $5.2 million USD
Completion: Opened 2008
Owner: City of Ventura, California
Address: 3750 Olivas Park Drive, Ventura, California 93001
Ventura Got It Right