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Holes Later . . . : An annotated duffer's guide to the pleasantries and perils of the 18 championship golf courses in Ventura County.


Move over McDonald's. Step aside Burger King. There's a new kid on the burger block. No one can touch an Elkins Ranch cheeseburger. "On Fridays we get a bunch of people from town who come out here to eat. There's a line out the door of the snack bar," Hodapp said.

And there's a line at the starter's table, too--with good reason. The course, started as a nine-hole facility in 1962 with the second nine added within a year, is an excellent public facility. It may not be as immaculate as others, but you won't hear a freeway, you won't see a factory and your nose won't wilt from some nearby source of stench. In other words, it's worth a drive through the citrus groves to get there.

Be warned. They enforce a dress code: No halter straps for women, and men are expected to wear collared shirts and respectable shorts.

"We didn't do it in a effort to sell more shirts," Hodapp said, "but we do have a discount shirt rack for those who show up unknowingly without one."

So, with your new Elkins Ranch-label shirt tucked into loose-fitting shorts, you will wind your way around the hillside, enjoy a spectacular view from the par-three 16th nestled on top of the hill and follow it up with a shot from the 17th tee, where you're hitting from the top of a mountain to the fairway more than 100 feet below. It's memorable.

* Los Robles Golf Course, 299 S. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks 91361. Green fees are $9 weekdays, $12 weekends. (805) 495-6421.

This is Ventura County's golfing version of Grand Central Station. They jam golfers onto this course like sardines.

"This year we're going at a pace to put in about 120,000 rounds," Director of Golf Bob Meyer said. "We put through 300 golfers a day, easy. There's never a lull. It'll be booked solid through 6 or 7 at night during the summer months, when it stays light out longer."

With that many golfers roaming around a golf course, it is important to bring along the right equipment. Forget a visor, bring a hardhat.

The course opened in 1964 and was redesigned in 1973 because seven holes sat where the Oaks Mall now does. The course is partly hilly with a slew of stately oak trees scattered about that provide an interesting look. Other than that, the best thing about the place is the cost of play.

It borders a very busy Ventura Freeway. There is not a hole on the course where you can't hear the traffic. But the freeway does prove useful in a way golfers probably never imagined. When a course is next to a large body of water, people know that their putts will probably break toward the water, and at Los Robles the same principle applies.

"When in doubt," Meyer said, "everything will break toward the freeway."

* Mountain View Golf Course, 16799 South Mountain Road, Santa Paula 93060. Green fees are reasonable : $10 weekdays, $14 weekends. (805) 525-1571.

Feeling low? Try a game of golf in Santa Paula. You are sure to record a better-than-usual score, and that can cure most types of depression.

The course, built in 1968, is not long, so you don't have to pull out the dreaded long-iron very often. But there are areas of trouble that will give you the sense that the course is tougher than it is and that you are playing better than normal. (Since the course only measures 5,305 yards, it is but an illusion.)

Throw in a nice view of the Topatopa Mountains and this is just the ticket for a person in need of an ego boost.

It's one of the least busy courses around, so when every other course is jammed and things look bleak, this could be the option you're looking for.

* Olivas Park Golf Course, 3750 Olivas Park Drive, Ventura 93003. Green fees are $12 weekdays, $16 weekends. (805) 642-4303.

If one of the players in your foursome says, "Totally radical shot, dude, that was awesome," chances are good that you are on this course--the closest one to the beach.

"We do get quite a few surfers," head pro Lee Harlow said. "We even have a special T-shirt we sell here, designed for them, which says, 'Turf's Up.' "

Surfers aren't the only ones who seem to like this course. According to Harlow, 95,000 rounds of golf were played on the course last year, making it the busiest of the Ventura/Oxnard triumvirate. It is also the longest course in the county, with a some holes that tend to play even longer due to the onshore winds. But the saving grace is that the course is very flat and very wide with few tricks. What you see is what you get.

This course has also been the site of two unsuccessful attempts to break the record for the world's fastest round of golf played by a group. "We tried it and it didn't work," Harlow said. "Now I tell them to try it somewhere else." Which they did (see Las Posas Country Club).

Cowabunga, dude.

The course opened in 1965 as a 27-hole course until the flood of '69 wiped out nine holes. Will they rebuild on the 55 acres that are still available?

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