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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | Chip Shots

Oxnard on Course for New 18 Holes

August 18, 2000|TOM LaMARRE

The city of Oxnard is close to agreement on final contracts and hopes to begin construction on a second 18-hole golf course at River Ridge Golf Club within nine months.

The new course will be built west of the existing course, part of it on the Coastal Landfill, which is owned by the Ventura Regional Sanitation District, and the rest on farmland.

"It's been a long road to get here, but we're confident it's going to work out," said Otto Kanny, general manager of River Ridge, who said planning began in 1994. "We think everyone involved will feel good about this and it will be good for the city.

"It will provide a nice entrance to the city. Instead of looking at the landfill, you'll be looking at the golf course."

The layout will be a Scottish links-style course that will measure about 6,800 yards from the back tees and 4,800 on the front.

Perhaps fittingly, it is being designed by Strategic Golf Design of Santa Rosa, which is owned by Sandy Lyle of Scotland, the 1985 British Open and 1988 Masters champion.

"It hasn't been decided if Sandy is going to be involved or not, but we're perfectly suited for that type of format," said John Millhouse of Strategic Design, who is the principal architect.

"We're incorporating the links style, harking back to the Scottish concept, with dune-like mounding and native grasses blowing in the wind."

Also fitting into that concept is thatRiver Ridge is a public facility and golf in Scotland, and the entire United Kingdom, has always been for the masses.

It's going to stay that way in Oxnard, too.

"Unlike most of the other new courses you see, this one will not cost $100 or so to play," Kanny said. "It costs $30 to play our course on weekends and $23 on weekdays. I've been told if that does increase, it will be to a maximum of $5.

"What we need is more publicly affordable golf. We have a great product, but it can be difficult to get access. We're going to provide residents of Oxnard and the rest of the general public more affordable public golf."

Although 18 holes will be added at River Ridge, four of the holes on the existing course will be modified and weaved into the new course. Four new holes will be folded into the old course as seamlessly as possible.

The existing 15th and 16th holes will become Nos. 1 and 2 on the new layout. The first hole, playing to 388 yards, will have a split fairway, and No. 2 will be lengthened from 351 yards. Instead of a dogleg right it will go left to a new green with the approach carrying over a creek.

The finishing holes on the old course will wind up in the new layout.

The tee box on No. 17 will be moved up onto the landfill, so instead of an uphill 139 yards, it will carry 200 yards downhill.

The 18th hole, a reachable 497 yards downhill, already has been made more difficult by two large fairway bunkers. On the right side, 235 yards from the blue tee is a gargantuan trap that looks like five bunkers from the tee. The other trap comes into play for long hitters at 290 yards on the left, and the swale in the fairway has been filled in with links-style mounding.

"We'll probably do a little more tweaking so the styles are not so distinct," Millhouse said. "We'll probably do some modification of the bunkers so they blend in.

"Some things on the old course don't match exactly what we're doing with the new one so we'll probably have to do some redesigning."

On the existing course, Nos. 1 and 2 will remain as they are, with the four new holes immediately following.

No. 3 will be a 170-yard uphill par three which might require some adjustment because of the landfill, and No. 4 will be a straightforward 350-yard par four.

Then comes a spectacular 525-yard par five on the western edge of the landfill, with views of the coastline on the left and the Topa Topa Mountains on the right.

No. 6 will be a 330-yard dogleg left par four with a layup tee shot. The short-iron approach must be precise to a small green because anything that misses is down the slope of the landfill.

"I think No. 5 will be a signature hole," Kanny said. "It will challenge our island green and maybe surpass it. It's the highest point in Oxnard other than our two bank buildings. On a clear day, you can see Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands.

"It's a spectacular hole."

That's what they've been saying about the 191-yard 14th hole with the island green since River Ridge, designed by William F. Bell, opened in 1986.

The new configuration has a twisted ending for the old course. The island hole, which always plays into the wind, will become No. 18.

*

Tommy Barber has always had the name and he's proving he has the game.

The 18-year-old graduate of Notre Dame High with the golfing pedigree plays his first major national tournament beginning Monday in the 100th U.S. Amateur at storied Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.

Baltusrol is where Jack Nicklaus won two of his U.S. Open titles, but Barber has his own heroes.

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