An unassuming public facility built on land leased directly from Ventura County, the Rustic Canyon golf course was designed principally by Gil Hanse, with input from prominent golf writer Geoff Shackelford. The course opened in 2002 and is located within a rugged 300-acre canyon in Moorpark, around 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Though Hanse gets primary design credit here, Shackelford was heavily involved in the routing, working with Hanse and his team to find the best arrangement of holes and to ensure that construction caused minimal disturbance to the site’s natural ground contours.
As a result of their minimalistic approach to design, this was one of those rare modern courses built on time and under budget, with construction taking just six months to complete and less than 20,000 cubic yards of earth being moved during the process. Arranged in two loops on either side of a central clubhouse, the layout is full of intelligent holes and cut by a natural sandy wash that is regularly incorporated into the design. Most holes feature wide-open fairways and sensibly generous greens, which boast plenty of interesting movement and are often fronted by closely mown apron areas that promote the running approach. Aside from the bunkering and some terrific green sites, early highlights include the pushed-up par three 8th, multiroute par fives at the 1st and 5th and clever short fours like the 3rd and 7th, their split fairways tempting aggressive golfers to take riskier driving lines. On the back nine the standouts are the Cape-style 14th, which bends dramatically around the wash, and the par five 13th, its fairway strategically bunkered and its bean-shaped green wrapped around a central trap that creates dilemmas for those approaching from the wrong side of the hole.
With its high architectural standards yet affordable green fee, Rustic Canyon is a rarity for California and, not surprisingly, is a course that has become increasingly popular with public players who appreciate the charms of strategic design.