GOLF FOR THE DAY TRIPPER

Santa Barbara and Montecito have their plethora of golf options within a short drive from home. This includes public courses such as Sandpiper and Rancho San Marcos and extends to well-manicured private clubs such as the Valley Club, Birnam Wood, Montecito Country Club and La Cumbre Country Club.

But add an hour’s worth of seaside and mountain slope driving, and the trip can become a golfer’s paradise. As Labor Day weekend lands upon us and fall approaches, crowds diminish and weekday rounds become more accessible, courses out of the area gain more appeal. Here are a few to consider, and all of them have reasonable green fees, especially during the week or on special promotion days.

La Purisima and The River Course

La Purisima, a Robert Muir Graves layout, seems to get better with age. Conditions there have improved dramatically over the last two years since general manager John Carson arrived on the scene. Many of the golfers that I know make a point to stop at Ellen’s in Buellton for breakfast anytime they make the trek north. It takes about 45 minutes to get to Ellen’s in Buellton from Montecito, and then another 15 minutes to La Purisima down Highway 246. The drive is pleasant and I would suggest always taking Highway 101 along the coast and enjoying the view. (Highway 154 does not really save time going out there and it certainly requires more concentration.)

La Purisima is best played in the morning – teeing off before 10 am – as the wind comes up every afternoon. As September and October come along, there are many days where it does not get windy and afternoon rounds are fine. Look for a day when a Santa Ana wind settles into the Los Angeles area; those happen to be the best days at La Purisima. For information on La Purisima visit www.lapurisimagolf.com or call 735-8395.

The golf scenes in the film “Sideways” were filmed at The River Course, which is just a short walk from downtown Solvang. The course features dramatic mountain and river views and is easily walked. For more info visit www.rivercourse.com or call 688-6042.

Ojai Valley Inn & Soule Park

A George C. Thomas treat, Ojai Valley is at its best in the fall, especially late in the season. The climate in Ojai is generally warmer than Santa Barbara by 7-10 degrees and becomes increasingly comfortable as autumn breezes set in.

The front nine (or old back nine) is hilly in spots, but the other nine is easily walked. Still, a cart might be the best option. The Ojai Valley Inn offers what the club refers to as “Ojai Valley days” several times a month, where green fees including cart are $79. The Inn offers an elegant and un-crowded golf experience. Ojai Valley Inn golf info can be found at www.golfojai.com or by calling the shop at 646-2420.

A more low-key and less expensive option is the newly remodeled Soule Park Golf Course. Gil Hanse, who created Rustic Canyon, in Moorpark, has done a major remodel here with all new greens and some rerouting that have made Soule Park is a layout worthy of a look. After golf there are several restaurants on the main drag in Ojai, but Sea Fresh is the most popular with locals.

There are two ways to get to the Ojai area. The more conventional is down Highway 101 to Ventura and over Highway 33, which runs inland. Most locals prefer to pick up Highway 150 in Carpinteria and wind through the mountains and past Lake Casitas. Highway 150 is about 10 miles shorter, but you’re never guaranteed getting there faster.

Soule Park (www.soulepark.com) can be reached at 646-5633.

Golf Notes

Tom Noyes, who works at The Golf Klub in Loreto Plaza, next to Harry’s Restaurant, is a deep source of knowledge with regard to club fitting or any other equipment issues. Noyes has the latest launch monitor and recently fitted me for a new Mizuno MX 500 driver. Club fitting by a launch monitor ensure that players pick the right combination of shaft and loft. With the right specs, the Mizuno MX 500 driver gives players the high launch, optimum spin rate and maximum ball speed necessary for the best distance. The Golf Klub (964-8468) is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily. For more info on the driver visit www.mizunousa.com.