Located just north of Los Angeles in Moorpark, CA, Rustic Canyon Golf Club is a top-tier public course designed by Gil Hanse. Just as the name insinuates, the course is located in a large canyon with holes climbing through the hillside. The routing makes strategic use of the unique landscape, providing an enjoyable experience with a variety of options. With the help of Geoff Shackelford, Gil Hanse carefully selected the layout so that it made the most use of the natural landscape.
The sprawling layout makes for a variety of shot options, consistent with C.B. MacDonald design principles and Gil Hanse made great use of the land to produce a variety of holes and shot options. The difficulty lies mainly on the approaches and around the greens, and the toughest holes are on the back nine as the routing winds up through the canyon.
The front nine is located at the base of the canyon, and the holes are generally flat and wide open. The general theme is a lot of shot options , making the golfer carefully select the best route to the hole. Depending on hole locations, this can be change frequently as the greens are big and undulating. I would’ve like to have played it more than once to play a few holes differently, especially the short par-4’s.
The back nine starts to wind through the side of the Canyon, making for some terrific and challenging holes. A competitive round at Rustic Canyon would require a careful gameplan on the back nine as the holes vary greatly and strokes can easily be lost as a result. The most challenging and memorable holes on the back nine are 14th, 16th and 18th holes which are all very different and challenging in their own way.
The 14th is a boomerang shaped hole which makes the golfer pick a line to the fairway based on how much they want to cut off. Shorter hitters choose to cut off less, leaving a longer approach and longer hitters take a gamble to allow for a shorter approach and a better chance at birdie. The carry is over dense desert brush and a waste few bunkers lining the fairway, putting a premium on getting it in play. Cutting off the dogleg can leave about 100 yards in (which I was able to do thankfully) and a good chance at birdie.
The sixteenth hole is easily the most scenic, teeing off from the highest elevation on the course overlooking the canyon and the holes below. The elevated tee shot can be nerve racking but the fairway is plenty wide and follows the natural lay of the land. Anything in play will present a good look at the green but hitting it down the right gives the best look. It takes two solid shots to have a look at birdie, and is certainly a hole you’ll be happy making par on.
The 18th hole is a solid 460 yard par-4 and a good finisher. Consistent with the rest of the round, the fairway is very wide but a good drive leaves a long iron to a narrow, deep green which makes the “run-up” approach very effective. With a long iron, anything on target and short is a good leave and even has a chance to run onto the putting surface. The key is to straight shots to end the round, which is much easier said than done.
Finishing off a good round at Rustic Canyon is no easy task, as the last few holes present a variety of challenges. As with any course, keeping it in the fairway is a big key to success throughout the round. The sprawling landscape makes the round scenic and fun, and no two holes are the same. Despite the remote location, Rustic Canyon is a first class public golf course that I encourage any golfer to experience.