31 October 2016 (Pasadena, CA) Alright, let’s cut right to the chase here. Let’s say you call me and tell me that you are in Los Angeles for two days and you want to play 2 of the best municipal courses Southern California has to offer. For me, it is a no brainer: Oak Quarry in Riverside and Rustic Canyon in Moorpark. Both courses are approximately an hour drive from the Los Angeles Civic Center but well worth your commuting time. Hell, it can take you an hour and a half getting to Rancho Park GC in West LA because of city traffic. Do yourself a favor and check out this gem of a course set in the foothills of the Conejo Valley northwest of Los Angeles. Built in 2001 by the Hanse Design Team famous for their work on the Rio Olympic Golf Course (Brazil), Los Angeles Country Club South Course and the Craighead Course in Scotland (my home course at the Crail Golfing Society in conjunction with the Balcomie Links that is a Tom Morris Design), Rustic Canyon is a must play. Literally carved out of the side of a mountain, the course boast minimal intrusion on the natural lay of the land which in itself is spectacular (see photo above). In 2010 it was rated the Best Value in Golf and was also ranked #4 by Golf Weekly “Best Courses You Can Play.” So what is it about this track that makes it so special. As already noted, the course layout feels minimalist in relation to environmental impact. Most holes take full advantage of elevation changes in the topography of the land which are gradual thus never giving the impression that you are playing hillside golf. Fairways are generous but approaches are always tricky with waste areas and bunkers guarding treacherous green complexes. You NEVER want to find yourself above the hole on this course. Some playing partners have been critical of the tricky nature of the greens but I think that claim is overstated. Subsequent visits to the course will improve green complex knowledge making for a more enjoyable round. Another great feature about this course is that many holes invite bump and run approaches like a traditional links course. Therefore, creativity from 150 in can take many forms. I love most holes on this course but let me mention a few favorites. Number 1 is a great opening par 5 at 512 yards from the blues and 495 from the whites. A dry creek guards the left side of the fairway on 2nd shots and the creek folds around the bottom of the green to make approaches challenging. Number 3 may be my favorite risk/reward hole on the course. A 300 yard dogleg right par 4 that has prominent OB left and a fairway divided by a long bunker complex. Big hitters will test the left side to drive the hole but bring the OB into play. Shots to the right of the bunker have no chance of getting home in one but leave the best and safest angle for your approach. Numbers 5 and 7, the former a par 5 and the latter a par 4, require skilled club selection as you move the ball from landing area to landing area (target golf). Number 10 is a brilliantly designed par 5 that plays uphill and occasionally into the wind and 11 is a brutal par 4 that has a ravine ready to ingest any stray 2nd shot. Number 12 is another brilliant short par 4 with a sneaky green complex that will spit out any over-clubbed shot. Perhaps the most interesting and challenging hole on the course is #14, a 364 yard 90 degree dogleg left that requires a 180 yard carry on your drive. I know that doesn’t sound like much but big hitters may be tempted to cut the dogleg which incrementally adds yardage to the must carry drive. The par 3s on the course are challenging and most feature waste areas between tees and green which make accuracy off the tee a must. All in all a brilliant course with a links feel and beautiful natural resources all around. Wildlife in many forms grace the surrounding area. Don’t be surprised if you see a strolling deer or two, a coyote, plenty of hawks, and stay out of the brush because rattlesnakes abound! A beverage cart circulates the course (not often enough in my opinion) so stock up on fluids and snacks before you tee off and the restaurant on site is fine for burgers, burritos, sandwiches and hot dogs. But do yourself a favor, come for the golf. One of the best munis for my money (rates are $40ish with a cart). On the SoCalGolfBlog scale of 1-10, Rustic Canyon GC earns a solid 9. I look forward to my next round there.