Golf in Calabasas!
Just off the 101 at Parkway Calabasas on the former Warner Ranch…
by Gary B. Hudson
Driving along Parkway Calabasas we caught some glimpses of green but few clues that a classic golf course was hiding right beside us. [clearboth]
Turning onto Park Entrada and into the parking lot of the Calabasas Country Club, my golf buddy Joe and I were greeted by orange-shirted escorts who brought us down to the Pro Shop. There we had the pleasure of meeting our escort, Tom Fink, the club’s Head Golf Professional. (It wasn’t long before we realized just how helpful it is to have a knowledgeable escort while playing this course for the first time). We also had the honor of meeting Dave Bartholomew, the club’s General Manager. Dave started as Head Golf Professional in 1992. His affection for the club and respect for his members are apparent.
Before starting our game, while Tom worked with some members, we had the opportunity to warm up on the 6-hole Putting Green, the Driving Range, or the Dave Pelz Short Game Practice area. We opted for the Driving Range.
Like most golfers, I always wonder what that invariable part of the course — the design — will offer the most trouble. Would it be magnetic ball-drawing sand traps; narrow fairways that show little mercy for the slightest draw or slice, leaving me wishing I carried a machete; or slopes and hills that challenge my choice of club? At Calabasas what caught me by surprise, gave me some trouble, and challenged me to be more accurate were the false front, back, and side greens. I often witnessed our perfectly struck balls land on what appeared to be a flat surface then, ever so slowly, roll off. For this reason, the Calabasas course proved to be not only beautiful — but equally and delightfully tricky.
As with all better courses, there are always blind shots; cases where you can’t even see the flag from the tee box. At Calabasas there are seven
— and at each we were glad Tom was providing guidance!
While many of today’s golf courses are designed as distance challenges, this 6,323-yard course is on the shorter side to fit within the tight spaces of the Calabasas hills. What you experience here is a more old-fashioned challenge. Robert Trent Jones Sr.
(1906–2000), who designed this course along with his son, Robert Trent Jones Jr
., in a rare collaboration, was known for his no-risk, no-reward arrangement of bunkers, water, and slopes to create a game of strategy. Oak trees, highly valued by the City of Calabasas and thus protected, cause more challenge. We weren’t the only ones who watched our ball ricochet off a tree.
At each tee Tom well described the layout of the course, what direction the ball would roll toward the pin, and what placement, blind OB (out of bounds) and water pitfalls to avoid to give us an edge.
Tom also impressed us as an instructor. During the round, he shared helpful tips and pointers to improve our stance and swing. Each time we saw immediate improvement in our game and more eagerly anticipated our next game with our regular Tuesday foursome.
By the time we approached the 5th hole, Tom felt like an old friend. The beautiful thing about golf is that it always brings people together no matter how well or badly they play.
The 5th hole, Calamity Jane, was my favorite.
I could have hit my ball blindly with a driver — and if I hit it well, over a clump of trees
— been on the green in one. But many have tried and failed. I chose a hundred yard lay-up instead, then a soft 8-iron, which put me right on the green. I pared the hole. YEAH! [clearboth]
With added instruction from Tom, I hit the ball better on the back nine than on the front. And not only was the course just as challenging on the back as it was on the front — it was just as beautiful. But it was the 18th hole — its subtle undulations, water hazard, bunkers, and fast green that gave me the most trouble. I got a triple bogie. Need I say more?
When the round ended, I thanked Tom for being such a gracious host and guide and then gave him a strong handshake in thanks for his help with my game. The Calabasas Country Club lived up to all my expectations. It would truly be a pleasure to return and play the course again.
Feeling somewhat triumphant, Joe and I headed to the 19th hole for a cold beer. Dressed in a vest and bow tie, our bartender Valerie was a witty and entertaining gem. She’s been happily serving the club’s members for 25 years, which says a great deal about the almost family-like relationship between the club, its employees, and its members.
The original stable from the film National Velvet stands beside hole #11. Here, Joe got some help from Golf Pro Tom. [clearboth] [hr]
California Movie Location History
Each hole at the Calabasas Golf & Country Club is named after a movie filmed on the grounds, as it was formerly the Warner Ranch. The original stable, which still stands at the 11th hole, was the actual stable shot in National Velvet; the 11th hole is, of course, named for that famous 1944 film.
Hole #2 is The Iron Mistress
Hole #3 is Burma Road
Hole #4 is Giant
Hole #5 is Calamity Jane
Hole #6 is Road to Rio
Hole #7 is Showboat
Hole #8 is So Big
Hole #9 is Danger Forward
Hole #10 is White Heat
Hole #11 is National Velvet
Hole #12 is Carousel
Hole #13 is Bright Leaf
Hole #14 is Good Earth
Hole #15 is Robin Hood
Hole #16 is High Noon
Hole #17 is Stalag 17
Hole #18 is The Miracle
Some longtime golf fans may recognize the course from the Lee Trevino-hosted television shows back in the early days of the club. (The 14th hole was one of his “shortest par 4” holes.) (It’s a par 3.) Many a tournament is hosted at Calabasas. Head Golf Professional Tom Fink handles all things tournament and is your contact for this. Tournaments are always held on Mondays.
The club welcomes opportunities to be of service to the local community. It hosts the golf teams of Calabasas High School, New Community Jewish High School, and Pepperdine University. [hr]
Events at the Club
The magnificence of this golf course and ground makes the club an excellent event location. There’s a dining room that overlooks the 5th hole and its fountain, cocktail lounge, and a banquet facility that accommodates 300 people.
(In addition to doing banquets and parties, the club is the exclusive caterer of the city’s new Founder’s Hall and the Calabasas Inn, which is being reopened for events.) [hr]
Although most people join for the golf, there are also Social Memberships and Athletic Memberships for those who simply like to enjoy the camaraderie and dining at the club or use the club’s gym. Indeed, dining is a pleasure in the dining area, which looks out over the 5th hole, replete with foliage and fountain, and also provides a view of golfers on the 1st hole as well as a few others.
Lessons are available for members. For children there’s a big Junior Program each summer.
If you’re interested in membership, contact General Manager Dave Bartholomew or Head Golf Professional Tom Fink.
Call 818-222-8111 and ask for them by name.
Main number: 1-818-222-8111
18 holes, 6,323 yards of fairways and greens