Ojai: The Zen of Golf

As you venture up the 101 and merge into the increasingly remote environment, Highway 33 is your detour to Ojai, a quaint town of just over 7,000 residents. With Santa […]

As you venture up the 101 and merge into the increasingly remote environment, Highway 33 is your detour to Ojai, a quaint town of just over 7,000 residents. With Santa Barbara to the east and Los Padres National Forest to the north, Ojai prides itself for its naturalistic qualities that embrace ecology, organic agriculture, spirituality, and local art. A popular destination of Hollywood luminaries seeking a respite from the constant glare of the spotlight, the likes of Emily Blunt, Larry Hagman, Anthony Hopkins, Reese Witherspoon  and Ellen Degeneres have called Ojai home.

For more than 90 years, Ojai Valley Inn and Spa has gone above and beyond as one of the nation’s finest golf and spa resorts. Once stepping foot on the property, you will feel as if you just entered a charming Spanish colonial village, complete with numerous courtyards, secluded gathering locations, tranquil gardens and fountains, distinct artwork, and complete serenity.

Although established in 1923, it was not until 1946, after being purchased by Don Burger along with other notable Hollywood investors, that the property became known as the Ojai Valley Inn & Country Club. Ever since, the resort has captivated leisure as well as business guests with its breathtaking facilities. Ojai Valley Inn is set among 220 lushly landscaped acres of luxury accommodations, a championship 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, and unparalleled spa services. Highly regarded as “the” place to stay in Ojai, the Inn is not just a destination, but rather an experience.

Located just 90 minutes north of Los Angeles, the Ojai Valley Inn has been recognized among the Top 25 U.S. Resorts by Condé Nast Traveler magazine, reasonably attracting many Hollywood A-list celebrities such as Bob Hope, Will Smith, Kevin Costner, and Michael Douglas to enjoy a relaxing getaway so close to home. The property offers 308 spacious rooms and suites, most complete with fireplaces, terraces, and spectacular mountain and golf course views. And then there is the Casa Elar, which was built in 2006 by the current owners, the Crown family, as a private residence on the resorts’ grounds. The 10,000-plus square-foot mansion is now available to the public and is a popular choice for celebrity escapes, family reunions, and destination weddings.


The championship golf course, designed by the great George C. Thomas, Jr., was originally opened in 1923 as the Ojai Country Club. Thomas, who also designed the esteemed Riviera, Bel-Air, and Los Angeles Country Clubs, had two initial considerations for the Ojai course – that the average golfer could enjoy his round without too great a penalty, and that a test must be afforded requiring the low-handicap man to play fine golf in order to secure pars. The Inn has hosted seven Senior PGA Tour events as well as two EMC2 Golf Skills Challenges that brought legendary superstars such as Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Tom Weiskopf, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Ben Crenshaw, and others to challenge the historic course.

The 18-hole, par 70 course stretches 6,292 yards from the blue tees. But don’t let the lack of distance give you a false sense of confidence. Although not lengthy, the course calls for accurate tee shots as well as crafty shotmaking should you miss the well-guarded putting surfaces.

There are two holes that stand out to me on this beautiful track: the par 4, 5th hole as well as the par 3, 16th hole. Number 5 is a par 4 that is 440 yards with a severely elevated tee box offering breathtaking views of the Topa Topa Mountains in the background. Although the fairway is generously wide, if you miss it you are likely to be penalized with a lateral hazard left of the landing area; go right and a huge oak tree will block your approach. With a well-sloped green that is protected with deep sand bunkers, if you leave this hole with a par you should be proud. The par 3, 16th could be one of the most intimidating par 3s in California. The 203-yard hole also offers an elevated tee box, and the green is framed with 11, yes eleven, bunkers. With a large canyon-like barranca left of the green, and out of bounds along the entire right side, all I can say about this hole is good luck. Though Ojai Valley Inn Golf Course is an old traditional, tree-lined layout, it is unique and has a feel of its own.


The view from the 16th hole offers a great view of the natural Ojai skyline

After your round of golf, it’s time to unwind and relax at the world class Spa Ojai. The award winning 31,000 square-foot luxury spa with 28 treatment rooms (equipped with fireplaces), offers customized therapies and treatments to relax and rejuvenate. Arrive early for your treatment so you can enjoy the spas, sauna, steam, two pools complete with cabanas, and the luxurious 3,500 square-foot spa penthouse, which offers guests a meditation loft and large terraces and fireplaces. The gym at Spa Ojai is fully equipped with state-of-the-art cardio equipment as well as a full section of weight machines and free weights. A daily schedule of complimentary mind/body classes as well as power walks and nature hikes are offered daily.

Located just outside the spa is the unique Artist’s Cottage & Apothecary and is the centerpiece of the resort’s arts program. In one of the only authentic art studios at a resort, Spa Ojai combines its world-class spa experience with programs designed to encourage artistic self-discovery. Guests may elect to participate in open studio time, group art classes, or private art sessions for more personal instruction.


The outdoor terrace of the Anacapa Ballroom, which is designed with hand-stenciled ceiling, statement chandeliers, and cozy fireplaces, making it a great event venue

Ojai Valley Inn offers a plentiful array of dining options, from take-out style to the finest of dining experiences. Joe ‘n Go is a convenient “to-go” window located next to the practice putting green, offering quick-service food and beverages. While soaking up the sun’s rays at the adult pool, there is the Swim Club Café, which serves breakfast, lunch, and cocktails; your order is delivered right to your lounge chair or cabana. Jimmy’s Pub is a popular 19th-hole stop, with an extensive selection of beers, wines, and cocktails. With a casual-fare menu offering thin-crust pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, and appetizers, Jimmy’s Pub is a favorite for golfers and sports enthusiasts wanting to catch a televised sporting event. Maravilla is the resort’s flagship restaurant featuring fine cuts of prime steaks, chops, and fresh seafood. Maravilla is divided into indoor and outdoor charming dining areas, each with its own character. The indoor area is cozy and welcoming with multiple fireplaces, and the outdoor terrace is refreshing and features stunning views of the mountains and golf course. The chef does an incredible job creating a diverse menu utilizing garden-grown and local Ojai ingredients. One option for dessert is to be relocated to a nearby outdoor fire pit where you make your own s’mores. Maravilla is a “can’t miss” dining experience during your stay.

Ojai Valley Inn is not only the perfect destination for play and relaxation, it is also an ideal location for business. The Conference Center showcases a total of 35,000 square-feet of meeting and function space featuring unparalleled beauty and state-of-the-art functionality. Two ballrooms and beautiful indoor and outdoor function spaces resemble a Spanish village. Along with the ballrooms, there is an executive boardroom with seating for 12, an 11,000 square-foot pre-function space, as well as the 3,600 Shangri-La Pavilion with incredible views of the golf course.

With out-of-this-world golf, spa, dining, service, and pure serenity, Ojai Valley Inn is the perfect California getaway.