Ventura Country Club: Where golf course conditions matter

By Ed Schmidt, Contributor

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ventura Country Club has literally and figuratively taken ownership of its goal to be one of the best-conditioned courses in central Florida.

18 Holes | Semi-Private | Par: 70 | 6002 yards
Ventura Country Club
Ventura C.C. has been a mainstay on the Orlando golf scene since 1981.
Ventura Country ClubVentura Country Club golf course - 13th teeVentura Country Club golf course - 13thVentura Country Club golf courseVentura Country Club golf course - 6thVentura Country Club golf course - no. 13

Set in a beautifully landscaped, master-planned development in southeast Orlando, Ventura is one of a select-few golf courses owned by its homeowners association. The owners and Director of Golf Josh Bennett take great pride in providing quality in every detail of the golf operation.

"The competition is fierce with so many choices in the Orlando area, and we're striving to be the best-conditioned, semi-private golf course in central Florida," said Bennett, who has been at Ventura for 18 years. "It's extremely rare that a golf course is owned, managed and maintained by the homeowners association. We do everything in-house and are proud of the golf community we've built here."

While some people think Ventura is a private course because of its three gated security entrances, the golf course is open to the public, and visiting golfers are treated like members for a day.

Ventura Country Club: The history and setting

A mainstay on the Orlando golf scene since its opening in 1981, Ventura is situated on the former site of the Raper Dairy Farm, which supplied Orlando's TG Lee Dairy for many years.

Designed by Mark Mahannah, the 5,659-yard, par-70 layout is routed through tall pines, natural wetlands and canals. Water is incorporated on 15 of 18 holes, and there are 50 strategically placed bunkers.

Emphasizing Ventura's continuing commitment to enhancing the golf experience is the recent addition of new Champion Bermuda greens and collars.

Known for its true roll, consistency, and fast and firm surface, Champion Bermuda greens have exceptional tolerance for close mowing and can maintain a very high density even in partial shade.

More than a dozen PGA TOUR events are staged at courses with Champion Greens, including the Atlanta Athletic Club in Georgia, which hosted the 2011 PGA Championship.

Ventura also recently added new golf carts.

How to play Ventura Country Club

"The course plays a lot longer than its total yardage," Bennett said. "Some golfers have a difficult time believing that, but it's true."

Bennett said he sometimes talks with long-hitters who are brimming with confidence once they glance at the scorecard.

"Occasionally I'll make a deal with them," he confided. "If they can break par, I'll buy them lunch after the round. I haven't had to buy lunch yet."

The fairways at Ventura are narrow, so accuracy off the tee is a no brainer. Par 5s aren't necessarily long, but Mahannah has artfully designed them so they're not pushovers.

Ventura's signature hole -- the 467-yard (from back tees), par-5 No. 13 -- is a prime example of designer ingenuity. The tee shot is a forced carry over water with a fairway bunker and a group of palms waiting to gobble up an errant effort on this hard dogleg-left hole.

"The question on 13 isn't should I go for it, rather, how much should I cut off and how hard can I swing," said Bennett.

Two of the more difficult holes on the course are lengthy par 3s.
No. 7, the one-handicap hole, is 216 yards from the back tees, and No. 11 is 212 yards. The 186-yard, par-3 14 is no automatic par, either. It's the two handicap hole.

Bennett said the short, 311-yard, par-4 No. 17, a dogleg-left design with water framing the right side of the fairway, is a tough test even if you execute a difficult tee shot.

Ventura Country Club: The verdict

Don't be turned off by the short total yardage at Ventura C.C. What it lacks in length it makes up with its conditioning, excellent greens, playability and shot-making opportunities. You might be a bomber off the tee, but that doesn't necessarily guarantee a low score here.

Many of the key staff members have been at Ventura for an extended time, and they take great individual pride in every facet of the golf course.

If you want to play a well designed layout where you'll feel welcomed by the staff and homeowner/players, Ventura is a great value and superb choice.

Ed SchmidtEd Schmidt, Contributor

Ed Schmidt, publisher of The Golf Travel Guru Blog, is the author of two books on Florida golf and more than 2,500 articles and columns on golf resorts, courses and destinations around the world. Follow Ed on Twitter at @golftravelguy.

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