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You Had To Be There

In a rare public viewing, The Saticoy Club showcased its subtle, devastating brilliance
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They say you can never fully appreciate The Saticoy Club until you’ve stood over a 20-foot swinger on the third and prayed that it stays on the planet. Not until you’ve nipped a wedge and made your way to the green, only to watch in horror as the ball rolls back toward your just-filled divot. Not unless you’re a young woman (who prefers to remain nameless, thank you very much) who handled the pressure of an Augusta National Women’s Amateur, only to be moved to tears the following week by Saticoy’s infamous 16th green. Not unless you’re Freddy Couples, who’s rumored to have never parred No. 11 in all his trips there. 

So, no, you may never grasp the subtle genius of The Saticoy Club unless you have the good fortune of a member inviting you to see it for yourself. But more than 80 TGJ Members got to experience this 100-year-old Southern California institution in March, and it would be downright mean-spirited if we didn’t give you a peek behind the curtains too. 

“Welcome to Saticoy…

…where bogey feels like par!” This was how I was welcomed to Saticoy by Shad—its gregarious starter whose home-fermented 7%-alcohol seltzer might be the only thing more bubbly than his personality. The comment, while in jest, was nevertheless an unsettling start to the day. 

Hidden in the hills of Somis, California, for the last 100 years, The Saticoy Club (formerly Saticoy Country Club) can only be accessed by Ventura County’s Los Angeles Ave. There, among endless fields of assorted produce, you’ll come across an inconspicuous side street labeled Clubhouse Dr. A little blue sign will soon appear, and gravel turns to freshly paved asphalt not long after.

Now go straight up the hill. Like, way up the hill. Your first glance of the course is coming up, and soon you’ll come eye-to-eye with the 329-yard par-4 second hole known by members as “Short Beauty.” Your eyes will lock on to the towering pair of Saticoy trees floating in wall-to-wall bermuda fairways, but don’t forget to give the styrofoam-peanut sized green a glance as you drive by. Every bit of extra recon is valuable. 

Architecture aficionados will instantly recognize the character of these greens as Bell-family originals—the same bloodline that helped George Thomas shape nearby Riviera, Bel-Air and Los Angeles Country Club, all in the same decade as these. And while the surfaces have been softened around the edges by some of the industry’s best over the years (most recently by Thad Layton of Arnold Palmer Design), they still are as fiery as anything around town. 

And speaking of flames, you’ll soon reach the top of the hill where an unobstructed view of the scorched surrounding peaks come into play. It was there in 2019 that the Maria Fire threatened to engulf Saticoy on Halloween night. If it weren’t for a dense layer of luscious avocado trees that frame most of the back nine, the fire would have surely ended our centennial Showcase before it even began. 

Insider Debating

There were arguments in the office. After our site visits, there was a strong case to be made that level par would win our event. Finally, a bet had to be made. Previous TGJ two-man best-ball outings had seen some impressive gross scores to go along with great net parity, but this time seemed different. There are birdies to be had at Tobacco Road. Trinity Forest gave us looks. Hell, there were even some green lights at Ballyhack. At Saticoy, though, there are just 18 quality, difficult golf holes. Land the right shot in the right place and you’ll be rewarded. Don’t, and face the consequences.

Experience turned into a huge advantage—it takes time to learn which shots work best to climb each tier and skip over each ridge—so it was no surprise that the winning duos didn’t have to travel far. For Ridaa Murad and Byron Wood, both TGJ and Saticoy Club members, the Net victory came with extra pride. While their 62 ran away with it, Sunday night was a bit more stressful after Murad’s original partner and friend of the Crew, Josh Adams, was forced to withdraw at the last moment. It worked out in the end as Wood shot a career-best 81 at his home course en route to a three-shot victory. (Just a few months prior, we had run into Murad at Goat Hill Park while playing in Linksoul’s own 2-Man championship. “You have to bring the van to Saticoy,” he pleaded more than once. “It’s sneaky good.” We’re glad we listened.)

Even more impressive was the Urban Golf Performance pairing of Leonard Rooney and Mac Todd, who fired a straight up 5-under 67 to win Gross honors by four. The only other team under par? Chris Howell and TGJ’s own Mark Warman, who took that under-par bet at the office. Go figure. 

Second Ball All-American

The 10th hole had wreaked havoc all day. At 137 yards playing straight down the hill into swirling winds, the par 3 is a notoriously cold welcome to the back nine at Saticoy. Depending on when you pull the trigger, a 9-iron could balloon and splash short, or catch a jetstream and take off into double-bogey territory. 

“What’s the number?” asked group after group. We never had a good answer. 

One-by-one, players left the tee shaking their heads. Except Sean Reilly. After making one of the lone birdies in regulation there, he made his way back to 10 tee following the round for one last swing. With a small crowd to attest, his 9-iron pitched 3 feet behind the hole and ripped back in for an ace. 

Consider it showcased.