Outstanding in Ojai: Soule Park GC is Finally Living Up to Its Potential
To most Southern Californians, Ojai is a bucolic, Ventura County town best known for its artsy-craftsy locals, its modern classical music festival and for being the former retreat of mystic philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. "If I had nowhere to go in the world," Krishnamurti once said, "I would come to Ojai and sit under an orange tree. It would shade me from the sun, and I could live on the fruit."
Not only was the late guru an annual visitor to Ojai, he was also a scratch golfer in his youth, and might well have stopped at nearby Soule Park GC on occasion. Truth be told, chances are better that he played at Ojai's other notable course, the 1923 George C. Thomas Jr. and Billy Bell–designed layout at the venerable Ojai Valley Inn just down the road.
The Inn itself was a well-known redoubt for deep-pocketed Hollywood swells with a penchant for spa treatments and clean air. Unfortunately, the local hoi polloi had nowhere to golf until 1962, when Billy Bell's son, William F. Bell (whose name graces many of L.A.'s municipal courses, as well as San Diego's Torrey Pines), finished work on Soule Park. Its original mission was clearly stated: "The best means of combating juvenile delinquency is to provide constructive physical activities for young people. Golf provides a wholesome type of clean outdoor sport."
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