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A gem worth finding: The sterling greens of Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, California

Judd SpicerBy Judd Spicer,
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Sterling Hills Golf Club - 6th
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The greens are the star at Sterling Hills G.C., located an hour northwest of L.A. (Courtesy of Sterling Hills G.C.)

CAMARILLO, Calif. -- Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club make this a stone worth turning over.

Though routed through a (well kept) housing development, the mellow mood of Camarillo overrides any concerns about playing amid residential routing, and it will serve as little surprise that the gently rolling terrain at Sterling Hills makes this a favored spot for area nuptials.

As per the marriage of golf and game, the demanding greens of this late-'90s Robert Muir Graves/Damian Pascuzzo design give Sterling Hills some SoCal cred that otherwise belies much of the pre-green layout.

"We're famous for our greens, although they can be a little tricky," said Katrina Sutton, director of golf at Sterling Hills Golf Club. "There are undulation and tiers, but if you're a good putter and put the ball on line, you can score well out here."

Local players agree with Sutton's course assessment.

"You can see where you're getting to on the fairways, which are generally very fair, and they really keep the greens in good shape," said Mike Nelson, a single-digit handicapper from Camarillo. "The greens roll pretty fast out here and are probably the most consistent part of the course."

Sterling Hills Golf Club: Let it roll

While Sterling Hills isn't filled with signature tests on a hole-to-hole basis, nuanced fairway elevation changes are in play throughout.

"You need to know how to play off slopes and hit from all different types of lies," Sutton said.

Moreover, Sterling's putting surfaces provide ample personality throughout and are indeed worthy of ample study for the newcomer.

"They run really true, but I suggest looking from the back of the hole, behind the pin, because sometimes the breaks are a little tricky," advised Sutton.

Among the hole highlights: The heart-shaped green of the 223-yard, par-3 third will let the nascent know from the outset what lies ahead for the flatstick.

On the ensuing fourth hole (tied with no. 18 for Sterling's longest at 523-yards), challenges abound throughout for a test charting (surprisingly) as the course's 15th handicap.

"I like the par-5 no. 4. There are trees lined up on the right-hand side, and it looks like you're hitting through an alley," Sutton said. "It looks narrow, but there's actually a lot of room, and you'll want to play a little to the right. Then on your second shot, you'll want to play to the left, because the hole slopes down to the water on the right. It's a good strategy hole if you know how to play it; and if you go for the center of the green, your ball could trickle down to the water."

Two holes later, the 378-yard sixth grabs the collar from the tee with double-lake water features on the left and massive bunkering on the right.

On the back, the tough par-4 12th sports what is likely Sterling's toughest approach.

"The 12th is short, and you don't necessarily need to play driver off the tee," Sutton said. "But then the next shot plays over a huge barranca. And it's an uphill shot, so, especially if the pin is back, it's very tricky ... and a lot of people are scared of that barranca."

At 447 yards, no. 14 is a bear of a par 4.

"The 14th is kind of a blind drive that plays up the hill, followed by a severe downhill shot," Sutton explained. "If you hit a good drive, you'll have a downhill lie into the green. So you really need to commit to that approach."

Following the course's longest par 4, the par-3 15th offers little let-up, with a mean tee shot over water and bunkering followed by a demanding two-tiered green.

Sterling Hills Golf Club: The verdict

Sterling Hills G.C. is a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.

Though the layout isn't replete with ample "wow" factor, the greens at Sterling Hills are surely game, and first-timers (if not most players) will indeed want to heed Sutton's advice and take a little more time to study these complexes. Three-putts are in play throughout the course, making Sterling's 6,800-yards burlier from a scoring vantage than the track may appear on paper.

On-site amenities include a practice range, putting green, instruction, a full-service grill and a very popular banquet facility.

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Judd Spicer is an award-winning, veteran freelance writer hailing from St. Paul, Minn. After 12 years of covering MLB, NBA, NCAA and the active golf landscape of the Twin Cities, he relocated to the Palm Spring, Calif. region to further pursue his golf work and Champions Tour dream. Sporting measured distance off the tee, Spicer refers to his pitching wedge as his "magic wand." Follow Judd on Twitter at @juddspicer.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
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