Santa Barbara County is one of America’s most desirable golf destinations, with splendid courses designed to maximize enjoyment of the region’s splendor and moderate climate.
Glen Annie Golf Club (Goleta)
In the rolling foothills of Goleta, 15 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara, this meticulously maintained and challenging layout offers panoramic ocean, Channel Island and mountain views from nearly every hole. The tee shot from #16, for example, decends 150 ft. in elevation to land softly on a manicured landscape near an adjacent lake with a cascading stream. The clubhouse complex includes Frog Bar & Grill and scenic patios with excellent facilities for gatherings of up to 300. Par 71. Stroke rating from men’s tees: 71.1; slope rating, 122. 405 Glen Annie Rd., (805) 968-6400, glenanniegolf.com.
Sandpiper Golf Club (Goleta)
Established in 1972 as the county’s first resort course open to the public, Sandpiper is an inspiring 18 holes of seaside golf on an extraordinary terrain, with an acclaimed layout named by Golf Digest as one of the top 25 public golf courses in the U.S.. Designed by renowned architect William F. Bell, the links-style layout features rolling fairways leading to enormous greens with ocean views from nearly every hole. The stretch of holes 10–14 is one of the most memorable experiences of any golfer’s life. Par 72. Stroke rating from men’s tees: 74.7; slope rating, 136. 7925 Hollister Ave., (805) 968-1541, sandpipergolf.com.
River Course at the Alisal (Solvang)
Opened for public play in 1992 on land owned by and adjacent to the renowned Alisal Guest Ranch, River Course provides a layout to be enjoyed by golfers of all levels of skill. Set along the Santa Ynez River, the course features panoramic views, mostly wide fairways and accessible greens. Several holes, however, will challenge even the low handicap golfer, especially any of the river holes. The clubhouse has an excellent restaurant with comfortable, inside seating and a view oriented patio. Par 72. Stroke rating from men’s tees: 73.1; slope rating, 135. 150 Alisal Rd., (805) 688-6042, rivercourse.com.
Rancho San Marcos (Santa Ynez)
Twelve miles from Santa Barbara, up scenic Hwy 154—the historic road winding off State Street into the Santa Ynez Mountains that leads to the charming Santa Ynez Valley wineries—“Rancho” has been acclaimed as one of the finest experiences in Southern California. This historic land challenges with sand, lakes, the Santa Ynez River, fields of native grasses, oak tree-lined chaparral and changes in elevation. A comfortable clubhouse has a grill with food to go or to enjoy at tables inside or outside on scenic patios. Par 71. Stroke rating from men’s tees: 73.1; slope rating, 135. 4600 Hwy. 154, (805) 683-6334, rsm1804.com.
Featured for Spring: La Purisima Golf Course (Lompoc)
Less than an hour from Santa Barbara, and a half-hour from the charming Danish town of Solvang and Santa Ynez Valley wineries, “La P” is pure golf—no real estate, no commercial development for miles, just long, twisting fairways bordered at times by oak and eucalyptus groves and protected by sand, water and out-of-bounds stakes, finishing with huge,lightning-fast greens. In the afternoon, wind often becomes an additional factor, making the closing holes our own “Amen Corner.” Designed by world-renowned golf architect Robert Muir Graves, a round at this beautiful, challenging course will not soon be forgotten, and is worth the scenic drive up the coast and into the pastoral countryside. A big, hacienda-style club house complex includes a substantial retail display and, in a separate building, Piranha Grille for breakfast through lunch. Yardage and stroke rating from men’s tees: Black (7,105 yards), 75.6/143; Blue (6,670 yards), 73.1/136; White (6,187 yards), 71.1/131. 3455 E. State Hwy. 246, (805) 735-8395, lapurisimagolf.com.
This story was originally published in the spring 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.