Rancho San Marcos, Go To Play, Go to Stay
This Santa Barbara beauty can be a day trip
or a weekend getaway
you thinking that golf in Santa Barbara is going to a) too
expensive and b) too far to drive? Here's a place pretty new,
pretty affordable, pretty close - and just too darn pretty
to ignore anymore
Rancho San Marcos, tucked in the Santa Ynez canyon 15-minutes
from downtown Santa Barbara, provides what Golf magazine calls
one of the top 10 courses you can play. But it's more than
that for me. It was a chance to take a much needed trip up
the coast soaking up ocean air for an hour or so and when
I finally realized neither of the above two worries were true
- check the rates, and the fact it's less than 90 miles away
- it brought me to my senses. And, boy, were the senses refreshed
here. Just the scenic drive in on the mountain road off the
101 through the Los Padres National Forest is enough of a
mini-vacation. So call three buddies and make it a road trip
or surprise the wife and take her up for the weekend, (it'sab
out 30 minutes from Napa South wine country) but either way
you'll have an unforgettable golfing experience.
MY FAVORITE HOLES:
6: 629 yard par 5 (1 handicap): Check that yardage again.
No wonder it's called "Long View." And they have the nerve
to put in fairway bunkers along the left side. It's no breather
after a par 3, 170 yard.
- No. 5 that involves carrying over a pretty sizable pond.
Unfortunately, this is the last of a four-hole run where
the Santa Ynez River runs through it - and it can be a bit
rowdy after a rainstorm.
- No. 8, 434 yard par 4 (7 handicap): Four oak trees - two
on each side of the fairway about 200 yards off the tee
- make for a very tough challenge. The space between them
is 20 yards at the most. Can you thread it?
- No. 13: 145 yard par 3 (18 handicap) and No. 14: 175 yard
par 3 (16 handicap): These back-to-back 3s take your game
to new heights, a grand tour to the top of the world with
a view of Lake Cachuma. Just hope you've got enough energy
if you're walking.
15: 410 yard par 4 (2 handicap): Funny, how this starts
as a complete blind tee shot, but by the time you reach
the 100 yard marker, you can see the Santa Ynez Canyons
drop off from the right, and Lake Cachuma on the left of
the fairway. It'll take your breath away. On top of it,
the tongue-shaped fairway makes this the most difficult
hole you'll tackle.
- No. 17: 450 yard par 4 (8 handicap): The "Stagecoach"
hole runs past the old Stagecoach Road that was originally
used to get folks from Mission Santa Ynez to Mission Santa
PRO SHOP NOTE:
Like the smell of leather? It's a mini museum with a glass
case telling about the land's history, that includes the Chumash
Indians, alfalfa farms, cattle breeding and Palomino horse
Turkey, deer, wild pigs, bald eagles. Horses roam in a corral
off the 4th hole. Bear has been sighted. Other than that,
DID YOU KNOW:
The bear logo used by the course doesn't mean it belongs
to the Jack Nicklaus estate. It's taken from the old Rancho
San Marcos sign erected years ago. Besides, Jack's Golden
Bear faces the other way.
JUST SO YOU KNOW:
No alcohol is served, allowed or sold on the premises. (Hide
the hip flask)
AND ANOTHER THING:
You can't dig for artifacts. And there's plenty around to
admire aside from some old clubs thrown into the Santa Ynez
WANNA JUST HIT BALLS?
15-acre driving range with unlimited use of the pyramid of
balls is like leaving milk and cookies out for Santa.
The phone at the 9th tee box allows you to place an order
and pick it up on the turn. Among the menu items at Davy's
Stable stop: Fish tacos and tri-tip and Brie sandwiches.
Firepits at the 1st, 10th and 13th tees aren't lit to help
golfers warm their hands, they really just add to the charm.
SUMMING IT UP:
hear the words "drop dead gorgeous" and wonder if that could
ever apply to a golf course. This rustic layout that keeps
the essence of the old ranch that was built in 1804 comes
the closest. It's a destination course, but one that can easily
fit into one of those Santa Barbara weekend getaways - there
are plenty of deals with the local hotels to stay and play.
No homes around, no cable wires, no billboards. Just so much
nature and history to soak in. You'll arrive at the first
tee and wish the day never ended. Plus, rarely should a golf
course fit so well within this context, and this is why it's
worth putting aside any preconceived notions and make the
trip. The only regret you'll have is you didn't think of coming