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Don't look 'Sideways' at Santa Barbara's golf courses

William K. WolfrumBy William K. Wolfrum,
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Sandpiper Golf Club draws raves in Santa Barbara, as the Pacific Ocean makes this a scenic, unique California run. (Courtesy Aidan Bradley)

Admit it, you've seen the movie "Sideways" and the thought of lolling about on Santa Barbara's beaches, enjoying fine food and wine is your idea of a great vacation. But on a vacation to a romantic destination like Santa Barbara, should you bring your golf clubs? The answer is definitely yes.

Among those who know, Santa Barbara is a premier golf vacation destination. You'll find yourself in the unique landscape of a city nestled between ocean and mountains, with great golf courses and offering shopping, art and small town coastal culture, in a city large enough to have something for everyone, including the famous wine-tasting tours.

Something for everyone is how you'd describe the golf in Santa Barbara. By making this delightful Californian location your golf travel destination, you can enjoy a wide variety of golf, along with everything else Santa Barbara has to offer.

Santa Barbara golf at its best

There are six golf courses in Santa Barbara County, with four within a half-hour drive from downtown Santa Barbara. There is one name, however, that stands above the rest when it comes to golf in this scenic Southern California region - Sandpiper Golf Course.

"The Sandpiper says "Santa Barbara" like the Courthouse and El Encanto, like Stearns Wharf and State Street, like hiking and surfing, like fabulous wines and ..well...great golf," writes John Dickson at Santabarbara.com.

Unbelievable views will highlight your day at Sandpiper Golf Course, which brings to mind Pebble Beach in the slendor in which the Pacific Ocean is framed into a player's golfing experience. And this William Bell designed run is no pushover, either, playing to a championship rating of 74.2 and hosting several professional tournaments, such as the LPGA Tour's Santa Barbara Women's Open, and the final stage of the PGA Tour qualifying. Add it all up and this is a true must-play golf course for dedicated golfers.

"(It's a) poor mans Pebble Beach," wrote Louq Klein, a 13 handicap. "Looks just like Torrey Pines."

Where Sandpiper highlights the ocean, Rancho San Marcos Golf Course highlights the lush vegetation and unique landscape inland in Santa Barbara. Named as one of the Top-10 Non-Resort courses in Fairways & Greens Magazine's (FG's) third annual Signature Series issue, Rancho San Marcos is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed treat.

Built on the former San Marcos Ranch that was built in 1804, Rancho San Marcos adds a history lesson to its green fairways, and features sights that will delight.

"Like any mountain course, there is ample elevation change, which provides for eye-satiating scenery," wrote Matt Paulson for GolfCalifornia.com. "On the back nine - Rancho's signature side - there are four elevated tees, and in some situations, players are surrounded by dramatic dropoffs on all sides."
At Santa Barbara Golf Club, you'll quickly see why this course is one of the busiest public runs in the state, drawing 100,000 rounds per year.

"This affordable, well-manicured layout designed by Lawrence Hughes is short at 6,019 yards, par-70 but you will enjoy the views of the Santa Ynez foothills and the Pacific Ocean. Locals say it is the longest short course you will ever play," wrote David Holland for GolfCalifornia.com.

Great views and well-manicured fairways await you at Santa Barbara Golf Club, as do some of the lowest green fees in the area, as well as the Russ Morrison Junior Golf Club for kids.

Of course, there's plenty more when it comes to Santa Barbara golf. Glen Annie will dazzle with spectacular views while allowing you to prowl on one of only six golf courses in California that support an Environmental Enhancement Program. La Purisima Golf Course is located smack in the middle of Santa Barbara's wine country in Lompoc, and will show off lush vegetation and a classic design.

So get that Santa Barbara trip on your schedule. Not only can you enjoy the great wine and eclectic attitude of this great travel location, you'll see that it can stand as a great golf destination, as well.

William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.

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