Photo Credit: Aidan Bradley
If you think golf courses are just different combinations of grass and sand, you haven’t experienced golf in Santa Barbara. Yes, you’ll find lush fairways and smooth, fast greens. But you’ll also find three courses, just a short drive from one another, in one of the best vacation spots around. Simply put, there’s no other golf destination like it.
Start at Rancho San Marcos, deep on the valley floor of the Santa Ynez Mountains. On this Robert Trent Jones Jr.–designed course, centuries-old oak trees and historic ranch buildings dot the property. The course blends seamlessly with this natural footprint — you may even see a wild turkey or two.
The 6 can’t miss holes at Rancho San Marcos?
No. 5, Par 3 – It’s all carry over water; the green is large and undulating
No. 6, Par 5 – Plays dead into the prevailing wind
No. 9, Par 4 – A precise tee shot is required with out of bounds right, and native grass down the left
No. 14, Par 3 – Signature hole; it’s all carry over a large ravine from an elevated tee
No. 15, Par 4 – A difficult downhill with deep bunkers on the right and a long, narrow green
No. 18, Par 5 – A large bunker complex guards the fairway
From Rancho San Marcos, it’s only a 15-minute drive south to the foothills of Santa Barbara to get to Glen Annie Golf Club. The front nine plays around lakes and waterfall features; the mountain-front holes offer ocean and Channel Island views. This course is more forgiving than Rancho San Marcos and is always in great shape. Bonus: There’s a great craft beer selection on the beverage cart. After your round, enjoy drinks on the patio at the Frog Bar & Grill.
The six can’t-miss holes at Glen Annie Golf Club?
No. 1, Par 4 – Uphill, known as the toughest starting hole in the county
No. 3, Par 4 – Elevated tee, scenic lake in front of green
No. 7, Par 5 – Set up and approach shots offer great risk-reward
No. 11, Par 3 – Ocean views from one of the highest elevations on the course
No. 12, Par 4 – A big drive from this elevated tee may find the green
No. 16, Par 4 – Great views of lakes and Santa Barbara in the distance