SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Pacific Ocean greets golfers the minute they pull into the parking lot at the Sandpiper Golf Club.
You can see it from the driving range, the clubhouse and almost every hole on the 7,159-yard course. It's this omnipresent scenery that has earned Sandpiper the nickname "Poor man's Pebble Beach".
Not that playing Sandpiper is cheap, but its $200 weekend green fee is less than half the cost of playing the real Pebble Beach Golf Links. Sandpiper, a William F. Bell design from 1972 owned by Ty Warner (known by everybody as the 'Beanie Baby' guy), has a few mundane inland holes, but its best cliff holes certainly rival those at Pebble Beach.
After a two-hole tease on the front nine (holes 5-6), the ocean takes over during a fantastic five-hole stretch starting at no. 10. This twisting dogleg left ends at an infinity green overlooking the water. With a green right on the beach, the downhill par-3 11th hole is every bit the equal of the famed par-3 seventh at Pebble Beach. The 12th tee, the start of a tricky, uphill, blind par 4, is so close to the beach that you might as well go surfing if your game has gone sour. The climax comes at no. 13, an epic par 5 along the cliffs that requires a heroic approach over a hazard to the green. The day ends on a par 3, a unique finish to a one-of-a-kind round.
Golf Advisor user 'lhnjax' summed the whole experience up best by writing in her review: "If you can't afford Pebble go play this course. Amazing ocean views. Course in great shape. Greens blazing at about 12. A course you could play every day for the rest of your life."
Staff reviews of Sandpiper Golf Club: Jason Deegan