SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Don't be surprised after playing the Rancho San Marcos Golf Course if your scores are lower than normal.
Not that the 6,939-yard par-71 course is a pushover. A favorable routing by Robert Trent Jones Jr. lacking a traditional set of men's blue tees makes all the difference in your quest to conquering such a beautiful canyon course. Jones II designed six par 3s and five par 5s - holes that are more ripe for scoring than par 4s. With only three sets of tees to choose from, most golfers play from the 6,278-yard white tees, which leaves one short par 4 (the 318-yard third) and one short par 5 (the 473-yard 10th) vulnerable to more scoring opportunities.
There are no homes to bother you, only grand views of the surrounding mountains. The site in the rugged Santa Ynez River Valley still feels off the grid. It was founded in the 1800s by the Santa Barbara Mission as an outpost with a chapel, living quarters, a granary, wine cellar, livestock pens and dwellings for the Chumash Indians. A plaque detailing this history is located near the 11th tee. Later, the lands became a working cattle ranch and farm. Ty Warner, the man known for creating 'Beanie Babies', owns Rancho San Marcos today.
It's a great place to play, even when the course browns out during the heat of the southern California summers. It also provides great contrast when paired with Warner's oceanfront Sandpiper Golf Club. They are a one-two punch as interesting as anywhere in California.