Handsome La Purisima Golf Course in Lompoc proves rolling, rustic and robust
LOMPOC, Calif. -- Challenging La Purisima Golf Course sits amid the wine country of California's verdant Central Coast.
Spread across 310 acres rolling land 30 miles north of Santa Barbara, the poignancy of the grounds is well paired by the potency of the task at hand.
"It's definitely challenging and requires accuracy; it's not a place where you can spray the ball," owner Chris Bellamy said. "It was designed by Ken Hunter (with Robert Muir Graves), and the whole goal was to have par be a good score. And I think he achieved that."
A land developer and real estate man by trade, Bellamy took ownership of La Purisima in mid-2013 when vetting the purchase of a nearby vineyard. So stricken was he by the attractive, wildlife-laden grounds, Bellamy ended up with golf instead of grapes.
"I wasn't even really looking to buy a golf course, to be honest," he added. "I went out there looking at wineries and stumbled across this land and thought, 'This is gorgeous.'"
Reputed among the toughest courses in all of California (with a course rating of 75.4 from the tips), the course has enjoyed some TLC along with a little softening since the ownership change.
"When we took over, it was probably four or five strokes more difficult than it is now, just because of the way it was maintained," said Bellamy, detailing the touches of tree removal, improved greens, better maintained rough, wider green collars and adding an intermediate cut.
"So we've tried to make it a little more player friendly, because I think it was a touch too difficult," he said.
Regular players agree with Bellamy's assessment.
"When the new owners took over they really improved it," said Tom Wilcox, of Lompoc, who plays the course at least six days a week, "cutting down some trees and bushes and doing a lot of work out here."
La Purisima draws you in
As the golf inspiration for Rex Pickett's novel "Sideways" (upon which the Oscar-winning film was based), La Purisima both literally and figuratively plays on a big screen. And though the plot pleases with ample color, scenery and animal life, myriad chapters will read long and strong for the timid.
With big, undulating greens, big distance (7,105 from the tips) and big wind considerations late in the day, La Purisima lives up to its rep as a whole lot of course to drink in.
What may serve the player well is a right-to-left ball flight, as four of the first eight (great) holes dogleg left across a terrific front side.
"Having a draw is definitely going to help you out here," Bellamy said.
After letting one know from the outset that the round-to-be is in earnest on the 542-yard, par-5 first (yes, a dogleg left) with marsh water deep right, the excellent par-4 second (yes, a dogleg left) segues with a downhill tee shot preceding an approach over both marsh and bunker.
"There are so many different ways to play no. 2, and I do like the water feature there," Bellamy said. "Personally, I take a 200-yard, four-hybrid shot and try to cut the corner and land just in front of the water. And then you've got about 130 yards in."
After the par-3 third plays over water and bunkering to a green with a severe right slope, the diminutive, par-4 fourth plays among the most alluring holes on the Central Coast.
"No. 4 really depends on your length, but, take our pro, who drives the green with a 3-wood if there's no wind," Bellamy said. "But clearing the bunkers for a nice, easy 100-yard shot for your uphill approach is what I like there, if you can place your ball below the hole, which is key."
The 427-yard seventh presents another uphill approach (and, yes, another dogleg left) before the monster eighth (see: dogleg left) matches a tough tee shot with ample reward.
"The eighth is a blind shot with a great backdrop, and if you know how to play it, you can roll the ball all the way down the hill," Bellamy concluded.
La Purisima Golf Course: The verdict
Despite the benevolent touches by new ownership, La Purisima G.C. plays as a big challenge and will test low-handicappers (along with most ladies, playing from nearly 5,800 yards at a course rating of 75.6).
But rest assured, highlighted by an excellent front nine, these grounds are sprawling, rustic and beautiful; for newcomers and the 20-plus set, arrive with measured scoring expectations and enjoy the scenery.
Full practice facility, instruction and restaurant are on site.