Sandpiper Golf Club: A Pleasant Mix in Santa Barbara
From the moment I stepped onto the first fairway at Sandpiper Golf Club I felt as if I had one foot in Alaska and one in California. The morning fog off the coast left a blanket of moisture behind, typical of courses found in the Pacific Mountain regions. This golf landmark delivers beautiful contrasting scenery of woodlands and ocean.
"On a clear day the panoramic views are gorgeous,"says Director of Golf Greg Villeneuve.
Sandpiper Golf Club is a mixture of different types of golf courses, while at the same time being in a category of its own. The first few holes are flat, more traditional links style with dense trees padding the fairways. Instead of typical beach combing seagulls, crows populate much of the course due to these tall green timbers. Very clever crows I might add, but we'll get to that later. Most of the fairways are very comfortable, with room down the middle, giving the first nine holes an open feel.
By hole six, the woods are left behind and the coast greeted. On the front there are just a few holes along the water as eight and nine start to wind back to the clubhouse. This taste of oceanside golf leaves players salivating for more and that's exactly what they get. After making the turn, what couldn't get any better becomes phenomenal.
"The course really fits the topography of the coast line," says Villeneuve. "At the 11th green, you are just right on the beach."
The back nine is why the course is so memorable and what gets people coming back. There are drastic elevation changes, water hazards and ocean views. The William F. Bell layout is refreshingly unique with surprises at every corner. Golfers on hole ten tee off high above the green with water from 18 on their left and the ocean in their eye line. Although not a particularly long par 4, the dogleg left steers its guests along a fiercely undulated fairway heavily peppered with sand.
On hole 11, golfers once again have the pleasure of a dramatically elevated tee box. Shots must be hit over hillside brush and land on a green resting comfortably in front of the beach. Hole 13 is no exception to Sandpiper's wide range of challenges, as the approach shot needs enough height to soar onto the cliffside green.
Sandpiper Golf Club is a long course, at 7,068 yards from the back tees with a rating of 74.5 and slope of 134. The front measures 5,701 yards with a rating of 73.3 and slope of 108 for the men and 125 for the women. Golfers also face greens heavily guarded by sand traps and since it's a seaside course, morning drizzle and ocean moisture often make the rough difficult to climb out of.
However, from tee box to fairway, the course is generous for those playing from the forward tees. Many of the holes on the front are wide open with no danger of water.
"Whether you're a Tour player or beginning golfer, everyone comes off the course enjoying themselves," says Villeneuve.
The greens are kept in impeccable condition. However the fairways and rough are not as manicured as private courses. Sandpiper has a public course feel, with a five star location and layout.
Those who have the pleasure of golfing a seaside course, also have the unique pleasure of playing hide and seek with their food from a variety of very clever birds.
The starter gave a warning that certain crows like to come down and take food, so to be sure and keep all snacks covered. Now, I tucked a pack of Starbursts under a towel in the front compartment of my cart and still couldn't fool them. They are clever, so take the starter's advice and keep things locked up.
Sandpiper Golf Club is $130 year round which may seem high for a public course, but compared to other seaside venues in Southern California, it's reasonable.
For travelers needing a place to stay, just a minute from the course is the Bacara Resort, an intimate Mediterranean village, sprawling over 78 beachfront acres nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains.
The lavish resort offers a posh health spa, gourmet dining and a variety of recreation. Room rates range from $395 to $675 per night. Suite rates range from $950 to $2,500 per night. The Presidential residence is available at $5,000 per night.
Santa Barbara has dozens of hotels and restaurants to choose from. State Street runs from the Santa Barbara Pier into inland Santa Barbara. People can find everything from shopping and restaurants to dance clubs and bars. The street is heavily populated with pedestrians and serves as a focal point for both tourists and locals.
Pace of Play: A
Overall Rating: B+