Play on the Ranch at Alisal

Noted designer William F. Bell crafted a classic course at the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, through the trees of a rustic valley in Solvang in 1955, and Steve Halsey upgraded the layout in 1991.

The Ranch Course at the Alisal, which plays to a par of 72, stretches to 6,551 yards from the back tees with a USGA rating of 72.0 and a slope of 133.

The narrow fairways are lined by mature oaks and sycamores, with deer and other wildlife often seen on the course.

Al Geiberger, a native Californian who played at USC and was the first player in PGA Tour history to shoot 59, holds the course record of 65 on the Ranch Course at the Alisal.

Even though the fairways are narrow in places, this is an ideal resort course because what you see is what you get–there are no tricks to the course.

There are several elevated tees on the Ranch Course, which is lined by oaks and sycamores, and the Santa Ynez River runs along the West border of the layout, which is traversed several times by Alisal Creek before it meets the river.

Every hole is a picture postcard, but none is prettier than the 161-yard sixth. The tee shot from the top of a hill must carry the creek to a green 50 feet below that is heavily bunkered on the left. Pause for a moment to appreciate the view of Solvang and the Santa Ynez Valley.

The eighth is a demanding 416-yard par 4, the most difficult hole on the course. A barranca that bisects the fairway 236 yards from the elevated tee is reachable with a big drive. Once on the fairway, the approach shot must be hit with a fairway wood or long iron to a small green that is only 15 yards wide and is protected by traps right and left.

There are some interesting quirks to the course, which includes three par 3s, three par 4s and three par 5s on the front nine. Both nines open with a par 5 and close with a par 3, but the 208-yard ninth and the 201-yard 18th are anything but easy.

Players coming down the stretch with a good score must first get past the 420-yard 17th, a daunting par 4 that requires a tee shot to the right of the fairway short of a barranca in order to see the green on the big dogleg left. Anything to the left makes it virtually impossible to go for the green and probably means a lay-up short of the barranca.

Get past No. 17 and you still have the ticklish 18th to deal with.

Right down the street from the Ranch Course is its sister course, the public River Course at the Alisal, which plays through a wide-open meadow.

La Purisima Golf Course a few miles down the road in Lompoc is one of the best public courses in Southern California, having played host to the PGA Tour Qualifying School and U.S. Open qualifying.

Also nearby are some other outstanding courses–Black Lake Golf Resort in Nipomo, Avila Beach Golf Course, Marshallia Ranch Golf Course at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Cypress Ridge Golf Club in Arroyo Grande and Rancho Maria Golf Course in Santa Maria.

Only 40 minutes away are several more top-shelf courses in Santa Barbara, including Rancho San Marcos Golf Club, Glen Annie Golf Club, Santa Barbara Golf Club and acclaimed Sandpiper Golf Course, which is known as the “Pebble Beach of Southern California.”

The Ranch Course can only be played by club members and guests at the Alisal Guest Ranch, which was founded in 1946 and became a hideaway for Hollywood icons such as Doris Day and Clark Gable, who married Lady Silvia Ashley in the old library on the grounds.

In addition to golf, the 10,000-acre Alisal Guest Ranch offers tennis, horseback riding, biking, swimming and hiking, plus boating and fishing on Alisal Lake. There are nature walks and bird watching on the property, which borders the Ronald Reagan Ranch that served as the Western White House during Reagan’s presidency.

Solvang, an authentic Scandinavian village founded by Danish settlers in 1911, is one of the top tourist sites in California. Of course, the Spanish padres arrived much earlier, in 1804, and founded Mission Santa Ines.

The town features several themed hotels, including the Best Western King Frederik Motel, the Kronberg Inn and Svendsgaard’s Danish Lodge.

Also close is Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn in Buellton.


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