Golf in Solvang, California

Golf in Solvang, California

The River Course, hole 17.
John & Jeannine Henebry

Sneakers? Check. Golf shoes? Check. Cowboy boots and clogs? If you’ve got them, bring them, and round up the kids, too. An adventure awaits the whole family at the intersection of Scandinavia and the Old West.

Solvang, California, 35 miles northwest of Santa Barbara and 7,003 miles west of Copenhagen, Denmark, was settled in 1911 by Danes escaping winter in the U.S. Midwest. The village’s walkable downtown is full of kitschy-cool restaurants and shops, and the timeless beauty of the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley provides an idyllic backdrop for both saddling up and teeing up.


Check in at The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, but forget checking e-mail or sports scores as there are no phones or televisions in any of the rooms. (The library is wired for those who must connect with the outside world.)

Book an afternoon tee time on The Alisal’s River Course (129 slope, 73.1 course rating). It plays shorter than its 6,830 yards — ideal for little Tigers — but there are enough ponds, bunkers and kikuya rough to keep low handicappers alert.

Doff your visor and don your blazer, as jackets are required for gentlemen 16 and older in The Alisal Ranch Room. A nightly dinner as well as a bountiful breakfast are included in your room rate. After dinner, quaint family activities include bingo and country-swing dance lessons.


Rise and shine for The Alisal’s famous breakfast ride: a guided trek on horseback from the hotel to a historic adobe camp for a belly-warming buffet.

Suitably fortified, take a quick spin through the petting zoo, then motor 20 minutes west on Highway 246 to La Purisima Golf Course, a tempting bargain at $60. None of the par 5s on Robert Muir Graves’s 7,705-yard design (143 slope, 75.6 course rating) is reachable in two, and some bunker faces seem to defy gravity. Card your typical score at La Purisima and it will feel like a career round.

On the way back to the ranch, stop in Solvang for December’s annual Winterfest, where holiday activities include a December 13 Nativity pageant complete with choir, costumes and animals.


Buzz back into town for Danish pancakes dusted with powdered sugar at Paula’s Pancake House before you take on The Alisal’s Ranch Course. Massive oaks and stern sycamores patrol the 6,551-yard layout (133 slope, 72.0 course rating), open only to resort guests and club members.

Course Information
The Alisal
greens fees $90 (Ranch), $50-$60 (River), .cart not included

La Purisima Golf Course
greens fees $50-$60, cart not included
A design quirk of architect Billy Bell Jr. routed par 3s at both 9 and 18. The 9th is 208 yards up the creek — literally and figuratively — while the punishing home hole is a tight 201 yards to an imposing, uninviting green.

Check-out is not until noon, but expect a backup at the front desk by then. Not only do most Alisal guests try to squeeze in every last activity, but many will be booking a return trip.

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