Set within a 300-acre site to the north west of Santa Barbara, the fairways of the La Purisima golf course are routed across a wonderful sandy-soiled property that’s devoid of any commercial or residential development.
This public access course was unveiled in 1986 by Kenneth Hume Hunter Jnr – a developer who also created the course at Sandpiper Golf Club in Goleta and Hunter Ranch in Paso Robles – with Robert Muir Graves designing the layout.
Located in the Santa Ynez Valley wine growing region. La Purisima is noted as a tough track (known locally as “La Piranha” though some have also called it the “Bethpage Black of the West Coast”) which has previously hosted final stage PGA Tour School qualifying.
Feature holes include the 158-yard 3rd, played across water to a shallow green, and the left doglegged par five 7th. On the inward half, the 609-yard 12th is a beast of a par five, with the 410-yard 18th also recognised as a difficult water and sand-protected home hole.
The main anchor weighing down La Purisima is its isolated location. For those who venture from the largest nearby community in Santa Barbara -- you'll need to head nearly 60 additional miles to get there. For many years the community was known more for its host location of a Federal
The land La Purisima occupies is top shelf. Plenty of natural rolls and the holes are placed so that they fit as naturally as possible. Architect Robert Muir Graves did a stellar effort in providing a challenging and thorough routing with various holes mandating quality execution and command of all of one's clubs.
La Purisima is also a tale of two different clubs. In the AM the layout can be docile but when PM conditions materialize one can easily encounter 4-5 club winds. For a number of years the club served as a qualifying site for the PGA TOUR and once one faces such winds you can easily attest to the skills one needs in playing golf at the highest levels.
Graves saw fit not to clutter the course up. The land the layout occupies is the storyline. Knowing limitations is not an easy task but Graves fully comprehended what the task needed to be in order to ensure the final product could truly blossom in grand fashion.
Among my favorites at the course is the dog-leg left 2nd -- a tenacious par-4 that accepts nothing less than one's best. The drive zones are especially vexing. Players intent on going for the maximum had best have their placements in good order. Driving the ball with consistent skills is a must item throughout the round. Graves has provided numerous "choke points" where the fairways edges come together in a very constricted way. Golfers have to decide how much risk they are willing to take.
The green contours are also well done. It would have been a disaster to have putting surfaces with contours that are too savage. Graves varies the greens in terms of overall square footage and in the manner by which they are angled to accept approach shots.
Sad to say, so much of golf course rankings is based on mindless noise chatter from facilities with public relations efforts going full tilt to dramatize what they provide. You won't find that here -- the product doesn't need any bull horn hype.
by M. James Ward