Players rocket down the field with the coastal sunset glaring off their helmets, surging toward the base of the Santa Ynez mountains and creating a picture that could only be seen at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. With three playing fields and a stick and ball field, there’s never a shortage of games or practices to join in. Here’s what the players have to say.
“The thing I like about Santa Barbara is everybody is friends with each other. You have to be because you play against someone, and the next morning you take a set and you see everyone at the track. Everybody knows you play hard on the field, and you win or you lose and when the game’s over, you go have a drink together at the clubhouse.
At clubs in other parts of the country, you start talking to someone about a job, and then all of a sudden you hear they’re trying to steal the job from you. Here I can go and ask someone, ‘Hey, what do you think about this person playing in this? I’ve almost got him committed to playing with me. Should I start talking about numbers?’ and they will help you and give you advice. It’s more of a community where everybody helps everybody instead of helping themselves.
A different sponsor hosts a party each week and everyone from every team is invited. If you do something here, it’s with all the teams, which is pretty cool.”
I think that Santa Barbara has great competition; you can play 4-goal, 8-goal and 16-goal polo. There’s a lot of prestige and competitive tournaments. Santa Barbara is, to me, the place to be during the summer. Great polo, great horses, great organizations, and so much to do in the surrounding area.
I love the food in Montecito, but my favorite thing to do is sit outside my barn, especially in the afternoon after we’ve ridden or played a practice. It’s a gorgeous scene at sunset when everything is kind of orange. You just want to have all your friends around. Everybody’s really close-knit here. In Santa Barbara it takes a little bit to get into, but then you see a lot of the same faces coming back.
I’ve spent pretty much every summer here since I was little. I learned to play in the peewee polo. I’ve gotten to play in kids’ tournaments, I’ve groomed for high-goal players, and this year I was lucky enough to play in the 16-goal in the Pacific Coast Open. Playing in Santa Barbara, it seems like a second home and a natural place to be in the summer. I love it.
2017 Gulfstream Pacific Coast Open at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club
I grew up in Santa Barbara, living in those condos [overlooking the field], and I started playing polo there. It’s probably my favorite place to play polo out of all the places we go and play in the United States. Obviously, the weather is amazing and the setting is not a bad place to be. My wife and I and our two boys love it.
Definitely do the hikes. Go early in the morning because when you get to the top of the mountain, the view is amazing. You’ve gotta do the beach. The Funk Zone is very fun downtown, and one of the nicest restaurants is at San Ysidro Ranch. With kids, the zoo is fun.
The polo is very competitive, and I think in the summertime it’s the most competitive polo being played in the United States. Maybe New York has a higher-handicapped tournament, but I think the teams that play in Santa Barbara are more competitive. If you like competition, that’s where you want to be.
One thing about Santa Barbara that separates it from other clubs is it’s the last club environment that you go to. All the people are stabled inside the club right next to each other. Every other place we go teams stay at one compound or another, so what ends up happening is you get kind of segregated from the rest of the polo community, and you’re just dealing with the team.
When there are little things going on on the field, people hold on to them a lot longer. But in Santa Barbara, you have to see that guy you played last night, so whatever beef you have on the field gets settled really quickly. At the end of the day, we’re all family. That doesn’t happen anywhere else. For me, Santa Barbara is where it’s at.