West Coast Polo: A Gem in the American Riviera
The Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club is the premier destination for polo on the West Coast and is truly the jewel of the fabulous and fabled American Riviera. The third-oldest continuing member of the United States Polo Association, the Santa Barbara Polo Club was organized in 1911, and its famed lush fields have hosted fabled national and international competitions whose rosters list the giants of the sport. During the 1920s stars such as Chaplin, Fairbanks and Will Rogers all competed here. Rogers broke his arm during a game and was quoted in the newspaper as saying,"They call this sport a gentleman’s game for the same reason they call fat guys slim." Located just outside of spectacular Montecito, the Club offers three high goal fields, a Polo School, boarding facilities, polo lessons and country club amenities including 8 tennis courts and a fitness facility, nestled in a premium locale alongside the Pacific Ocean. The season opens with the 12 Goal Series (May and June), followed by the thrilling 16 Goal Series (High goal, July and August), and closing out the season is the 8 Goal Series (September and October) at Engel & Völkers Polo Stadium, one of the most prestigious equestrian venues on the West Coast. In addition, the Club hosts a series of Youth Polo Tournaments throughout the summer to promote the sport to all ages and levels.
With a history as rich as Santa Barbara’s, the Club experienced many different owners and lessors during the 1960’s. Notable among the owners was Rudy Tongg of Hawaii who secured the Club as the site of the U.S. Open tournament in 1963 and in 1966. Soon after, in the 1970’s the Club saw the arrival of yet more polo families. In 1970 a famous American 10-Goal player, Robert Skene, began working to procure the Club. Developers had their sights set on a mobile park and miniature golf course and, in order to hold them off, Skene sub-leased the Club for $4,000 per month. The 1907’s saw the arrival of yet more polo families and in 1974 the Club’s facility was to be renovated to encourage a new renaissance in polo. “The Santa Barbara Polo Club, Inc.” bought the property and construction of the envisioned facility began, concluding with the provision of 141 deluxe condominium units, 2 swimming pools, a jacuzzi, eight tennis courts, a tennis clubhouse, an exercise track for the horses, an arena, stabling for 350 horses, three turf fields, and a stick and ball field, and the original clubhouse remained intact.
December of 1975 marked a turning point in the Club’s history as the Club was put into the trusteeship of Ambassador Glen Holden, Dr. Norman Ringer, and Kenneth Walker, ensuring the Club’s future into perpetuity and thereby dashing many developers’ dreams. At this juncture, the trustees leased the Club to the “SBPRC Management Company, Inc.”. This 501 (c) (7) corporation is now under the management and the direction of its Board of Directors. The Club’s name was then expanded to “The Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club.” From this moment forward, polo prospered.
“Santa Barbara’s a great place to play in the summer, I mean the weather’s amazing, you got the beaches, the mountains, I can’t tell you much more you could ask for,” comments 7 goal handicap leading player Jeff Hall, who has won almost every high-goal trophy in U.S. Polo, including the most prestigious, the U.S. Open. In 1998, the Santa Barbara Polo Club hosted the most prestigious event in polo, the Federation of International Polo (FIP) World Championship. The Olympic style event recorded attendance of over 20,000 people. The SBPC has to date over 500 members, more than 100 of which are full-time polo players. The Club hosts many big tournaments which bring in celebrity spectators and leading players from all around the world, such as Prince William who played in the Foundation Polo challenge in 2011. “With something for everyone, from families and kids, to the chic social scene, to the players and teams that come here to compete among some of the world’s best – the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club is one of the finest venues you’ll find in the country to enjoy the sport of polo, and so much more.” - David Sigman, General Manager of the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club.