By Robert L. White
Just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of playing in a golf tournament celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Rancho Maria Golf Course in Orcutt Ca. The course is located on Highway 1 just west of town in the Orcutt Hills along the Central Coast.
The course was built in 1965 and subsequently purchased in 1970 by brothers Jim and Jack O’Keefe as well as, a gentlemen named Stan Brown. Today, members of all three families are still involved in the business. Aside from some minor changes, the layout was quite the same as it is today.
There was a full field of players coming out to honor the O’ Keefe/Brown families and what they’ve provided to the golfing community here on the Central Coast. The fall weather added to a spectacularly warm and windless day. A classic Santa Maria style barbecue was laid out for all upon our return to the clubhouse which added to the communal feel for those of us who frequent this course.
The course is a par 72, averaging 6390 yards from the tips to 5501 yards from the red tees. It’s a relatively flat course with its share of downhill tee shots, uphill tee shots and some side hill approach shots. Once you master those challenges you’ll have to contend with the most impressive part of this course which are the greens. In the end, to me, what makes this course the most challenging, and fairly so, is the impeccable condition in which ALL the greens are kept. Despite the local drought conditions, the course and the greens are maintained to the highest degree. There are few flat or straight putts on this course. It’s uphill, downhill, left to right, or right to left. The ball always rolls true and understanding the speed is the key to one’s success. As a local, I’d like to think I have a good understanding of how these greens roll but then they’ll throw in an unfamiliar pin placement and I’m challenged all over again.
In spring and early summer golfers can expect another challenge thanks to Mother Nature: Wind. We locals are probably more surprised at day without wind than one with, but it never takes away from the enjoyment of the round. It’s hardly overpowering, but often times there’s just enough of a breeze that a golfer MUST take it into consideration when planning a shot. Learning to keep the ball low when hitting into the wind or respecting a crosswind has helped my game immensely. And then there’s the downwind holes where you can let it fly and feel like you’re John Daly. That’s when every golfer LOVES the wind. But what really puts this course at the top of my list is the cost of play. It is by far the best bargain for your buck along the whole Central Coast. Even without the use of discount golf websites, their green fees are some of the least expensive around. At most you’ll pay $37 (w/out a cart) on the weekends to as little as a $12 super twilight rate during the week in the summer. For what you’re getting in a golf course, I’m telling you, this is the BEST deal around.
The course also has a fantastic practice facility. They have a huge, very well maintained driving range with real grass (something you don’t see everywhere these days). They also have a chipping green with a bunker, as well as, a huge putting green which mimics, quite well, what you’ll see out on the course. It’s very easy to lose yourself for a couple of hours just practicing.
Lastly, what keeps me coming back time and time again, is the friendly treatment I get by the whole staff every time I walk in to the pro shop or the restaurant. Sure, I’m a local, but I’ve watched Jack (Chairman) and his nephew, Mike O’Keefe (General Manager), treat every player, hacker or pro, young or old with a welcoming respect and appreciation. The O’Keefe’s are a family of golfers and they know how to treat fellow golfers.
If you’re planning any golf in your travels to the Central Coast, you must come and play where we locals play. Come to Rancho Maria.