California is filled with history, and while plenty of that history is focused on the elite who call the area home. Here at Suzanne Dranow, we are fascinated by the history of some of the associations in the state and one that deserves some closer attention is the Santa Barbara Polo Club. Whether you want to join the club or just have a passing interest in a part of California heritage, it’s something that is worth a closer look.
The very first exhibition polo match in the Santa Barbara area took place in 1894 at the Santa Barbara Agricultural Park’s Flower Festival. By 1902, local interest in the sport had increased tremendously and numerous fields began to be formed. The Santa Barbara Polo Club was officially founded in 1911 with a 40 member roster. Today, it’s the third oldest US Polo Association Club still in existence in the country.
The “golden era” of the club occurred during the late 20s through the mid-30s, and during this time teams would compete before spectators who picnicked in the fields while watching the games. It was one of the area’s biggest and most important social events, and combined the contests on the field with the amazing mountain and ocean views.
During the forties, the polo club was practically inactive due to the war and the impact it had on the country. Soldiers actually trained on the Santa Barbara Polo Club’s field, and from 1942 to 1946 the training was so extensive that the fields became bare and no polo occurred.
It wasn’t until the fifties that polo began to get attention again, and by the early sixties polo had become a common event in the area again. In 1963 and 1966 the US Open tournament of polo was held at the Santa Barbara Polo Club.
In the 70s, the popularity of polo increased dramatically and the club itself expanded greatly, adding:
- 141 condos
- 2 swimming pools
- A tennis clubhouse
- 8 tennis courts
- An exercise track for horses
- A stable for 350 horses
- Three turf fields
Along with the sporting events hosted by the club, it’s also highly regarded for its strong social events including parties, fine dining, and more. Members have long enjoyed the amenities, and to this day the Santa Barbara Polo Club is one of the premier associations for California’s elite.
The history of this polo club is interesting, but its future is just as exciting and there’s no question that those interested in the sport or in the social aspects of the club should take a closer look at what it has to offer them.