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 late ‘20’s and the mid ‘30’s the Santa Barbara Polo Club brought teams, horses, and players by train, unload from the stock cars, and walk through downtown Santa Barbara all the way to the Club. However, the Great Depression began to affect polo in Santa Barbara and in 1936 Major Fleischmann (owner of the Club) divided his great complex into ten parcels, selling each for the sum of ten dollars. A small group of people purchased the parcels with the strong desire to perpetuate polo and safeguard the facility.
In February of 1942, World War II suspended polo. The first enemy bombardment on American soil since the War of 1812 occurred in nearby Goleta. A Japanese submarine attempted to knock out a large oil storage tank close to the beach. The community, understandably, put all its energy into the war effort and the club’s polo fields were used to station and train soldiers through 1946. During these four years, the soldiers trained so extensively that the fields became bare. The fields required so much renovation before they could be used again for polo and the war had such lasting effects that only the most devoted supporters played. Growth in the sport was minimal.
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, Robert Skene sub-leased the club for $4,000.00 per month. 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. 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 time forward, polo prospered.
Since the early 80’s, management has encouraged polo players of all levels ensuring continued polo enthusiasm. Future players are brought in through the promotion of youth and intercollegiate polo, public polo lessons and creative marketing. On the social end, the club is renowned for its parties, elegant events and fine dining. The club is also known for its sociable tennis, swim and fitness memberships.