A History of Excellence
Located in the beautiful city of Santa Barbara, California, Montecito Club is encircled by mountains, caressed by the blue Pacific Ocean, protected by the Channel Islands and immersed in endless sunshine. The area has an unusually warm year-round climate which was enjoyed by the early Native Americans, the Spanish who traveled north from Mexico and the early American pioneers from the East who settled the country.
The Club was founded in 1894 as the Santa Barbara Country Club along Channel Drive, which is now the front lawn of Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. One of the Club's founders, Major Joel Adams Fithian, who filed articles of incorporation in October of 1894 built a clubhouse with reception rooms and a dining room. He then leased the Channel Drive property to the new private golf club. Club Members developed a nine-hole golf course, without turf, on surrounding vacant lots. This was the second golf course established in California and quickly became popular and soon, overcrowded.
In 1908 the Santa Barbara Country Club decided to relocate to larger quarters. The Club purchased twenty-seven lots on a hill one mile to the west of their golf course on Channel Drive. The new clubhouse opened with a grand ball for the arrival of the Pacific Fleet in April 1908. Soon after, in 1912, the clubhouse was burned by an arsonist. By 1915 the Club had constructed a new clubhouse designed by local architect Francis Wilson and had established a second nine-hole golf course.
In 1916 the Club purchased sixty acres north of Old Coast Highway and Hot Springs Road. This sloped site provided enough room to construct an eighteen-hole golf course, a clubhouse and tennis courts. The Club hired architect Bertram Goodhue to design the clubhouse in July 1916. The clubhouse opened to Members on George Washington’s birthday in 1918, while the nation was at war. Local construction contractor F.F. Flournoy was hired to grade the new golf course in February 1917 and it was completed in December 1918.
Goodhue’s design for Montecito Country Club clubhouse was inspired by early Christian church designs. Characteristic of the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style, Goodhue’s design featured large expanses of stucco walls punctuated with small patches of ornament. When the building was finished, Club Members did not universally approve of the design, as it looked like a church. A repeated contention among Club Members was that Goodhue’s shipping clerk accidently sent plans for a large church to Santa Barbara and their country club plans went to a church in an unknown eastern state.
In 1921, the club reincorporated itself as Montecito Country Club. Plans for a remodel were made to make the building look less like a church by architect George Washington Smith, who was known for his simplicity. The remodeled Montecito Country Club opened on December 31, 1921 with dancing, movies and extravagant dinners, among other festivities. The Club thrived in the 1920’s and by the 1930’s social events grew into all night dance party rituals. Affluent Members of Montecito Country Club continued their patronage of the Club during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, enabling it to remain solvent.
During World War II, investor W.Z. Zimdin of Golden West Enterprises purchased the Club, but sold it in February 1947 to Avery Brundage of the International Olympic Committee. Brundage funded improvements for Montecito Country Club, including a swimming pool and grass tennis courts. Long-time Members recall the Brundage years at the Club as a center of social and family life.
Brundage immediately enlarged the golf course upon purchase. From 1956 to 1957, the clubhouse endured another extensive remodel and received four additions designed by architects Garrett Van Pelt and A.B. Harmer. Throughout the years additions were made to the clubhouse while Brundage still retained ownership. When Brundage retired from the Olympic Committee, he offered to sell the Club to the Members, but when they declined he offered it to a friend he had made during the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japanese businessman Sozan Tsukamoto. On October 16, 1973, Tsukamoto purchased the Club. When he passed away in 1980, ownership was passed onto his sons.
In 1996 local architect and Member Bob Easton was hired to construct a remodel, one that lay within Japanese traditions to create harmony and balance.
On August 11, 2004 Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts acquired the Montecito Country Club from Tsukamoto’s sons.