The Mystery of Seth Raynor and the California University Golf Course Solved

In the Associated Press wire service obituary for Seth Raynor is an extremely brief and vague list of  layouts to which Raynor was associated.

“Golf courses at Honolulu, California University, Yale University and others were designed by Mr. Raynor,” read the obit.

Hope Ranch HeadlineThe California university reference has flummoxed Raynor researchers since the mention first came to light. There are no layouts associated with a California University that have even the slightest hint that Raynor was involved.

There has been unfounded speculation that the course referred to was La Cumbre Country Club or even Sequoya Country Club. There is not even a whiff of evidence Raynor was at either.

We put the obit reference down to an error in reporting.

Then, a few years ago, one of my fellow researchers, Bret Lawrence, came upon a blurb in a Long Island newspaper from the end of July, 1923.

“Seth J. Raynor left last week for California to build a golf course.”

This caught us off guard. While Raynor had extensive work in Northern California starting in 1918 and ending with his death, we knew of no project that would have brought in him there in the summer of ’23.

Another California quandary.

It was not long ago during one of many searches for Raynor in digitized publications that I used a general search query, “Raynor, Golf, 1923,.” These usually result in hundreds of articles that I have seen, but this time I hit gold with an article titled  “Hope Ranch Deal Ends Court Fight.”

Boom! There it was, the long-lost 1923 Raynor project in Southern California.

Two-thirds of the way down the story it reads, “An interesting and important feature of the new development will be the creations on Hope Ranch of what is expected to be the best golf course in California.

“The golf course will be laid out by Mr. Raynor, a golf course architect of great fame in the east… .”
Hope Ranch Google Earth

The 825-acre Hope Ranch parcel with which Raynor was associated included 8,000 feet of ocean frontage and is located approximately  five miles west of Santa Barbara. Today it is an unincorporated suburb of that city. The University of California-Santa Barbara is another nine miles west of there. The newspaper story makes no mention of the university being involved, neither do any others that chronicle the development of Hope Ranch.

Interestingly, La Cumbre is in Hope Ranch and was originally called the Hope Ranch Park Golf Club. According to the club website, the existing layout was expanded when additional land was purchased in 1925. Raynor was not the architect.

“… George Thomas and William Bell Sr. begin construction of a new golf course including several holes on the newly acquired land playing around the lake. According to Thomas, ‘..this course is not (my) plan, but that the sequence of the holes and much of their development was reached in conference most especially with the Green Chairman (Peter Cooper Bryce) and also with his committee… .'”

William F. Bell, Jr. redesigned the course in the late 1950s, according to the club.

Unfortunately, like multiple Raynor projects in California—the two courses associated with the Del Monte Hotel, his design for the Olympic Club and his layout for the second course at Monterey Peninsula—Hope Ranch never came to be. The plans of the syndicate behind the development did not come to fruition and the land was sold off to multiple parties. 

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