SoCal League Tennis

Facility Spotlight: The Alisal Ranch in Solvang

By Steve Pratt

There is so much more to Alisal Ranch than the six lighted tennis courts that sit on the 10,000-acre ranch tucked into a secluded part of California’s famed Santa Ynez Valley just 30 minutes north of Santa Barbara.

There is no better way to unplug and unwind just minutes away from the quaint Danish village of Solvang than by visiting Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort’s 50 miles of riding trails, 100-acre spring-fed lake, two 18-hole championship golf courses, pool, spa, western-themed accommodations, and fine dining.

But the tennis is what attracted Walt Seemann to the facility when he started as Alisal’s first full-time director way back in 1980.

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Walt Seemann

“Back then we just had tennis pros here just for the summer,” said Seemann of Alisal, which caps its tennis membership at 120 members catering mostly to visitors and resort guests. “But I wanted to be here year-round and get some local people to play with the hotel guests and create some fun times during the winter months too. And also so I wouldn’t be bored.”

Seemann, 62, said the first few years were filled with fun times. In 1981, tennis great Rod Laver moved to the area and became a member until he moved in 1984. Soon after, Jimmy Connors also settled in the area and joined the club, staying for 10 years. “I had two of the greatest left handers of all time playing each other from time to time,” Seemann recalled. “The guest members would come down and be amazed watching that.”

He added: “I had some UC-Santa Barbara players come down to hit with them and Jay Berger and Jonathan Canter and Jimmy Arias would come out and hit with Jimmy. I never hit with him but had a lot of others from here get to.”

Seemann, who played his college tennis at Cal Lutheran University, recently retired from coaching the junior varsity tennis team at Santa Ynez High, where he served under longtime coaching legend Larry Papkin, who retired in June after 52 years at the school, and coaching for 38 years.

Seemann assisted Papkin and the varsity team for six years, including four when his son Miles played in the top spot for the team. Miles graduated this past spring and played for the Gauchos after transferring after a year at Santa Barbara City College.

Seemann is assisted on the teaching court by former Gaucho Erica Cano and Mike White. There is a full-service tennis shop adjacent to the courts, featuring HEAD racquets for sale or rent, clothing and shoes, racquet stringing and gripping, tennis balls and accessories. Alisal logo t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and visors are also available.

Seemann still teaches two or three hours a day, and calls Alisal a “very small and modest tennis club.”

He added: “We are not really a tennis resort. People come here for so much more. They can always play tennis at home. There are no phones or TVs in the room. It’s a true getaway, and you can do lots of wine tasting.

The Rundown:

  • No. of Courts: 6 courts; all lighted.
  • Website: http://www.alisal.com.
  • Phone: (805) 686-7700; Tennis Pro Shop at (805) 686-7647
  • Address: 1054 S. Alisal Rd., Solvang, 93463
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4 Responses

  1. Very cool article! The name of the now retired coach in Santa Ynez HS is Larry Popkin, and not Papkin.

    • Dear Mr. Falkenburg,
      I am writing about your later sister, Jinx Falkenburg. I am especially interested in the years 1975-2003. Would it be possible to speak/correspond with you about Jinx (for a magazine article)?
      Thank you for considering this! John Foley

  2. As someone who has known Walt for many years, the article does not go into the detail of Walt’s character. Alisal should Thank their lucky star that they have a quality individual running their tennis shop. The passion Walt brings to their tennis facilities and his love for his fellow man is best exemplified by the many people who call Walt their friend. Walter would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. Whenever you need a smile to lift your spirits, visit the Alisal tennis shop.

  3. Tennis God !

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