‘Not my cup of tea’: Players share mixed reviews of LACC

los angeles country club

The 15th hole at Los Angeles Country Club.

Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — It started Friday afternoon in a group of five. At the center was Brooks Koepka being honest. He was measured, soft-spoken, but transparent with his thoughts on Los Angeles Country Club. 

“I’m not a big fan of this place,” Koepka said of this U.S. Open host. He doesn’t like blind tee shots. He doesn’t like fairways where all the shots tend to collect in the same zone. He thinks it would be more fun in a “regular round” than in a U.S. Open. Interesting. 

There’s a bit of a domino effect that happens with pro golfers in front of the media. Once one player speaks up in a certain way, most others feel more comfortable to do it themselves. No one wants to be first. But they’re plenty happy being second or third in the talking department. Now that Koepka had done it, it paved the way for someone else. 

Enter: Matt Fitzpatrick. 

Fitz was measured, too, but more than anything he was trying to be polite. The defending champion literally used that word.

“I just think the golf course is interesting, to be polite,” he said. “There’s just too many holes for me where you’ve got blind tee shots and then you’ve got fairways that don’t hold the ball. There’s too much slope.”

Fitz would go on for a bit more, but his final sentence on the matter was succinct and totally sufficient: “It’s not my cup of tea.”

His European pal Viktor Hovland wasn’t quite as cordial. While conducting an interview with a USGA press staffer, Hovland said LACC doesn’t have any great holes, only some good ones, and definitely some bad ones. That isn’t particularly a story the USGA wants to tell, so the questioning quickly slid in a different direction, but Hovland stuck around in player scoring to explain himself a bit.

“There’s a couple good holes, but in my opinion when the good holes — or the better holes on the golf course — are par 3s that are 290 yards, probably not great. I think 13 is a really bad hole. 14 is a bad hole. I feel like 5, yeah you’ve got a lot of room, but it plays so small. I feel like every person that hits a good shot, we all end up in the same spot.” 

Hovland doesn’t like the massive slope of the fairway on 13 and that, to avoid it, players have to aim at the rough and hit a cut. He doesn’t like that the 14th hole is a forced cut that requires a significant carry over bunkers. He doesn’t like greens that slope from front to back, like the 14th can do with a pin on the right side.

He likes old, Donald Ross-designed courses. He’s a fan of Pete Dye’s work. He notably isn’t a big fan of Muirfield Village, where he won just two weeks ago. But one thing is clear from young Vik, he doesn’t like LACC, and finally, he was sharing those thoughts. 

As a matter of form, PGA Tour players don’t normally rag on PGA Tour courses. That’s where their bread is buttered. When they do so, in front of PGA Tour staffers, it’s like tattling on your sibling right in front of them. Honesty can be pushed aside for the moment. But at a U.S. Open, players feel more freedom to criticize. As we learned at Chambers Bay and Erin Hills, it can turn into a tornado of daggers lobbed at the course and/or USGA.

If this U.S. Open feels sleepy, there are reasons for that  
By: Alan Bastable

Was the trend from Koepka to Fitzpatrick to Hovland — each winners of big time USGA golf events — a sense of the locker room starting to sour on the host course? Ask around the range or near player scoring and it seems like LACC isn’t perfect. Not many courses are. No one is drooling over it in press conferences. Tyrrell Hatton thinks there’s too much of an emphasis on distance.

“I think for most U.S. Opens now, they’re just going for length rather than — I wish they’d go back to how I remember U.S. Opens being,” Hatton said. “Like where certainly it was around the [7,100-yard] mark and it’s hard. That’s fine. But they just make it — it’s hard but then it’s silly long as well at times. I mean 13 — I’m not the shortest hitter on Tour by any means, but I’ve got 245 into there and I’m playing off an upslope with the ball above my feet. I’m like, ‘This is stupid.’” 

Hatton also isn’t keen on the Bermuda grass you find on LACC’s fairways and in the ball-gobbling rough. He thinks it’s a bit inconsistent. We were getting into the nitty gritty. Keith Mitchell doesn’t love the grass, either, but he loves the course. That was a change of pace.

“I think if the grass was different grass, it would be one of the best courses we play all year round,” he said. “And if they had a proper growing season, too. I know they had a bad winter here for the growing season. I feel like if it was a little bit — I don’t know if lush is the right word — but yeah different grass, like East Coast grass, this place might be the best in the world.” 

You’d think that Mitchell and Koepka couldn’t be further apart in their opinions of LACC, but then Mitchell volunteered a similar idea to Koepka.

“There’s a difference in golf courses you use for fun and golf courses you use as a test,” Mitchell said. “I think TPC Southwind (host of the FedEx St. Jude) is one of the best tests of golf. But, like, nobody likes it.

“I feel like [LACC] falls more on the fun category, but I don’t think it lacks in the competition side. I don’t think it’s like losing, I think it’s still in the upper echelon. I just don’t think it’s as good as some of the other [host sites].”

That’s what happens with golf courses, particularly those that host the biggest events on the planet. You’re not going to get 156 players who have had all different types of good luck and bad luck to agree on the merits of a property. The players further down the leaderboard tend to think less of a course than the ones in contention. 

‘Monsters’: Some of the longest par-3s in U.S. Open history bit back on Friday
By: Josh Berhow

Scottie Scheffler called it “a very interesting place to play golf” and added that he likes it. He’s three shots behind the lead. Bryson DeChambeau likes it, too. He called it diabolical, normally a term rooted in the negative. Only DeChambeau meant it as a positive.

“It’s more linksey,” he said. He knows he’s not playing a British Open course, but he says it feels like that. Linksey is invigorating and you can tell by the way he talks that DeChambeau feels invigorated at LACC. Entering the final day, he has a puncher’s chance at seven back.

Mitchell is invigorated by the amount of half-par holes. Those holes where the scoring average falls neatly between integers of 3, 4, 5 and 6. Is it a long par-3 or a short par-4? Probably half of LACC is half-par holes. That’s how you create over-par/under-par scoring variance, Mitchell says, pushing and pulling players up and down the leaderboard. That’s how you create an entertaining tournament to watch on TV. It isn’t always going to make everyone happy.

Our final subject of this reporting journey was Nick Hardy, who after shooting his worst round of the week (75), which he called an absolute grind, aptly put the debate in perfectly relatable terms.

“You could get a sandwich from any restaurant,” Hardy said. “People will like it and not like it. I think that’s how this tournament and this golf course is.” 

If you’re curious which direction he leans in, it’s the positive side. He couldn’t say enough good things about LACC. He just knows how his fellow pros can get. 

Exit mobile version