For $3, you can play the course next door to U.S. Open site Los Angeles Country Club

Name your favorite U.S. Open venue. Odds are it is neighbored by a modest muni.

Saxon Woods, an understated 18-holer in Westchester County, New York, lies a driver and a wedge from Winged Foot. Poxabogue, in Long Island, boasts a scruffy 9-hole routing and a breakfast so beloved that privileged golfers often use it as a fueling station on their way to nearby Shinnecock Hills. 

In Brookline, Mass., Robert T. Lynch Municipal Golf Course butts up against the grounds of The Country Club, separated by a chain-link fence, while Golden Gate Park Golf Course, a tree-shaded par-3 in San Francisco, sits a short skip down the coast from the Olympic Club.

Golf in much of the country is stitched through with this theme: a study in private-public contrasts.

Southern California is no exception.

With the national championship on tap this week at first-time host Los Angeles Country Club, we can now add to our list of opposing pairs.

Let’s pause to pay respects to Holmby Park.

holmby park
Holmby Park has a compact clubhouse… Leo Sens (both)
holmby park
…and no shot longer than 50 yards.

In a city with the largest municipal golf system in the United States, Holmby is the smallest muni, a tiny patch of green situated in the shadow of LACC.

From the edge of Holmby, Bryson DeChambeau could blast a ball onto the practice range of the club next door.   

Holmby costs 3 bucks to play, and you get what you pay for. To call it a “course” is to put it kindly. Really, it’s a pint-sized pitch-and-putt, contained within a park of the same name, with no shot longer than 50 yards. Conditioning is hit or miss. For long stretches of the year, the greens are left so shaggy that it’s hard to distinguish them from the fairways. Finding your target gets even tougher in the afternoon; they pull the flagsticks up every day at 2 p.m.

Holmby was built in the 1920s, a Golden-Age creation, though there is some debate about its pedigree. Golf historians have suggested that its original routing was dreamed up either by William P. Bell or (LACC designer) George C. Thomas. Whatever the case, the layout was reconfigured more than once in subsequent decades, in part to make room for a playground at the park’s north end.

country club sneaky path
This sneaky path to The Country Club led to much more than just a golf course
By: Josh Sens

Holmby wasn’t always known as Holmby. For years, its name was Armand Hammer Golf Course, in honor of the famed industrialist who helped preserve the course when it came under the threat of closure. Some locals have a cheeky moniker for the place: they call it Tori Pines, as in the actress Tori Spelling, who grew up in a 123-room extravagance just up the street.

The neighborhood is Holmby Hills, and it ranks among the country’s most expensive real estate: superb territory for celebrity spotting. Rich and famous residents have included Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Streisand and Elvis Presley. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys still has a place here. Hugh Hefner used to, a party-happy pad known as the Playboy Mansion, overlooking the 13th green at LACC.

Another local homeowner was Ronald Reagan. In the twilight of his life, the former president (and honorary LACC member) was often seen at Holmby, not playing the course but strolling around it, trailed by secret service agents.

Holmby remains a magnet for non-golf recreation: yoga, tai chi, soccer, frisbee. Every now and then, it draws golfers, too, but never in droves. And on most days, its tees and greens sit empty, playing grounds so quiet they could almost be mistaken for an exclusive club. 

Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.