What it’s like to play Los Angeles Country Club, host of the U.S. Open
Los Angeles Country Club isn’t a club you just waltz in to — and that’s in the literal and figurative sense.
Driving down Wilshire Blvd., which cuts right through Beverly Hills, you have to know what to look for to even know it’s there. Rows of hedges and towering trees line the edges of the property to keep out any peering eyes, and, like many of the hyper-exclusive clubs in the U.S., the signage is minimal from the road. The address numbering (10101) is visible from the stoplight near the entrance road which is flanked by two white posts. Other than that, there’s little indication that one of the best golf courses in the world is just a well-struck wedge away.
Becoming a member at LACC has a similar set of hurdles. Despite its location in the entertainment capital of the world, the club famously tries to keep a low profile. Membership is by invitation only, and celebrities are typically not welcome among their ranks. You won’t find many “Hollywood types” here.
That curtain is being pulled back just a bit this week. With the club hosting the 123rd U.S. Open, LACC is the center of the golf universe. Fans and VIPs will flood the grounds, and the top golfers in the world will dissect every fairway and green on property. That’s not to mention the hoards of media snooping around for every conceivable angle and storyline about the illustrious club and its history.
This golf scribe won’t be on property this week (wedding season runs concurrently with major season), but I did get a chance to check out LACC last month during U.S. Open preview day. Here’s what it was like.
Once you’re on property, you’re treated like royalty. The bag staff greeted me as soon as I rolled up, and the valet took care of my vehicle. A doorman welcomed me as I entered (make sure to remove your hat!) and directed me to the massive locker room. Phones are not allowed in and around the clubhouse, but with the amount of gawking I did, there wasn’t much need to pull out my device.
Breakfast was served on the sprawling back patio that overlooks the putting green, 1st tee box and 18th green. From this spot, I got a glimpse of the Hollywood Hills beyond. I haven’t had breakfast in many places more serene.
While it’s true that A-listers aren’t members here, that doesn’t mean they don’t get to play LACC from time to time. And this media outing was one such occasion. With the USGA trying to drum up excitement for the U.S. Open, there was plenty of star power on site while I was out there.
As I finished my warmup on the range, I looked to the spot next to me and realized I’d been warming up next to Jason Bateman. Not long after, his Arrested Development co-star Will Arnett came over and struck up a conversation. In the short-game area, soccer star Gareth Bale was dialing in his chipping technique. I spotted Reggie Bush chatting with Marcus Allen, as well as famous Twitch streamers and YouTube sensations.
LACC might try to keep a low profile, but on this day, there were plenty of paparazzi-worthy stars traversing the grounds.
Quirky but elite
Quirky is not normally a word associated with top-tier courses, but LACC fits the bill. It’s not a course that’s easy to play well at sight unseen. There are tons of blind shots and awkward spots. Driver is not required on every hole and thinking your way around the course is a must.
Par is a relative term at LACC. The card might say a hole is a par 4, but you’ll be happy walking away with a 5. There’s a par 3 (No. 11) that nearly requires driver and another (No. 15) that needs no more than a lob wedge. I swear I hit just about every club in my bag throughout the round.
The course is constantly keeping you off balance. Some holes are long and wide open, while others are short and narrow. If you don’t hit the correct side of the fairway, there are times you have zero shot of keeping a ball on the green. Every hole is memorable and there are a variety of ways to play every shot.
There’s a quirkiness to the course that I haven’t seen many places, but LACC pulls it off in the best possible way.
Birdies (and big numbers) are out there
LACC is a course fit for a U.S. Open, but it’s not difficult in the ways that Bethpage Black or Winged Foot are. There are scoring opportunities out there if you can hit your spots. Heck, I even made a couple birdies on the day (Nos. 6 and 8) even without my best stuff.
But while you’ll have chances to put some circles on your card, there are an equal amount of big numbers lurking. The barranca snaking through the front nine makes for a formidable hazard on a number of holes, and the eyelashes on the bunkers will gobble up your ball. And if you go in the thick stuff, good luck getting out.
It’s not a course that beats you up with long par 4 after long par 4, but it is a course that forces you to execute on every single shot. The second you get overly aggressive or fall asleep at the wheel, you’ll find yourself scrambling to make bogey.
Birdies will be common this week, but the bogeys will be, too.
Celebrity house spotting
The perimeter of LACC is lined with some of the most spectacular houses you’ll ever see, and they’re filled by some of Hollywood’s elites. Overlooking the 4th hole is a massive compound owned by Lionel Richie, while the 14th tee is right next to Hugh Hefner’s former mansion. That’s right, the Playboy Mansion will be within spitting distance of golf’s biggest stars this week. That might be a problem for the marshals with “quiet please” signs as you can hear the sounds of exotic animals like monkeys and peacocks while standing over the ball.
LACC — truly a place unlike any other.