The southern boundary of the course is Santa Monica Boulevard. Wilshire Blvd. divides the North Course from the South. Sunset Blvd. forms the rough northern boundary of the course. L.A.C.C. is an oasis within one of the largest and most densely populated urban areas in the world. What makes the course even more special is that the members of Los Angeles C.C. guard the privacy jealously, making a visit here feel like a real behind-the-scenes getaway. You approach a guard gate set back off Wilshire and give your name to get into the enclave. While I have been to many courses and had to stop at a guard gate (Sunningdale, Pine Valley, Southern Hills, Riviera, Loch Lomond), at L.A.C.C. it really adds an element of exclusivity that feels appropriate for this part of L.A.
L.A.C.C. is one of only a very few remaining golf courses in the United States where you must wear long pants - there are no shorts allowed. The course does not have a lot of movie star or entertainment industry members, contrary to popular opinion. What it does have is world class golf. It is our understanding that the U.S.G.A. would like to host events at L.A.C.C., but the club has repeatedly declined (they are hosting a Walker Cup in 2017).
The first time I was fortunate enough to play L.A. Country Club was made even more special by the treatment I was given in the locker room. On the day of my summer visit, the locker room attendant let me use Ronald Reagan's locker. Reagan was a one-time member of L.A.C.C. With an American flag atop the locker, it was with real pride that I had the privilege to be able to use the locker of this great American.
L.A.C.C.'s unique custom made tee markers
L.A.C.C. was designed by George Thomas, who also designed nearby Riviera and Bel-Air. Thomas created the present layout in 1927 when he and his sidekick Billy Bell remodeled a course built by British architect Herbert Fowler. One of the first changes evident this time around was that there are now a lot less trees at L.A.C.C. Over 1,000 trees were taken out in a recent renovation done by architect Gil Hanse, and it enhances the property and the course greatly. Specifically, it opens up vistas that were previously closed off and shows the unique nature of the rolling land forms this part of west L.A. is blessed with. The other noticeable change is that many of the tee boxes now are mowed as if they are fairway. They seemlessly blend the tee and fairway, giving an infinite number of places to put tees and opening up some interesting new shots.
There are two courses at L.A.C.C., and the world ranked championship course is the North Course, which plays 7,010 yards from the black tees to a par of 70. As was Thomas's style, he starts off L.A.C.C. with an easy (easy being a relative term if you are jet lagged and amped up on coffee) par five. Your line off the tee is the "B" on the Beverly Hills Hilton sign atop the hotel, visible behind the green, which sits 544 yards from the tee.
Thomas makes up for the easy starting hole by throwing a killer par four at you on the second hole. This beast plays 484 yards from the tips and 428 yards from the white tees. The second hole also opens up a stretch which lasts until the eighth green that is simply breathtaking. It is as good a stretch of holes as you will find on any golf course, over a uniquely hilly terrain. Thomas used the barrancas (Spanish for gully or ditch) and sloping hillsides to route a masterpiece at L.A.C.C.
The tough par four third hole
You have to hit over a sloping hillside. Tee shots hit to the right side of the fairway will slide down the hillside and end up on the left side of the fairway. Your approach shot to the green has to clear a nasty barranca that fronts the elevated green. The other change Hanse made on the course was to restore the natural areas in front of the greens so that a shot that is not well struck will likely be findable now, but with a dodgy lie.
The difficult third green at L.A.C.C.
L.A.C.C. has only three par fives and five par threes, each of the latter, a gem. The first is the 210 yard fourth hole seen below. The hole plays downhill to a difficult to hold green. Note the barranca that runs in front of the green, penalizing short or topped shots.
The par three 4th hole
Like at Bel-Air and Riviera, all around you there are signs that you are in a very exclusive environment. Behind you, as you walk off the fourth green up on the hill is Lionel Richie's house. Wow.
The hole plays 335 yards from the back tees, and you hit into a narrow valley where the ball will naturally kick right to left. If you are brazen, you can attempt to cut off the corner on the right and incur a big penalty if you miss. The hole doglegs sharply to the right and the approach to the elevated green is made quite tricky because it is such a small target. To me, the hole felt like any number of great risk-reward holes at Merion. It is the type of hole you could play dozens and dozens of times and still find exhilirating and challenging each time.
The Playboy mansion sits behind hedges between 13th green and 14th tee
The entire right side of the fourteenth hole also has a building located off of it that at first appears to be a Ritz Carlton. In fact, it is the home of one of Hollywood's most famous producers, Aaron Spelling. The house has 123 rooms and is 56,000 square feet. Although Spelling is now deceased and the home is owned by someone else, it is an impressive and well maintained sight.
The par three fifteenth hole is one of the few on the course that can qualify as 'easy.' It is 133 yards from the tips, but you have to focus intently off the tee because the green is narrow and oblong to you.
The par three 15th green
As an Easterner (and poor golfer), the Bermuda grass at L.A.C.C. gave me fits. It is just so tough to hit through consistently, especially on finesse shots around the green where you are trying to hit a specific target.
The par four 455 yard seventeenth is the prettiest hole on the course. You drive from an elevated tee down into the fairway, then to a narrow, well bunkered green.
The 17th green
The little seventeenth hole is pictured below and is an 'extra' hole that was rediscovered during the recent renovations. It was love at first sight with this little beauty and me. It is just a visually stunning little gem. The hole can be used as an extra hole or just to hit into for fun.
If you play L.A.C.C. bring long pants, leave your cell phone in your car and get ready for a delightful walk with caddies. The overall experience is first class from beginning to end.
Routing, variety and terrain combine to make it a world-class course. Given its geographic location, L.A.C.C. North will inevitably be compared with nearby Riviera. In my view L.A.C.C. is the superior course. Thomas simply had a better piece of land to work with at L.A.C.C. than at Riviera. Riviera is built within a valley and doesn't have the elevation changes or other elements that makes L.A.C.C. so unique. From a club standpoint also, I prefer L.A.C.C. to Riviera. Riviera is a large club with a corporate feel to it. L.A.C.C. is a more intimate, low key club.
In my own world rankings I would personally reverse the order of these two courses and rank Riviera #59 and Los Angeles #36. Both are world-class, however, as is nearby Bel-Air.
Our lunch of braised beef short ribs and the little cheesy bread sticks were memorable. The only issue I encountered at L.A.C.C. is that it is impossible to buy something from the pro shop, because it only sells to members.
My two visits to L.A.C.C. have been among my most memorable and truly enjoyable in all my travels. To paraphrase Cecil Rhodes's comment about the English, "To be a member of L.A.C.C. is to win first prize in the lottery of life." Lucky bastards.