Lights, cameras, championship golf.
The US Open will be held at the Los Angeles Country Club on Thursday, but it will be the first time in 75 years that the championship will be played in the shadow of Hollywood.
The last time the event was held in Los Angeles was in 1948 and it was a memorable one. Ben Hogan won the Riviera Country Club and set the US Open scoring record that stood until 2000 when Tiger Woods broke it.
Although Los Angeles hasn’t hosted the U.S. Open since 1948, the championship has been held frequently in California. Pebble Beach in Northern CaliforniaHis links are now part of the US Open regular rotation, and is also where Woods broke Hogan’s scoring record in relation to par. In 2021, San Diego’s Torrey His Pines will host the event. The Olympic Club of San Francisco has hosted the US Open five times to date. open.
But the private and exclusive Los Angeles Country Club, or LACC, has long been on the final list of venues the United States Golf Association would like to host the US Open. This is a classic design by George C. Thomas his Jr., part of an influential group of early 20th century architects. It has challenging and uneven terrain. Located in Beverly Hills with views of the Los Angeles skyline.
Up until a decade ago, the club’s leadership had been reluctant to host a championship. But in 2017, the club hosted the twice-yearly Walker Cup, a match between the top American amateur players and the top British and Irish players, and the experience changed members’ views on opening up private courses.
USGA chief championship officer John Bodenhammer said the US Open wouldn’t exist without the successful Walker Cup. In 2010, while the course was being restored by Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and Jeff Shackelford, then club president Richard Shortts approached the Walker Cup, which was approved by the association. The players at that tournament loved the course, so much so that Will’s older brother, a New York Times crossword creator, Shorts, approached the U.S. Open.
The Golf Association said yes, but then came the difficult part of logistics.
“From a ‘how do we do this in the middle of Los Angeles?’ perspective, it wasn’t easy,” Bodenhammer said. “Where can we house our players? How do we manage traffic? How do we build cities within cities?”
However, great interest in the course pushed the event forward. In many ways, it’s like inviting the public to the Beverly Hills mansion that surrounds the club. A great many people tried to steal it from the road, but few went inside.
“I played for the Pacific Coast Amateurs at the LACC in the ’80s,” said USGA Championship Officer Bodenhammer. “I remember walking through the door and seeing this place in the middle of Beverly Hills and saying, ‘This place is crazy. When I looked at it, it was completely different from anything I had seen before.”
The golfers who really know this course this year are those who have played it before. Colin Morikawa and Scotty Scheffler, who qualified for the US Open by playing during the Walker Cup, and Max Houma and Jon Rahm, who qualified for the US Open by playing during the Walker Cup. 2013 PAC-12 tournament. For Matthew Fitzpatrick, similar tournament knowledge came last year after winning the 2013 U.S. Amateur Championship at the same course, followed by the 2022 U.S. Open at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. proved to be valuable.
Few pros have played the LACC on tournament terms, so Shackelford is both worried and excited to see how he will be able to compete against the best players in the world.
In addition to working on the 2010 course restoration, Shackelford wrote the biography Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture and is the author of Golf Architecture for Ordinary People. . He said he was concerned about how his players would react to what he considered a nuanced and complex course.
“I’m not sure what they will say,” he said. “I want them to love the course. If you don’t do it, you won’t do it.”
He consults with the golf association on where to put the pins on the green and the markers on the tee, but he also recognizes that it’s the big stage after all.
“They don’t really do good tests,” he said. “The Walker Cup is a great event, but it’s not the same.
Bodenhammer said the golf association was confident of the course’s star turn despite the harsh weather leading up to the event, including more rain than usual. “We’ve studied all the wind and weather patterns, but nobody knows,” he said.
There is also a certain sense of liberation and excitement when you go to lesser-known courses.
“I am thrilled with the mystery and fascination with what LACC means to caddies, fans and viewers,” he said. “People will turn on the TV and say, ‘Wow, that’s a lot different than the US Open.'”
“LACC is a wonderful rural oasis in the middle of the city,” he added. “It’s very natural, it’s awkward.”
One player who knows it well is confident the course will hold up and the players will do well. Longtime club member Stewart Hagestad, a member of the 2017 Walker Cup team, downplayed the need for local knowledge.
“When I was selected for the Walker Cup team, I wanted to be this big brother’s player,” he said. “The reality is they are the best players in the world and their golf IQ is so high that you don’t have to travel a lot to figure it out. Just do it.”
Hagestad, a two-time U.S. Amateur champion who nearly qualified for the U.S. Open, made one prediction that ran counter to the spirit of the U.S. Open.
“The LACC score is going to be lower than many people expected,” he said. “It’s the weather that makes or breaks a major championship. 73 degrees, the wind will blow 6 degrees. [miles per hour] And gusts until 8:00. “
Beautiful conditions, but Hagestad had a warning. If the green starts to glow pink or purple, it’s not Hollywood makeup. The vented grass surface speeds up beyond the player’s imagination.