Los Angeles Country Club (North)
California, United States of America
Sixth hole, 335/320 yards; Before the restoration, this was a simple drive and pitch hole as meaningful options didn’t exist. Plop the ball down the hill, wedge on and go from there. Straightforward stuff with a lot of pars and some birdies. After the restoration, a myriad of decisions confront the golfer. As a result, this hole has again become the multi-dimensional gem that Thomas installed and produces a range of scores. Give Hawk Shaw credit here too for being such careful shapers as they first picked up on the change in sand at the green site. Sure enough, the Thomas green pad was a good 10 feet lower than the present one and Hanse Design quickly set about returning it to its initial elevation.
Seventh hole, 290/235 yards; Thomas opined that ‘…the truly Ideal course must have natural hazards on a large scale for superlative golf. The puny strivings of the architect do not quench our thirst for the ultimate, and as part of such topography we must include sufficient area.’ There are a two components to that quote. The last one centers around sufficient space and the sensible tree/shrub management program that LACC embarked upon in 2010 has had the effect to highlight LACC’s property, which is certainly feature rich. Here at the seventh, we find ourselves alone in a lovely secluded valley at the low point of the property. As for the golf itself, we take note of the first part of the quote about the need for natural hazards. Architecture boils down to the skill of the architect to incorporate such attributes hole after hole … after hole. While a wash with its eroded walls and native vegetation makes for a fine hazard, it becomes especially fine if it runs diagonally across the hole at some point (think thirteen at Augusta National). Here, Thomas did just that.
Eighth hole, 535/535 yards; To the author, this is the third 1/2 par hole in a row, a true design rarity/accomplishment. The tiger clearly wants to strangle a ’4′ out of this double dog-leg as the green was moved forward 30 yards to its original Thomas location but doing so is another matter altogether. The rub is the left to right sloping fairway which frequently dictates that the second shot be played with the ball below the player’s feet, just when he would like to draw the ball – a difficult task. Those in attendance for the course’s re-opening in the fall, 2010 still marvel at the low draw Fred Couples played from the hanging fairway lie to reach the green in two. Alas, most of us have to be content with a pitch to this right to left sloping green. Few clubs have the courage to shorten a hole as part of a restoration; give LACC full props for doing so.
Ninth hole, 180/180 yards; Golf is played across the barranca on six of the first nine holes. Half of those times occur at the one shot holes whereby Thomas affords all golfers a perfect stance/lie on the tee from which to make the forced carry. More importantly, note the variety in how Thomas incorporated the wash. At the downhill fourth, it is a fronting hazard. At the level seventh, the wash is set on a diagonal. And here at the uphill ninth, the gulley is well short of play, bothering only the duffed tee ball. Talk about text book – and it didn’t happen by luck. In 2005, this green afforded a simple row of middle hole locations. At least four great locations were recovered in the process with back left hole locations requiring as much as 4 more clubs than the front one seen below.
Tenth hole, 410/385 yards; More wonderful than great, not every hole can be a strategic marvel. So be it. What every hole can/should be is interesting to play and this one scores well in that regard. The landing area is a huge knob of a hill onto which Bell carved two wonderful bunkers. From anywhere near them, the golfer is more or less level with the putting surface and is afforded a more comforting view of the putting surface for his approach. The shorter, more direct line from tee to green leaves the golfer in a valley below the green with a stunted view of what he needs to accomplish. How best to play the hole? Each golfer is free to make up his own mind – and that answer can vary from round to round.
Eleventh hole, 275/225 yards; The architectural merits of this famous hole equal the one-of-a-kind view and it’s a mystery where Thomas/Bell gathered all the fill to create this mammoth push-up green, which is elevated nearly twenty-five feet at the rear from its surrounds. Bell’s graceful tie-in of the massive green pad with the hillside on the left is nothing short of stellar. Putting is difficult to gauge – is the putt downhill or uphill? Watching the drama unfold on this Reverse Redan is great sport. Considering its length, many golfers still play it as Thomas intended by hitting the ball short left and having it bounce onto the putting surface. Figuring out how to access the front hole locations will drive the amateurs crazy during the 2017 Walker Cup and the professionals bonkers during the 2023 U.S. Open.