The Los Angeles Country Club and United States Golf Assn. have reached a preliminary agreement to stage the U.S. Open at the ultra-exclusive club’s North Course in 2023, the first time the national championship will be held in L.A. since Ben Hogan won the event at Riviera in 1948.
Several steps remain before the deal is completed. The club’s board of directors voted to move forward with negotiations with the USGA on Wednesday night. A letter calling for a vote of the club’s 1,500 members was sent out Thursday afternoon. That vote could be completed some time in October, and, assuming it is favorable, the club and USGA would work to sign a deal, perhaps by the beginning of next year, said an individual familiar with the process but not authorized to speak publicly.
Officials at the club declined to comment and referred questions to the USGA. The USGA, the governing body for golf in this country, issued a statement that said:
“As a general rule, the USGA keeps its site selection process confidential to protect future sites and related parties. In this instance, we confirm that the USGA and Los Angeles Country Club are exploring the possibility of conducting a future U.S. Open Championship at the Club. There are several important steps required in the Championship selection process to ensure its success, including garnering the support of the Club’s membership and evaluating the feasibility of conducting a world-class championship in the heart of the Los Angeles community. We are appreciative of the opportunity to continue the process.”
It’s difficult to gauge the ramifications a major golf championship will have for Los Angeles; crowds of 50,000 a day for the four days of the tournament and two days of practice rounds would be expected.
At the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008, the total attendance was just under 300,000, San Diego collected about $1.5 million in hotel room taxes and the overall economic impact was about $142 million, according to a report released by San Diego State University.
Several individuals said the Los Angeles club, which cultivates a very low profile, had rejected previous overtures from the USGA about holding the U.S. Open. But in recent years the club seems to have warmed to the idea of holding high-profile events.
The North Course, the longer and more renowned of two LACC layouts, underwent a five-year restoration that was completed in 2010. It will be the site of the 2017 Walker Cup, a biennial competition between top amateur golfers from the United States against those from Britain and Ireland. By that time, renovations to the expansive clubhouse built in 1911 and the South Course should be completed.
The club frowns on its members speaking publicly about what goes on behind the hedges that obscure the 325-acre club on Wilshire Boulevard. The North Course, which measures 7,236 yards from the back tees, is a design of noted architect George C. Thomas Jr. and is regularly ranked in the top 100 courses in the U.S. by Golf Digest magazine. The South Course is shorter and less demanding.
The potential landing of a major golf championship in L.A. comes at a time when there is a growing spotlight on the Los Angeles sporting scene. The Dodgers sold for a record $2.15 billion 18 months ago, the Clippers recently sold for a record $2 billion, the NFL is considering building a football stadium in L.A. while there is percolating interest by at least three teams about relocating here. In addition, the NFL is also looking at Los Angeles as a site for its 2015 draft. The Kings recently won their second Stanley Cup championship and the Dodgers and Angels are among the best teams in baseball.
There are still many more questions than answers. The USGA often makes changes to the courses where it holds its Open championships, but what changes might be required of the North Course are unknown. The USGA does prefer its courses to be stern tests of golf. At the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in North Carolina in June, only three players played the four rounds in under par.
In the Pac-12 Conference championships at L.A. North in 2013, Cal’s Max Homa shot a nine-under-par 61 in the opening round, two strokes lower than the Open record.
It is also not known whether Los Angeles Country Club has an interest in becoming a frequent West Coast site for the tournament.
Sites for the Open are established through 2021, when the tournament will return to Torrey Pines in La Jolla for a second time. Because the USGA generally does not hold its annual championship in the same geographical area two years in a row, 2023 was the first available year for a potential return to Southern California.
The Open has been played only twice in Southern California, initially in 1948 when Hogan won the first of his four U.S. Open championships, and again at Torrey Pines in 2008. Tiger Woods limped to a stirring playoff victory over Rocco Mediate; Woods played in obvious pain from stress fractures in his lower left leg and a surgically repaired knee. It was Woods’ 14th major golf championship; he has not won another since.
Northern California is a fairly regular location for Open championships. Pebble Beach on the Monterey Peninsula has held the event five times, most recently in 2010. The tournament will return to Pebble in 2019. The Olympic Club in San Francisco has also held the tournament five times, most recently in 2012.