Inside the 2023 US Open at Los Angeles Country Club – The Hollywood Reporter

For the first time in 75 years, one of golf’s four major tournaments has returned to the city of Los Angeles.

The United States Open Championship, now in its 123rd year, will take place on the Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course for the very first time (also the first time a major championship has been held at the club overall). This lack of a major championship presence at the 126-year-old course — about 325 acres in the middle of Beverly Hills — is largely by design; notorious for its discriminatory exclusivity (the club had no Jewish members until 1977 and the first black member was admitted in 1991), the club has opened its gates to the public to host the Los Angeles Open four times (most recently in 1940) and the Walker Cup 2017.

“We are tremendously honored and excited to bring golf’s national championship to the greatest sports city in the world, and to do so in a way that the impact on LA will last far beyond this Sunday,” said Gene Sykes, president of Los Angeles Country . Club, said in a statement shared with The Hollywood Reporter.

This year’s US Open comes during a remarkable series of major sporting events in Los Angeles: last year’s Super Bowl and the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2028 Summer Olympics (where golf will be played at the Riviera Country Club). And thanks to the cultural cache of state-of-the-art sports venues with luxury suites like SoFi Stadium and Arena, the ‘Hollywoodification’ of sports, long referred to as entertainment, is being further established in the entertainment capital of the world .

“LA is an incredible sports town and it’s an incredible community. … In the United States, we love to bring our championships to the best venues, where we have the best fans, and as you can see around here, this is a very large population that loves its sports, and we wanted to bring the US Open to the West Coast,” said Janeen Driscoll, director of brand communications for the USGA THR Friday afternoon. “The West Coast Championships and US Opens are always extremely successful.”

The Los Angeles Country Club, in its current location right next to the Beverly Hilton, opened in 1911 and was redesigned on that occasion by noted golf course architect George C. Thomas, Jr., who is also known for the Bel-Air Country Club. Riviera Country Club and Griffith Park golf courses, among others. In 2010, LACC’s 18-hole North Course was restored by golf course designer Gil Hanse and Thomas biographer Geoff Shackelford in an effort to return it to Thomas’ 1921 vision.

“Our champions and all of our players have told us that where they win their US Open really matters, and Los Angeles Country Club has long been a place that our leaders have wanted to bring this national championship because of the quality of the golf that it offers and the tests that it provides to the best golfers in the world,” says Driscoll.

Rickie Fowler walks the ninth hole at the 123rd US Open Championship

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The late Sandy Tatum, an NCAA golf champion and former USGA president, advocated (unsuccessfully, at the time) for the US Open to come to the club’s North Course in the 1980s to that end. “I think it’s such a shame,” Tatum said. “Just once I would have liked to have the Open experience that course. It was an absolutely fantastic test of golf.”

Although the LACC has historically denied membership to entertainment A-listers (Groucho Marx, Bing Crosby, Victor Mature and Hugh Hefner — whose Playboy Mansion juts up against the 13th green — among them), this weekend’s tournament represents a marked shift in the openness of the club’s gateway to the LA public and Hollywood.

“There’s a rich history that’s more than 100 years old of people who have been in the entertainment industry, who have played golf recreationally and have played it in movies,” Driscoll says. A curated USGA Fan Central experience at the US Open features an excerpt from the organization’s golf museum, focused on the Venn diagram of celebrities and golf. “You’ll see Katherine Hepburn and Bing Crosby and Bob Hope on the screen, and then going forward you have Justin Timberlake and Macklemore … just a variety of people who really love this game.”

The weekend has already seen a concentration of athletic star power outside of the elite golfers vying for the trophy through Sunday. On opening day, former NFL running back Reggie Bush and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw were in attendance, and day two welcomed former LA Clipper Blake Griffin and former NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Driscoll says part of the USGA’s mission is to encourage more people to play golf, in addition to focusing on competitive, professional tournaments. “If we can use the power of these celebrities and how much they love the game to inspire other people to play, especially in LA where you have … more than 20 municipal golf courses that are open to the public, then that’s a great thing for golf.” (NBC Sports, the USGA’s broadcast partner, filmed a comedic pre-tournament commercial at LACC starring Jason Bateman and Will Arnett.)

Another pertinent priority for the USGA, especially in Southern California’s drought-affected environment, is sustainability. (Fortunately, LACC’s grounds are not entirely green.)

123rd US Open Championship

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

“We’ve worked with golf courses all over America, but especially in the West and Southwest,” says Driscoll, adding, “The US Open for the USGA is a 501c3, it’s our biggest fundraiser. … [Our work] is centered around making the game more affordable, more accessible and certainly making it more sustainable.”

The USGA’s Green Section, a separate division focused on sustainability led by leading agronomists and turfgrass experts, has long been focused on spreading awareness of sustainable practices on golf courses with the help of regional golf associations, golf course owners and architects, water agencies and the players themselves. The division, which has just received a multi-year, 30 million dollars commitment from the USGA, has researched and developed “drought-resistant grasses” designed to retain their green color in the winter and by using approximately 20 percent less water than more common grasses, along with turf that is not highly water dependent.

“We’ve also talked about best practice on golf courses: watering the middle of the fairways instead of watering wall-to-wall carpets [style]just to be able to be really efficient in our water usage and focus on the areas where golfers are most often,” says Driscoll.

These progressive sustainability practices have already contributed to a 29 percent reduction in sports water use from 2005-2020, according to research published by Golf course environmental profile in 2022.

“Brown patches … actually create a better experience for golfers because it creates what we call ‘firm and fast conditions.’ Balls roll more and it’s more fun for many golfers!” says Driscoll. “But the perception that the golf course is brown makes people think it’s worse than. We have to change that perception. Just because it’s not green doesn’t mean it’s not great.” to play on… [and] golfers can help us by saying, ‘It’s OK to play these [turf grass] courses.”

In 2023, the browning of country clubs—both the courses and the membership demographics—is ultimately better for the game and the culture surrounding it. And it won’t be the last time Angelenos are welcomed to the Los Angeles Country Club: it has already committed to host the US Women’s Open in 2032 and to host the men’s US Open again in 2039.

Leave a Comment