An introduction to Los Angeles
The sprawling city of Los Angeles in California, is so huge, you simply can’t define it. Nicknamed the ‘City of Angels’, this is an immense megacity which covers a huge area covering over 500 square miles.
The western edge of the city fronts up against the Pacific coastline. To the north and northeast is the Angeles National Forest, a vast scenic wilderness area. The eastern stretches of the city reach into the mountainous desert landscape to places like Moreno Valley and San Bernardino.
One of the most popular tourist attractions, amongst many, is to pay a visit to Hollywood. Primarily to take a selfie with the Hollywood sign in the background. The sign is located in Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. There are over 4,000 acres of land! Add to that some stunning views over the city from various spots around the park.
The best private golf courses in Los Angeles
Los Angeles Country Club (North Course)
To kick off this list of the best member golf courses in Los Angeles, we start with the outstanding Los Angeles Country Club.
It has two of the finest 18-hole championship golf courses in California. One of those two, the North Course, is considered one of the best golf courses in the world, let alone Los Angeles.
Before the club settled on its current spot, it actually moved location a mad four times! But in the end they chose a fantastic spot right up in Beverly Hills. No doubt this plot of land has increased exponentially in value since those early days.
The first layouts were designed by four of the original members. Although they were later given a professional touch up by the architects Herbert Fowler and George C. Thomas.
1996 was the year both courses underwent a significant renovation. The overriding objective was ‘simply’ to upgrade both for the demands of the modern game. However alongside this work, careful attention was spent ensuring the original design features weren’t lost.
Today, both courses are outstanding and this really is one of the beacons of private golf in Los Angeles. Both courses are parkland in style but with dramatic elevation changes as the course winds across natural valleys and hills. The bunkers are sensational and the greens are magnificent.
Hacienda Golf Club
Hidden away in a beautiful canyon of the La Puente Hills, is the sublime Hacienda Golf Club. It dates back to the early 1920s, the Golden Age of golf course architecture.
The original course was designed by William Watson, one of the most sought after golf course architects of his era. The first nine holes opened in 1920 and the second nine holes in 1923.
Over the years, many other architects were brought in to review Watson’s designs and suggest amends. One of these, Charles Mayo, had more of an influence than the others in the final routing.
The club has hosted many amateur and professional events. A young Tiger Woods set the course record (62) in 1994. This was when he was playing in the Southern California Golf Association Amateur Championship.
Hacienda utilizes the natural undulations and the wild barranca, essentially a series of gorges, which meander through the site. Strategic play is essential, with most approach shots needing to navigate their way over these barrancas.
It was recently extended to just shy of 7,000 yards. Although not one of the longest courses by today’s standards, off the backs it will really test the best golfers.
Bel Air Country Club
This outstanding golf course is one heck of a treat to play. It is also incredibly unique, in-so-much as the unbelievable topography of the site.
The course is located in Bel Air, just up the road from Beverly Hills. You’re literally a 15 minute drive from the coast in one of the most scenic spots of Los Angeles.
The course was designed by the legendary George C. Thomas, the man largely responsible for the two courses down the road at the Los Angeles Country Club.
The land Thomas had to play is really quite sensational. The routing is built upon ravines, has cliff edges and hugely undulating terrain. There are many holes where you’re hitting over vast crevices which are then joined by bridges. A perfect example of this is the par-3 10th hole.
Tom Doak and his Renaissance Golf Design firm were recently engaged to improve the course. Part of the project was to upgrade the original Thomas features. This work has only further enhanced the already burgeoning reputation of this club.
Wilshire Country Club
Back in the early 1920s, a group of local businessmen purchased a plot of land outside the city. The land was lush, secluded and scenic, overlooking the booming, but much smaller city of Los Angeles.
Fast forward to today, and the club is now tightly surrounded by dense residential homes. Granted, these houses are all pretty big. But for miles and miles around, this is the only plot of green land on the map.
Despite that, the golf course here is fantastic. Were it not for some of the other more prominent courses in Los Angeles, you can’t help but feel Wilshire would be more famous.
The Englishman Norman Macbeth was the man responsible for the first layout. It wasn’t until 2008 that Wilshire Country Club underwent a significant renovation. The hugely respected Kyle Phillips was commissioned to reestablish many of the original features Macbeth had intended.
Amongst this project, the natural barrancas which run through the site were all restored. Most of the trees which had over the years encroached the playing surfaces were felled. And finally, the superb bunkers which are Wilshire’s first line of defence, were much improved.
A fantastic course and without doubt one of the best private golf courses in Los Angeles.
Shady Canyon Golf Club
This outstanding Tom Fazio golf course is in the southern reaches of Los Angeles. It is just past Irvine and Newport Beach. In fact, many consider Shady Canyon to be the best in Orange County.
The location is beautiful, just in the foothills of the Laguna Hills and the Bommer Canyon. The club opened in 2002 and according to Tom Fazio the goal when creating the course was for people to walk off and say, “This is as good a golf course as I have ever seen in my life….”. Well it certainly is.
As you would expect in the foothills, the terrain is gently rolling. The fairways are beautifully crafted through thick and dense vegetation. Many greens are slightly elevated and well protected by white sanded bunkers. This really is a visual treat.
From the back tees the course stretches to just over 7,000 yards. But with five sets of tees on each hole, it is open to all levels and abilities, assuming you know a member of course.
Hillcrest Country Club
This time we’re literally down the road from the likes of the elite Los Angeles Country Club and Bel Air.
In the 1920s Hillcrest Country Club bucked the trend being a club which catered largely for the Jewish community. This is much more than just a golf course. It is a club which serves as a social and recreational retreat for all of its members.
The site is on the outskirts of Beverly Hills just over the road from Fox Studios. William Wallace, a highly respected architect in the California region, was engaged to route the first layout.
Soon after Hillcrest opened, it was very quickly recognised as one of the finest country clubs in the U.S. Many of the local gentry applied to be members, including none other than Jack Warner, the film producer.
In 2018 Kyle Phillips was commissioned to redesign the course. The most radical change was the creation of six new holes whilst some of the older fairways were cleared to make way for top class practice facilities.
El Caballero Country Club
El Caballero is located in the San Fernando Valley, the other side of the Topanga State Park. The super exclusive country club includes a golf course, superb dining facilities and other amenities.
The course was originally modelled by William Johnson. But the main body of work that is experienced today is primarily a Robert Trent Jones Sr design. The acclaimed Jones Sr. is responsible for numerous golf courses around the world.
The hilly terrain has hundreds of mature trees and it is here that Trent Jones Sr created a course based largely on many of his signature design traits. These are tight fairways, large greenside bunkers and numerous doglegs.
More recently, Rees Jones was brought in to significantly upgrade the course. As with many ancient courses, the primary goal was to modernise it for today’s golfers and game. Alongside all turf grass being replaced to hybrid Bermuda, most bunkers were completely renovated. Likewise, a number of trees were felled to make the course more playable.
Riviera Golf Club
In the northwestern suburbs of greater Los Angeles is one of the finest golf courses in the world. Here we have Riviera Golf Club.
To the north is the Temescal Canyon Park, one of the most popular parks in the magnificent Santa Monica Mountains. It is this stunning scenery within which the Riviera golf club is positioned.
In 1926, George C. Thomas, the man and the inspiration behind so many of the great golf courses in Los Angeles, was once again called on here to help draw out the routing of Riviera. Unlike other projects Thomas worked on, at Riviera he possessed a hefty budget to move turf as he saw fit.
Despite the major construction works, the course fits seamlessly into the landscape. Arguably it is now a haven of peace and quiet.
There isn’t too much vegetation or too many trees here, so it’s unlikely you’ll lose your ball. The challenge at Riviera is all about strategy. Where to place your ball off the tee, or where to land your ball on the green. Sometimes when to lay up short…this is without doubt a thinking man’s course.
Over the years, Riviera has hosted numerous prestigious events. This includes amongst others the US Open in 1948 as well as numerous PGA Championships, Amateur Championships and Senior Opens.
What is the best private golf course in Los Angeles?
The best member golf course in Los Angeles is the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club, located in Beverly Hills. Architects Herbert Fowler and George C. Thomas were largely responsible for this magnificent layout.