Rarely do I travel away from the East Coast for work, but in February of 2010 I had a business trip scheduled to Los Angeles to visit a couple of clients. Since I would already be in the area I thought it might be a good idea to squeeze in a little Top 100 golf after my meetings and make the most of being on the left coast. As I soon discovered . . . easier said than done.
In the weeks prior to my trip I made some calls and sent some emails in hopes of finding a contact that would be able to help me play one of the two Top 100 courses in the greater Los Angeles area while I was in town. I quickly discovered that LA Country Club was closed for renovation so that left Riviera Country Club as the only other possibility. I was arriving early morning on a Friday and was hoping to play Riviera on Saturday before I caught the redeye flight back home that night.
One of the people I contacted about helping me in L.A. was Bill, the Bayonne member who had hosted my friend Jay and me a couple years prior. Bill works in the entertainment industry so he knows a ton of people in L.A., and he has been a supporter of my quest since we met. Bill made a number of calls on my behalf all the way down to the wire, but in the end the last ember of hope was extinguished late Friday afternoon. Just a few minutes after receiving word from Bill that Riviera was not going to happen I got an email directly from his buddy Kent who had been trying to help with Riviera. In his email he invited me to join him for a game at the newly renovated Wilshire Country Club. He just need to check a few things and then would be back with me to confirm. A couple of hours later he sent me an email that said to meet him at the club at 11AM the next day. Game on!!!
The next morning I was up and moving early as I was still essentially on East Coast time. After tooling about town for a while I made my way over to Wilshire Country Club in time to meet Kent at 11AM. After hitting some balls and a few practice putts Kent arrived and we went straight to the first tee.
Wilshire Country Club was founded in 1919 when Mr. G. Allen Hancock agreed to lease a tract of land to the club with the provision that the property be used as a golf club until at least 1950. Within the lease there was also an option for the club to buy the land at the price of $1,250 per acre if they wished. Less than 10 years later Mr. Hancock released all interest in the property to the club and the land has remained a golf club ever since. Over the years the membership registrar has read as a who’s who of Hollywood and has included some of the most famous and powerful members of the Los Angeles community. Probably the most famous member the club has seen is the billionaire Howard Hughes who was an aviator, movie producer and businessman extraodinaire. He lived for a period of time in a Spanish villa style home just off the 8th green.
Kent and I played as a two ball and for a beautiful day in February the course was virtually empty. As you can imagine, being located in a major metropolitan area there is not an over abundance of available land. Because of this there has not been much room for the course to grow as technology has advanced the distance the ball flies. From the back tees the course plays 6,506 yards which may not be long by PGA Tour standards, but in my opinion is plenty long to provide a good test for 99.99% of all amateurs.
I did not take a great number of photos, but the ones below should provide a feel for the course.
The 4th hole which is pictured below is a par 3 that plays 170 yards. This green is absolutely enormous and is two tiered. I wish I had gotten a closer up photo of it.
The photo below is of the 5th green complex. The recent renovation was done by Kyle Phillips and it appears that one of the major adjustments he made to the course was with the bunkers. From what I understand he changed the style away from the basic round edged bunkers and also added quite a few more than there had been.
The 7th hole, pictured below, is a nice little 141 yard par 3. Some of those bunkers are WAY deeper than they appear in the photo, so they are best avoided.
The 8th hole at Wilshire Country Club is one of the most famous ones. This is the hole where Howard Hughes lived. The photo below was taken from the fairway and the Hughes house is hidden off to the right of the green.
Here is a view of the Hughes house taken from the green. Kent told me that one of Mr. Hughes’ favorite tricks while his group played this hole was to have naked women come out of his house and onto the course through the opening in the hedge. With a distraction like that he felt certain ensure a victory for him on that hole . . . maybe even the next one! In the book of gamesmanship I don’t know if this move can be beat.
The photo below is taken from the 9th tee box where the drive is a blind shot. Kent’s advice to me was to take aim at the El Royale sign and that the ball would roll down the right to left slanting hill once it hit the ground.
Here’s a little closer look at the El Royale sign.
This photo below was taken from over on the right side of the 11th hole. Here you can see more of the Phillips bunkers waiting to wreak havoc on those who find their way into them.
To play golf on a sunny and warm day in February is a real treat for someone who lives where I do, so being able to squeeze in this game at the last minute was really great. Wilshire Country Club is one of those places that just has a great vibe to it. I see a lot of interesting things when I visit all these clubs but I found one of my all time favorites here. At several points around the course they had a refreshment station set up that contained both a cooler of lemonade and a cooler of iced tea. As a huge fan of the half and half (aka the Arnold Palmer) I had a field day with this!
Once we finished and I thanked Kent for hosting me, he apologized that he couldn’t take me to L.A. Country Club and said that next time I was in town that he could arrange for us to play there through a family member who belonged. Talk about a stroke of luck!!!! I’m writing this post a year and a day from when I played Wilshire CC, and I’ve got a trip back to L.A. planned for late April where I’ll see Kent again, but this time at LACC