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|The Links at Terranea runs up to $38 at peak times, but it's far from a pitch-and-putt. Each hole offers a view of the ocean. (Todd Eckenrode/Origins Golf Design)|
LOS ANGELES -- With the iconic "Hollywood" sign looming in the distance and star tour buses beckoning tourists to hop on board after strolling on the Walk of Fame, it's often forgotten that the Los Angeles area offers one of the most diverse selections of golf in California.
Oceanfront links fade into golf courses in the forest, while some utilize natural surroundings for a links-style experience. Parkland layouts aren't far from mountain golf, and views range from Pacific panoramas to the downtown cityscape, or nothing but the great wide open.
And just like its varying locale, green fee prices can be all over the map as well -- up to $300 a round at some venues.
As a function of its location and history, it may be perceived that L.A. golf is a sport that can break the bank or requires connections. While in many cases it can, some of the area's greatest public courses can be had for $50 or less. While carts do cost extra at nearly every golf course, with a modest-priced round in the books, golfers can walk in the footsteps of some of golf's past champions and present players, while saving money for L.A.'s many off-course activities.
It's located literally in the middle of a concrete jungle, a little park-like oasis with neighborhoods, restaurants, high-rises and shopping areas surrounding the classic layout. This accessibility could be one reason why Rancho Park Golf Course is one of the busiest and most popular facilities not only in the state, but also in the entire U.S. The other reason? Its green fee caps out at around $48 during peak times, even less for residents.
Rancho Park's great value is complemented by its uniqueness, an aspect that is as much to its history as it is to its central location. At 6,600 yards, Rancho Park has hosted some of the golf world's most recognized events, such as the L.A. Open (now Northern Trust Open), the PGA Senior Open, and several LPGA events. It's the same golf course where Arnold Palmer took a 12 on the 18th hole during the 1961 L.A. Open; when asked how he shot 12, he answered, "I missed my putt for an 11."
Not far from Rancho Park, Griffith Park Golf Club's two regulation golf courses -- the Wilson and Harding layouts -- have been testing golfers since the mid-1920s. Located within Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in the U.S., the golf club hosted the L.A. Open from 1937-39. Noted course architect George C. Thomas, Jr. designed Griffith Park's Wilson course and Harding course, and at $48 for non-residents, it's a great value for a piece of golf history.
One of the few coastal gems of the Los Angeles area is Los Verdes Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes, a stone's throw from the sand and with abundant ocean views. At only $33 during peak time, this par-71 William F. Bell design from the mid-1960s stretches to 6,631 yards and offers challenging greens thanks to the nearby Pacific Ocean. It also has a two-tiered driving range and a full bar and grill to tantalize golfers after a round.
If nine-hole golf is more your speed, the Los Angeles area's newest course presents arguably the most scenic par-3 experience around. The Links at Terranea is also in Rancho Palos Verdes. It's set within Terranea Resort, and each hole offers a view of the ocean from the area's closest point to Catalina Island. Todd Eckenrode of Origins Golf Design drew inspiration from some of his favorite par-3 holes to develop The Links at Terranea, which runs up to $38 at peak times, but it's far from a pitch-and-putt course. Take every club in your bag for this test of golf, as ocean breezes can work against players. Afterward, head down to Nelson's at the Resort, located on the cliff above where the television series "Sea Hunt" was filmed.
Long Beach has been the stomping ground to a number of standout golfers. PGA Tour players John Merrick, John Mallinger and the newest "Mr. 59" himself, Paul Goydos, were all groomed on the area's layouts and still consider the area their home base.
Goydos holds the course record at two of the most popular and wallet friendly layouts in Long Beach: El Dorado Park Golf Course ($49 walking) and Recreation Park Golf Course ($45 walking). El Dorado Park is located in Long Beach's famous regional park of the same name, and at 6,963 yards, is the current home of the Long Beach Open championship. Designed by Ted Robinson, Sr., El Dorado is wide and friendly for the beginner, but from the back tees it brings a challenge with doglegs and water; the green on the first hole is protected by a creek, while 18 finishes up with a lake on the right. Goydos shot a 61 on the par-72 course, and while many big hitters chase that number, none have yet caught it.
Not far from El Dorado Park, William F. Bell's Recreation Park Golf Course held Goydos to a record 62 over its 6,280-yard layout. The golf course opened in the early 1940s and is one of the most popular in the area thanks to its mature trees, rolling fairways and playable yardages for all skill levels. It also runs only $45 at peak time, leaving some money for the golf course's full-service restaurant afterward. Don't forget to practice your short game at "Little Rec," Recreation Park's short course.
October 18, 2010
Katie Denbo is the past editor and publisher of FORE Magazine, a regional golf publication based in southern California. A blogger and golf photographer by hobby, she is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the California Golf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and has written about and traveled to golf resorts and properties all over the western United States and Canada. Visit Katieshack, Katie's golf blog, at katieshack.com, and follow her on Twitter at @kdenbo.
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