2023 U.S. Open: LACC returns to natural roots

Hole 8 Los Angeles Country Club North Course

Barrancas, deep steep-sided gullies, and indigenous trees, plants and vegetation will be prominent features at this week’s playing of the 123rd U.S. Open.

Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course, host venue for this week’s championship, underwent a 17-year multi-phase renovation to restore the layout to its original appearance, playing style and 1928 specifications. 

Gil Hanse, founder of Hanse Golf Design, was appointed to oversee the restoration with partner Jim Wagner and consulting golf historian Geoff Shackleford.

Hanse says the North Course is one of the “masterpieces of golf course architecture, not only in the United States, but in the entire world.”

Speaking to the USGA, Hanse explains how rewilding the course’s signature barrancas, a network of traversing gullies, with indigenous trees and plants; helped recreate the aesthetic and playing experience the club desired.

“You’ve got some grasses that feed their way down through, mostly fescues but some great native Southern Californian grasses, we’ve also repopulated with sage bushes which are a critical part of the environment down here.”

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Sycamore trees, some as old as 200 years, were reintroduced into barrancas and bordering fairways, along with traditional oaks. Log bridges are used as crossing points and to provide an aged rustic feel.

The changes were designed to create dramatic effect but also with sustainability and environmental stewardship in mind, especially the management of rainwater around the course.

“When you look at the track of it (barranca), what we tried to do and work on was to emulate where water goes through. We all know that it doesn’t rain an awful lot in Southern California. When it does, it does feed its way through here, so trying to emulate and recreate that type of erosion is really a critical part of the process to us, revegetating and creating waterways for it to pass through, ultimately restoring its characteristics both from the visual perspective and the playability standpoint.”

Indigenous sand has been used to fill the barrancas and tall, fine fescues reintroduced around the bunkering create a shaggy eroded look around the edges.

Video: Hanse on restoration of LACC North