In 2005, I was fortunate enough to play at Los Angeles Country Club North Course while visiting the area. The course is located in the heart of Beverly Hills as the entrance is just off of Wilshire Boulevard. The real estate value of the land has to be an astronomical number based on its location and the fact that there are two courses on the property. Our experience there was first class, and I’m pretty sure we were the only group playing that day in mid-July. Since playing there seven years ago, the north course has undergone major restoration. I encourage you to read the “North Course Commemorative Edition” that outlines the project that took place as it is very interesting.
The course was designed by George Thomas and William Bell in 1927, who also designed nearby courses Riviera Country Club and Bel Air Country Club. Thomas redesigned the course after joining the club in 1917 after the original architect Herbert Fowler designed it in 1920. In 2009, it was decided by the board at LACC to restore the course back to Thomas’ original design and hired golf architect Gil Hanse to do the restoration. What makes this restoration special is the fact that many of Thomas and Bell’s designs have been altered from their original designs and that this project was dedicated to restoring Thomas’ vision.
The redesign involved the rerouting of the second and eighth holes back to the original design; a large amount of tree removal that opened up vistas that increased the experience by exposing views of the rest of the course as well as the surrounding city of Los Angeles; the reshaping of bunkers back to the original design; as well as the addition of a variety of different tee boxes on each hole to allow for a variety of shots to be played depending on the location of the tees. As mentioned in the North Course Commemorative Edition article, Thomas believed in the idea of “supreme diversity” within each hole that would ultimately add value to the playing experience. This created what Thomas called “a course within a course.”
Based on a great deal of research by Gil Hanse and his design team that consisted of studying Thomas’ design philosophy as well as studying pictures of the original course, the team effectively restored the course back to its original green complexes, tee boxes and fairway routing. They did this mainly excavating the land to find the original design contours. For example, Hanse and his team restored the 6th green complex by digging down six feet until discovering sand where the original back bunker was located. From there they were able to discover original green contours and restore the green to Thomas’ original design. The excavating also exposed the ridge behind the original green that was originally a tee box for the 7th hole – the first sign of Thomas’ course within a course approach.
Its obvious that the renovations that took place last year are fantastic, and I am hoping to be able to get back there and compare it to my original experience. The restoration project is a great example of how restoration projects can improve the overall experience of a golf course such as this masterpiece designed in 1927 by renowned golden age architect George Thomas. Now it is becoming more of a trend to restore courses to their original design, as it should be, and can be seen and many courses that were designed in the “Golden Age.”